My book in preparation, “Images for the New Generation: Russian Illustrated Children’s Books, 1918–1936,” is organized around this important development and will explore several key issues. The most central of these is how the complex relationships among the Soviet state, artists, and public are manifested in the creation and reception of children’s books. My approach draws on a wide range of sources, including rare archival documents and Soviet studies of children’s reading habits, uncovered during my earlier research in Russia, as well as some recent American and European scholarship on Soviet educational and cultural history. My research is also informed by a variety of disciplines: art history, education, sociology, and children’s literature.
Shortly after the revolution, the newly installed Bolshevik regime turned its attention to the child. Beginning in the early 1920s, the Soviet government organized conferences on childrearing, established “children’s studies” departments in a number of institutions of higher learning, and founded centers of experimental pedagogy. As the children’s literature of a socialist country was thought to be totally different from that of bourgeois Europe, it followed that the new Soviet children’s book needed to reflect the major objective of the rearing of Soviet youth: to nurture “builders of Communism.”