Stalin's Niños: Educating Spanish Civil War Refugee Children in the Soviet Union, 1937–1951

By Karl D. Qualls

© 2020

Stalin’s Niños examines how the Soviet Union raised and educated nearly 3,000 child refugees of the Spanish Civil War. An analysis of the archival record and numerous letters, oral histories, and memoirs reveals that this little-known story exemplifies the Soviet transformation of children into future builders of communism and illuminates the educational techniques shared with other modern states. Classroom education taught patriotism for the two homelands and the importance of emulating Spanish and Soviet heroes, scientists, soldiers, and artists. Extra-curricular clubs and activities reinforced classroom experiences and helped discipline the mind, body, and behaviors. Adult mentors, like the heroes studied in the classroom, provided models to emulate and became the tangible expression of the ideal Spaniard and Soviet. The Basque and Spanish children thus were transformed into hybrid Hispano-Soviets fully engaged with their native language, culture, and traditions while also imbued with Russian language and culture and Soviet ideals of hard work, comradery, internationalism, and sacrifice for ideals and others.

Even during their horrific evacuation to the Soviet interior during World War II, the twenty-two Soviet boarding schools designed specifically for the Spanish refugee children – and better provisioned than those for Soviet children – served these displaced niños for fourteen years and transformed them into Red Army heroes, award-winning Soviet athletes and artists, successful educators and workers, and aids to Fidel Castro in building Cuba after his revolution. Stalin’s Niños also sheds new light on the education of non-Russian Soviet and international students and the process of constructing a supranational Soviet identity.

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  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 264 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.0in x 9.0in
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  • PUBLISHED FEB 2020

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Quick Overview

Using multiple languages, numerous archives, press reports, oral histories, letters, and memoirs, Stalin’s Niños investigates the well-resourced boarding schools designed specifically for nearly 3,000 child refugees from the Spanish Civil War.

Stalin's Niños: Educating Spanish Civil War Refugee Children in the Soviet Union, 1937–1951

By Karl D. Qualls

© 2020

Stalin’s Niños examines how the Soviet Union raised and educated nearly 3,000 child refugees of the Spanish Civil War. An analysis of the archival record and numerous letters, oral histories, and memoirs reveals that this little-known story exemplifies the Soviet transformation of children into future builders of communism and illuminates the educational techniques shared with other modern states. Classroom education taught patriotism for the two homelands and the importance of emulating Spanish and Soviet heroes, scientists, soldiers, and artists. Extra-curricular clubs and activities reinforced classroom experiences and helped discipline the mind, body, and behaviors. Adult mentors, like the heroes studied in the classroom, provided models to emulate and became the tangible expression of the ideal Spaniard and Soviet. The Basque and Spanish children thus were transformed into hybrid Hispano-Soviets fully engaged with their native language, culture, and traditions while also imbued with Russian language and culture and Soviet ideals of hard work, comradery, internationalism, and sacrifice for ideals and others.

Even during their horrific evacuation to the Soviet interior during World War II, the twenty-two Soviet boarding schools designed specifically for the Spanish refugee children – and better provisioned than those for Soviet children – served these displaced niños for fourteen years and transformed them into Red Army heroes, award-winning Soviet athletes and artists, successful educators and workers, and aids to Fidel Castro in building Cuba after his revolution. Stalin’s Niños also sheds new light on the education of non-Russian Soviet and international students and the process of constructing a supranational Soviet identity.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 264 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.0in x 9.0in
  • Reviews

    "Relying on material in multiple archives, correspondence, and reminiscences, Karl D. Qualls presents in gripping detail the troubled yet heroic story of 3,000 young Spaniards who found refuge in the USSR during the late 1930s. In the best work on that subject to date, the author offers valuable insights into the nature of childhood, the goals of Soviet pedagogy, the education of Soviet non-Russian children, the extent of the USSR’s commitment to communist internationalism, the meaning of Soviet identity, and the potential for social mobility in the Soviet Union. Qualls recounts exceedingly well how a remarkable network of special boarding schools fashioned hybrid Hispano-Soviets, many of whom pursued successful careers in the USSR and for some, eventually, abroad."


    Larry E. Holmes, Department of History, University of South Alabama

    "In his compelling and informative account of the casas de niños, boarding schools created to educate but also confine nearly 3,000 Spanish refugee children who arrived in the USSR in 1937 and who were soon to endure further upheaval during the Great Patriotic War, Karl D. Qualls sheds fresh light on Soviet education and nationality policy at a critical juncture. Stalin’s Niños deserves to be read by anyone interested in ambitious state-led attempts to mold the behaviour, personality, and outlook of young children whose lives were disrupted by war and other calamities."


    Peter Gatrell, School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, The University of Manchester

    "Stalin’s Niños places the education of Spanish children in the USSR in dialogue with the historiography on Soviet education, foreigners and outsiders in the USSR, and international communism. Drawing on Russian archival sources, this book gives readers unprecedented insight into the Soviet Union’s attempt to infuse the children with Soviet values and make them productive members of Soviet society."


    Glennys Young, Department of History and Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington

    "Telling the fascinating story of the organization of Soviet schools for Spanish refugee children and illuminating the lived experiences of the children themselves, Karl D. Qualls engages with a wealth of Russian archival materials and oral histories published in Spanish."


    Lisa Kirschenbaum, Department of History, West Chester University
  • Author Information

    Karl D. Qualls is the John B. Parsons Chair in Liberal Arts and Sciences and Professor of History at Dickinson College.
  • Table of contents

    Introduction

    1. “Like reaching paradise after being in hell’: The Turbulent Transition from Spain to the USSR

    2. “We, the Spanish, were like an island”: Boarding Schools and Personnel as Loci and Models of Care and Soviet Values 

    3. Obuchenie: Classroom Instruction, Patriotism, and Instilling Soviet Values

    4. Vospitanie: Kul’turnost’ and Kruzhki as Techniques of Normative Behavior Training

    5. Becoming Soviet in Traumatic Times: Life in War, 1939–1944

    6. No Longer Children: Transitioning to Adulthood during War and Reconstruction

    Conclusion and Epilogue: Life after Stalin 

    Bibliography

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