FreshEd is a weekly podcast that makes complex ideas in educational research easily understood. Iveta and Nelli discussed there our book – Childhood and Schooling in (Post)Socialist Societies – and the research that we are now undertaking, continuing the book. They explored questions like “What was it like growing up and attending school in the Soviet Union and other socialist societies? Did the lived experiences of children match the official rhetoric of the state or the Western bloc? What agency did children have?”
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the
fall of the Berlin Wall. The Cold War ended two years later in the collapse of
the Soviet Union in 1991. Although from this perspective, socialist societies
have been gone for a while, there are people living among us – including here
in Finland – whose important years of life have been spent in socialist
societies in the Soviet Union, Southeast Asia, Latin America, China, Central
and Eastern Europe. Many Finnish people have also lived some sort of a socialist
childhood, as the Finnish author Laura Honkasalo described in her book “Your
children are not yours”.
Were schoolchildren in socialist lands icons of the future or victims of the state? Models of modernity or manipulated conformists? Empowered or oppressed? The answer is yes . . . and no. Childhood and Schooling in (Post) Socialist Societies: Memories of Everyday Life is a unique, interdisciplinary collection of essays aimed at complicating a number of “master narratives” about modern childhood and (post)socialism derived from official state and Cold War discourses by examining the lived experiences of children (4). To do so, the editors of Childhood and Schooling asked contributors to plumb their own memories of school-age childhood in socialist contexts, the result of which is a “living kaleidoscope of memories” replete with “ambiguities and complexities” that challenge a static view of socialist childhood (2, 4, 9).
The AnBlokk Association conducted the „Counter-pedagogy under State Socialism” research&education program between February 2011 and January 2013. The project explored a particular experimental pedagogic space in State-Socialist Hungary. From the late 1930’s to the 1970’s, each summer, Eszter Leveleki, a teacher trained and inspired by the flourishing reform-pedagogic scene of the 1920s and 1930s, organized her private summer vacation in a small lakeside village 60 kms north from Budapest. Attracting children mostly from artist-intellectual families, she created a unique world. Pipecland was a constitutional monarchy with a special mythology which celebrated the values of spontaneity, individual and collective creativity and the community’s power to “form collective experiences”.