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”.
Simona Szakács has just published a review of our book Childhood and Schooling in (Post)Socialist Societies: Memories of Everyday life in European Education journal. Please read open access review here.
Re-Collect / Re-Connect: Crossing the Divides through Memories of Cold War Childhoods
Project Leader: Associate professor Zsuzsa Millei, University of Tampere
Academic collaborators: Professor Silova Iveta, Associate Professor Piattoeva Nelli, Professor Hörschelmann Kathrin, Professor Dussel Inés, Professor Tlostanova Madina, Professor Burman Erica, Associate Professor Gannon Susanne
Last summer I gave a talk at the University of Oxford, sharing my work on the comparison of childhood and education between Russia and the US. My husband and I decided to prolong our European stay and spent a week in Switzerland. We were sitting inside a small cafe in Bern named “Einstein” on a warm day in late June. Suddenly we heard a female voice coming from the street, saying in a very loud Russian: “Renowned physicist Albert Einstein lived in this house for seven years while he stayed in Bern!” My husband and I burst out laughing, we didn’t expect to hear the Russian language in the heart of Switzerland. Not only that, the woman spoke in that very particular Russian voice, with the volume going up towards the end of the sentence, as if every statement ends with an exclamation mark, to convince the audience even further.
On August 23rd-25th 2018, we organized a workshop in Tampere to further extend – theoretically, methodologically, conceptually, analytically, and geographically – our project on DE-COLONIAL AND DE-COLD WAR DIALOGUES ON CHILDHOOD AND SCHOOLING. We had the pleasure of hosting Professors Erica Burman (The University of Manchester, UK), Madina Tlostanova, (Linköping University, Sweden) and Kathrin Hörschelmann (Leibniz-Institut für Länderkunde, Leipzig, Germany) for three days in Tampere, Finland.