Document Type

Book Chapter

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Publication Title

Displaced Children in Russia and Eastern Europe, 1915-1953: Ideologies, Identities, Experiences


This recollection from one of the nearly 3,000 children who fled Spain during its civil war and were raised in the Soviet Union underscores a key challenge that faced administrators in the special Soviet homes for Spanish children, which functioned as boarding schools for the niños: how to merge Spanish culture into Soviet values. The children were leaving a childhood marked often by chaos and violence. They had received little education and were now separated from parents and thrust into a new and foreign land. Their new boarding schools in the Soviet Union were tasked with restoring their physical health, improving their academic performance, providing political training, and maintaining their connection with Spanish culture. But, as the quotation above acknowledges, and as their Soviet hosts understood at the time, little could be achieved without first disciplining the children into a culture far different from their own. In 1937, when the first wave of Spanish kids arrived, the Soviet homes and schools where they were placed, in line with wider pedagogical shifts, spent as much time teaching children values such as self-discipline, comradely behaviour, respect for authority, and diligence in study, as on academic subjects. Proper adult role models in the boarding schools were seen as crucial in effecting the displaced Spanish children's transformation into Soviet Spaniards, and for their re-placement in Soviet society as functioning citizens. This chapter examines the experience of the Spanish displaced children between 1937 and 1951, with a special focus on the use of role models in their upbringing. It also considers the Soviet values and behavioural norms the institutions strove to instil in their pupils, and the problems encountered in this process of cultural and social 'reforging'.


This author post-print is made available on Dickinson Scholar with the permission of the publisher. For more information on the published version, visit Brill's Website.