I. Shugalyova, R. Moldavskij Social Conditions and Everyday Life of Orphanages’ Dependents in the Soviet Ukraine during the 1920’s — Beginning of 1930’s

DOI: 10.20535/2307-5244.52.2021.236164

Zaporizhzhia National University

In modern Ukraine, so-called «state children» have a difficult life in terms of
social life and state care. Although the state started the childcare system reform
to increase the child adoption rate, it should be noticed that only 120 underage
citizens managed to find new families. A significant percentage of childcare institutions
is currently in economic hardships. The difficulties come from outdated
equipment and poor premises conditions, etc. However, today’s democratic
transformations do not try to conceal the scale of the problems. In society, all
difficulties are discussed and, as possible, help is provided. This situation is typical
in the system of contemporary moral values. Additionally, the 20th-century
Ukrainian territory remained under totalitarian Soviet pressure when the cult of
the leader retreated to all needs. We seek to recreate the historical retrospective
of social and everyday life conditions in state institutions of childcare during the
1920’s and 1930’s. We are determined to clarify whether present-day troubles are
rooted in history or are exclusive problems of a contemporary nature.
In contemporary European space, the policy of child-centrism is supported.
Due to different circumstances, the category of children who have lost the opportunity
of parental care is systematically replenished. Such children frequently go
into the care of the state. Furthermore, state institutions must create conditions
for a harmonious upbringing of every child. The concept of childhood care in developed
European countries had been shaped in the first quarter of the last century.
Unfortunately, the lives of Ukrainian citizens under the totalitarian system
of the Soviet empire excluded the possibility of decent and full-fledged education
and development of children, especially the children who lost the opportunity of
family education. In this article, we analyzed the conditions created by the Soviet
totalitarian system in the juvenile sphere. Applying the methods of historical
retrospective, we characterized the social and living conditions which were
created for the children of Soviet Ukraine during the 1920’s and early 1930’s.
Despite the representative historiographical achievements, there are many
poorly researched issues in this topic. They include the structure of state childcare
institutions and the level of their social and welfare provision, clarification
of the causes regarding hidden child homelessness, as well as characterizing
the totalitarian state’s attitude toward children who lost their possibility
to be brought up by a family. This article is dedicated to the disclosure
of these aspects.
In the article, we analyzed the complex experience of forming a childcare institutions
network in the Ukrainian SSR. We intended to find out the reasons for
the emergence of a large category of orphans, homeless children, and fatherless
children. Based on archival documents, we characterized the state measures and
their results aimed at overcoming the difficult situation. Also, we analyzed the
level of social and financial support of state child care institutions and the moods
of the dependents themselves and their educators and teachers.
The methodological framework of the research was a civilizational approach
which provides for the consideration of institutions of state custody of children
in the system «orphans and homeless children — institutions of state care» taking
into account the fact of specific historical, as well as civilizational features
of the so-called «establishment of the Soviet command system».
As a result of the social and political turmoil of the 1914–1922 period, a large
category of children who had been deprived of family care had formed in Ukraine.
According to the development of a civilized country, the government of the state
had to take care of disadvantaged infants. However, this order of things was not
possible in a totalitarian country where the leader’s cult and ideological terror
became dominant in public relations. The children had poorly cared for. In the
conditions of economic collapse, the funds allocated by the state were not enough.
Moreover, there was a lack of teaching staff, too. The incidence and mortality
rate exceeded up to 50% of the total number of orphans in foster homes. Difficult
living conditions, poor nutrition, lack of proper linen and clothing affected
the weak children. And under such a situation, due to lack of finances, the state
went on reducing the number of child care institutions.
At the beginning of the 1930’s, the situation in orphanages became even more
complicated. As a result of the removal of these institutions from the state supply,
the children were as good as doomed. The state was not a protector of children,
but a powerful conveyor of infant mortality. Children suffered unsanitary conditions,
hunger, sickness, and catastrophic lack of necessary clothing and shoes.
However, the totalitarian machine was indifferent as it solemnly celebrated the
anniversary of the pioneer, then the launch of the Dniprobud then arranged demonstrative
«tours» for foreign tourists. The «state children» in Soviet Ukraine
were absolutely unnecessary. This could not but affect their psychological and
physical condition. Unfortunately, they could not count on salvation.

Keywords: children’s homelessness, foster care, orphanages, social and everyday
life conditions.


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