Marks Of The Soviet Reality Found In An English Language Textbook

English Book 1953 1

This is an English language textbook for third graders. It was released in 1953, so it contains a lot of characteristic features of that time. Take a look!

English Book 1953 2

First of all, it reflects the fact that some schools practiced separate education for boys and girls, which was introduced in 1943 in Moscow, Leningrad and some other big cities of the USSR. On the whole, the reform affected just 2% of the schools of the USSR.

In the picture: boys’ class.

English Book 1953 3

‘Comparing the two systems of education, it should be noted that separate education has no advantages in terms of pedagogical process, however there are difficulties in behavioral aspects’. So, in 1954-1955 they brought the combined education system back.

In the picture: girls’ class.

English Book 1953 4

Girls and boys met only in the House of Pioneers.

English Book 1953 5

The textbook shows the school uniform they wore back then.

In the picture: girls’ uniform.

English Book 1953 6

This kind of school uniform has been in use up to 1962.

In the picture: boys’ uniform.

English Book 1953 7

These are some variants of boys’ everyday outfit.

English Book 1953 8

The textbook also shows everyday life of the Soviet citizens living in the 50s.

English Book 1953 9

You will find no picture of a kitchen in this textbook, so apparently these interiors are rooms in communal flats.

English Book 1953 10

But there are plenty of pictures of stoves. Pretty exotic for today’s city life.

English Book 1953 11

New Year.

English Book 1953 12

This bus looks more like a tram… who knows.

English Book 1953 13

Another bus going along a street in Leningrad.

English Book 1953 14

They depict trams going along Nevsky Avenue which is strange because the tram road was removed from there in 1950-1951.

English Book 1953 15

Pioneer girls are marching somewhere in Leningrad too.

English Book 1953 16

Of course, no book could do without Great Leader Comrade Stalin.

via dikiy_m

33 thoughts on “Marks Of The Soviet Reality Found In An English Language Textbook”

  1. Very good that kids were taught a different language at school. My school tried to teach us French or German, you had a choice. Most of us did not learn the language, but it did teach us a bit about a different culture.

    • My guess is the Soviet state was more interested in children learning English because it is the accepted international language of science. Not for any cultural enlightenment.

      • Back then it wasn’t the international language of scinece, it didn’t have the monopoly it has now. German was still an important scientific language, especially in mathematics, chemistry and physiscs. In other sciences, French was still a frequently used language as well. In the Soviet Union, Russian was the main scientific language. Besides, western scientific publications were mostly not available at that time for the average scientist.

        • Your right about that being the case in the early to mid 20th century, but the writing was already on the wall by the ’50s. It was clear English was ascending in international importance and going to be the new standard in Science and other areas of international study. And that’s EXACTLY what happened since. The Soviets didn’t just randomly pick English as a good second language for children to learn.

          • Children in Soviet Uniou could learn different languages: English, French, German. I wouldn’t say that English was the most popular second language in the 1950s.

  2. It’s like my russian-language-starter’s-book.

    In my country students learn english only for TOEIC. so students only learn chosing ‘which word is correct in this sentence’ or ‘which grammer is suitable for this sentence’. not language. It’s very sad.

  3. Look this is a street. The only cars on the street are for the party apparatchik, KGB, and state workers. Everyone else walks, rides the bus, or takes the trolly. 😉

  4. Ah, old good book from the fifties. I have an american English textbook, it looks quite similar, except for the Stalin, of course. The styles of the pictures and the fonts are just the same.

  5. Sanitized, upbeat, contemporary in it’s day… looks like they were sold the same “Leave It To Beaver” scenario we had here in the States, in the end it was all just a figment of someone’s imagination, for if it was real it would be here still.

    • You grew up in communist country then? Doesn’t look like standard English book to me. I’ve seen American school books of that vintage that literally refer to “Red Commie Bastards” and such. Never seen praise for Stalin in them! lol

  6. The “New Year” tree is interesting. I am not familiar with Russian holiday tradition, but it is called a “Christmas” tree in English-speaking countries. I wonder if it was also a “Christmas tree” prior to communisim. The red star of communism at the top has replaced the gold star symbolic of Christ’s birth. What is truly interesting here is that the evergreen was originally a fertility symbol used in winter solstice celebrations by pagans of Europe. Then, when Europe converted to Christianity, the tree was adapted to Christian purposes, as were mid-winter celebrations. To see the evergreen tree then coopted by communism from Christianity presents an interesting new cycle in the symbolic value of this tree.

    • The traditional Russian “New Year Tree” predates communism by at least several hundred years. It is akin to a Christmas Tree and dates to at least the 17th century. But it has never been a “Christmas Tree”. It is a “New Year Tree”. That has nothing to do with communists co-opting it for some secular holiday.

  7. Kids should be taught several languages when they’re very young, because their brain is wired for language at that age. As you age, it becomes very hard to learn one. If you learned young, you may forget it, but a good review will bring most of it back.

      • Products of Disney to show and on the federal channels since the collapse of communism. Absolutely everything that Western audiences are available can be found in Russia. Funny to hear that the children’s channel can somehow to influence on the culture. In Russia there own channels for children’s, there is western channels of the Russian translation (like “Nickelodeon”), if there is equipment for reception of channels (or Internet) and language skills, you can look at the original language.

      • Wow, placing “my” out of context has caused me look anew at it. Suddenly it looks odd to me, like it’s a foreign word to my native English tongue. Now i’m gonna have to look up it’s etymology. Strange how that happens…

  8. They should update this book and put it back into circulation.

    “Cat iz blk? Ya, totz! R u gonna play XBOX l8r? I will pwn you!”

    On Page 94 they could put a photo of Putin instead of Stalin, and change the wording a bit:

    “We are Russian children. We live in Russia. Russia is a corrupt oligarchy.

    We would LOVE to get out of Russia!” etc. etc.

  9. oh well i went to a girls school, nothing wrong with that.on the contrary i felt more comfortable in class without the constant torment and harassing by boys. we do met them outside of the school really, i think it all depends on the individual, how u carry urself through the society.
    p/s: nice pic, in my student days i will add extra accessory to the picture in the textbook, u know just to brighten em up.


Leave a Comment