Elementary School In The Soviet Union, p.2

For the first three years of school, all the classes were held in the same room, except for PE and singing. Even in the first grade, the desks in the classroom were arranged the same way as in high school, three columns with six desks in each, with two students sitting at one desk. I know it is hard to believe now, but at seven, I was relatively tall for my age, so my place was in the fifth (out of six) row in the right column. My neighbor was a girl named Sonia Skorpileva. She was taller than me, clumsy, with messy hair and a leaking fountain pen. We all were as cruel as seven-year-olds could be and made fun of her. Unfortunately, the teachers often supported such behavior, publicly shaming the students for even minor mishaps. For example, on the days when we wore white aprons, we were also supposed to have white ribbons in our braids (and black or brown ribbons on regular days). One girl (and I even remember her name, Natasha Ponasenkova) had purple ribbons. Although it was our first First Day of School, our teacher called her out, put her in front of the class, and allowed everybody to laugh at her for these purple ribbons. And then she told her to tell her mom that the ribbons had to be white. She was a very pretty girl, but we never acknowledged that since she was from a “troubled family.”

Since the very first day of school, it was expected that we sit still for all forty-five minutes of each period. We were almost never allowed outside during the break, even though the school had a courtyard.

After a month or two, the teacher started grading both our classwork and homework. The grading scale was from 1 to 5, but 1 (“very bad”) was almost never used, 2 was already “bad” or “unsatisfactory.” Starting from the second quarter, we had “quarterly report cards,” which mostly presented the mean of all the grades one would receive in class through the quarter. At the end of the first quarter, all of us became Young Octobrists, the communist organization for kids aged from seven to nine. All Young Octobrists wore a pin on the left side of the chest: a small plastic or metallic start with the portrait of Lenin at the age of five in the middle. The name “Octobrists” (Oktiabriata in Russian) referred to the “October Revolution.” Since in 1917, the official calendar used in the Russian Empie was the Julian Calendar, all the dates were two weeks behind the rest of the world, thereby the Revolution happened on October 25, not on November 7. Although Russia switched to the Gregorian calendar in February 1918, by that time, the Revolution was already called “the October Revolution,” or “The Great October Socialist Revolution,” or simply “The Great October.” It was too late to change the trademark, so it continued this way. So, we all were “Young Octobrists” and wore these “Octobrists’ pins” on the left.

I know that all I am describing sounds pretty dull, but I didn’t think my life was boring or uninteresting at the time. My old post with the home movies covers the second half of the first grade, and there are lots of fun activities!

My historical posts are being published in random order. Please refer to the page Hettie’s timeline to find where exactly each post belongs, and what was before and after.

2 thoughts on “Elementary School In The Soviet Union, p.2

  1. Sorry for nitpicking, Hettie, did you mean to say, ‘The grading scale was from 1 to 5’? Also, is it just me and my computer, or that paragraph appears twice in the post?

    I believe such reminiscences are super valuable for the next generations, because these small routine details of day-to-day life which we used to take for granted will very soon go into oblivion if they don’t get written down. Please, please, please keep going and don’t stop! Always a pleasure to read, and will be even more so for your children and grandchildren.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for pointing it out! And yes – I know very well how these small obvious things disappear in the ocean of the past; that’s why I try to preserve all these tiny details


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