Thanks to my American friend Julia for lending me yet another GREAT book to read. I enjoyed Diary of a Soviet Schoolgirl, 1932-1937 by Nina Lugovskaya, translated by Joanne Turnbull by Glas New Russian Writing 2003. Julia has many good books in Russian literature that she picked up along the way while she lived in Moscow for about 5-6 years and she continues to thrive and survive Kazakhstan for about 5 years already. Staying power!
I see some similarities to quotes from Lugovskaya’s book to what is happening on our campus as of late. Supposedly we had a student “revolt” yesterday where students objected to the higher tuition costs and the lack of western teachers. About a score or more of western teachers got their “pink slips” several weeks ago so the morale is very low and will get even lower once the tenge is devalued yet again. It affects all of our teacher salaries as we are paid in tenge and not in dollars. Yet we have to absorb the costs of our RT airfares and high rent flats in dollars.
At least in principle, our institution of higher learning markets the fact that we are not plagued with bribes, cheating or other fraudulent shenanigans that seem to be rife in other Kazakh universities. However, I experienced some low level graft the other day when I went to pull out a wad of Kazakh tenge when the guy at the KazKom bank behind the glass booth wanted a 1.5% commission on MY money! I exclaimed “Why?” and showed my university card and he didn’t take his cut. It would have meant he would have gotten about $50 of my hard earned money as a teacher!!!
Read the following and enjoy a young teenage girl’s views about her education in Moscow during the turbulent times in the 1930s, over 70 years ago. I believe we are in for some more chaotic and confusing times in Kazakhstan but eventually it will all get sorted out. Truth and lies but truth will prevail!
p. 36 Jan. 21, 1933
“Oh, Bolsheviks! What have you sunk to, what are you doing? Yesterday Yulia Ivanovna read us a paper on Lenin and referred, of course, to the new society that we are building. It was so painful to hear those outrageous lies from a woman I worship. I don’t care if Evtsikhevich lies, but she, with her manner of sincere enthusiasm, how can she? And to whom is she lying? To children who don’t believe, who smile to themselves and say: “Liar! Liar!”
p. 148 January 30, 1935
The thing is that the boys had concocted a decree from an imaginary emperor, Krok II. Naturally that scared their poor Soviet guardians. A horrible reaction has set in in the USSR. Even schools – children’s worlds, which should be least affected by the rule of the “workers” – aren’t immune. The Bolsheviks are partly right, though: if they didn’t frighten children right from the start, they’d be out of power in a trice. They’re raising us to be meek slaves, ruthlessly destroying any spirit of protest. Any suggestion of a critical attitude to things, any hint of freedom and independence, is severely punished. And the Bolsheviks are achieving their goal. They’ve killed the spirit of protest that was rumbling deep inside some and stifled it completely in others, who expressed that spirit loudly and openly, so that it will never rise again. Still, we never imagined that we could be called in for political reasons and we laughed while waiting our turn in line.
p. 149 Jan. 30, 1935 (cont.)
The director – a terribly disagreeable little man with broad shoulders – was sitting behind a desk. His coarse face was devoid of any inner beauty (and outer beauty, needless to say). It was the typical face of a hardened worker who had seen a lot and had made a career because of his Party card, his baseness and his ability to carry out orders from above without demure. He looked like someone who used to consort with thieves and possibly, prostitutes.
p. 160 March 14, 1935
I find it strange that in a school, an institution created for studies, students should so scorn those studies and consider it almost reprehensible to get top marks, to be disciplined and in good standing. Why this enmity between the school administration and the students? Why do we have to annoy the teachers and play dirty tricks on them? Why not get on with each other, help each other? The barrier between students and teachers has to be broken down: the problem has to be put another way. Teachers are always forbidding the students something, always making problems and remarks. So students can’t develop the good sides of their nature. Their bad instincts prevail, depriving them of all spiritual satisfaction. The world seems built on enmity, or is this a law of nature?