A time of great hardship, the Second World War became a consequential episode in the history of Soviet childhood policies. The growing social problem of juvenile homelessness and delinquency alerted the government to the need for a comprehensive child protection programme. Nevertheless, by prioritizing public order over welfare, the Stalinist state created conditions that only exacerbated the situation, transforming an existing problem into a nation-wide crisis.
In this comprehensive account based on exhaustive archival research, Olga Kucherenko investigates the plight of more than a million street children and the state’s role in the reinforcement of their ranks. By looking at wartime dislocation, Soviet child welfare policies, juvenile justice and the shadow world both within and without the Gulag, Soviet Street Children and the Second World War challenges several of the most pervasive myths about the Soviet Union at war. It is, therefore, as much an investigation of children on the margins of Soviet society as it is a study of the impact of war and state policies on society itself.