Part of Stalin's cult of personality was his promulgation of a "Friend of the children" image.

What was the reason for this?

What other communist or socialist leaders also used this tactic?

(I know that the first Prime Minister of India, JawaharLal Nehru, tried to create a persona of 'Chacha Nehru'.)

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    Consider this: Has there ever been a leader who has cultivated an image of hating children? Why do you think that is? Sep 30, 2013 at 18:40
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    @LennartRegebro - The issue is not hating children, but specifically cultivating an image of loving children. Note the Stalin poster in my answer. Are such images so very common and widely promulgated?
    – user2590
    Sep 30, 2013 at 18:54
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    @LennartRegebro - Deng Xiaoping perhaps?
    – T.E.D.
    Sep 30, 2013 at 19:27
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    @T.E.D. - Deng didn't hate children. He loved them... in a malthusian way.
    – DVK
    Sep 30, 2013 at 19:45
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    I believe this question is offtopic because it requests to link absolutely separate concepts. It's pretty much equivalent to: Hitler was vegan and had obnoxious mustache. What was the reason for this? What other dictators cultivated such a combo? Oct 2, 2013 at 6:34

2 Answers 2


I was wondering what was the idea behind it.

Here are two quotes attributed to Vladimir Lenin, one of the leaders of the Bolshevik revolution and Stalin's predecessor. They will shed some light on this:

Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.

Destroy the family, you destroy the country.

So when it came to spreading Communist doctrine, children were vital. Showing oneself as a "Friend of the Children", associating with children and making them very aware of your presence, power and importance as "Dear Leader" clearly played directly into this idea.

Just as importantly, Stalin, and virtually all such tyrannical communist and socialist style leaders, aside from their tyranny itself, were generally guilty of serious crimes against their citizenry. In Stalin's case there were massive purges of political opponents, just to name one of his most famous crimes. See: The Great Purge was a campaign of political repression in the Soviet Union orchestrated by Joseph Stalin from 1936 to 1939.

If so, it was natural that such injustice and cruelty would cause these leaders to be regarded by their people with fear and dread. Cultivating a "Friend of the Children" image was a public relations ploy designed to mitigate such feelings: "Dear Leader is kind and gentle - see how he loves our children!"

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Whether or not this aspect is relevant to JawaharLal Nehru I do not know. The question is posted by an Indian - perhaps they know more about this.

As for other leaders solidly inspired by the communist tradition, we might cite Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il of N. Korea, although if one examines history carefully, the pattern apparently established by Stalin was virtually ubiquitous among prominent communist leaders, for the reasons stated above.

Re Kim Il-sung: North Korean children were taught in school that they were fed, clothed and nurtured in all aspects by the "grace of the Chairman".

Re Kim Jong-il: At this time Kim assumed the title "Dear Leader" (친애하는 지도자, ch'inaehanŭn jidoja) the government began building a personality cult around him patterned after that of his father, the "Great Leader"

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Kim Il-sun and Kim Jong-il with children

Unexplained down-votes are not constructive. Please state your reason - I often edit or even remove posts in response to comments. Questions, answers, and the site at large, are improved thereby.

  • I'm sorry, this completely misses the point. That Lenin thought children where important to the success of communism has nothing to do with the personality cult of Stalin. Sep 30, 2013 at 18:59
  • @LennartRegebro - edited.
    – user2590
    Sep 30, 2013 at 19:15
  • @SuryaGaddipati - I have removed the references to O. You are correct, they are not necessary. The answer is adequate without that. (this has nothing to do with LR's contentions but simply as you stated - it's not necessary to go there in order to answer the question.)
    – user2590
    Sep 30, 2013 at 21:46
  • "Cultivating a "friend of the children" image was a public relations ploy designed to mitigate such feelings" - Exactly. That bit I agree with. Sep 30, 2013 at 21:59
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    @SamuelRussell - I understand that as an expert in the field, you may find technical objections, and I acknowledge and respect that. But N. Korea is considered "communist" by most people, whether is this accurate or not, nor are they familiar with the particular nuances of Juche thought as opposed to other such cults, doctrines, etc. The real issue here is the perpetration of personality cults by tyrants and the excuses or reasons given for their existence.
    – user2590
    Sep 30, 2013 at 22:11

Most people who are or want to be political leaders try to look like they love children, and children love them. The reason is very simple:

Most adult people are parents. For almost all parents there is nothing more important in the world than their children. Hence, the best way to rise in the eyes of parents, and hence the best way to rise in the eyes of adults, is to look like you care about children. This way you look like someone who cares about the small, the helpless and the future all in one go.

This is the reason for the ubiquitous "Baby kissing" of presidential candidates, this is the reason Nehru tried to portrait himself as every child’s "Uncle", and this is the reason Stalin portrayed himself as a protector of children.

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    Gross misunderstanding of the question and the issue: The question is not about loving children. The question is explicitly about personality cults such as Stalin's, as LR himself remarked in a comment on my answer. Candidates kiss babies before elections, not after them: It's a campaign tradition and has nothing whatsoever to do with personality cults any more than any other aspect of popular campaigning does. To contend otherwise is naive at best, dangerous at worst.
    – user2590
    Sep 30, 2013 at 20:39
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    @Vector you are absolutely right!! Sep 30, 2013 at 21:18
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    @LennartRegebro Dictators unlike presidential candidates dictators dont have to win elections. Their motives are different, one group wants votes and the other wants to brainwash young children. So the reasons are not ubiquitous. Sep 30, 2013 at 21:35
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    @SuryaGaddipati: No, they don't have to Win elections. But they still need the people to accept their dictatorship. That's why they create a personality cult. The aim of the cult is not to brainwash children. That's one of the tools, not the goal. Sep 30, 2013 at 21:43
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    @SuryaGaddipati Yeah, that is a completely different question than they one you actually stated. That said, I don't think the answer is significantly different. I can boil down the answer even more: Stalin (and other communist leaders) kiss children on posters, because it helps them be more popular. It really isn't more complicated than that. Sep 30, 2013 at 21:56

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