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I recently read an article in a Finnish newspaper about the persecution of Finnish people in Soviet Union during 1930's.

According to the article (here in Finnish), most of the victims were either Finnish socialists that had fled Finland, Finns that had moved over from America (in hopes of better living standards), or unemployed people from Finland who went to Soviet Union in search of employment.

So some of these people had moved to Soviet Union because they wanted to help in building the socialist utopia. However just as many other immigrants and minorities, most of them were persecuted due to Soviet government paranoia about possible spies and traitors.

One of the individuals interviewed by the article author was Irma Wahlstén who was a young girl when NKVD separated her from her mom and sister in January 1938. An experience that she mentioned was that of her teacher hitting her in the head with a plate because she had refused to thank Stalin for the food.

Presumably this was not a situation where Stalin was personally present.

The question I would like to ask is:

Were children in Soviet Union commonly expected to thank Stalin for food, even when he was not present?

  • They even had to thank him in the absence of food :-) – jjack Nov 30 '17 at 19:03
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Yes, until, more or less, mid 1950-ies (of course, the physical presence of Stalin in the room was irrelevant). It was not a "required code of behavior" (cf. grace after meal) and varied in time/space/status of the place (e.g., more likely in late 1930-ies, elite childcare in Moscow, less likely in late 1940-ies poor school in Siberia). However, if an adult (e.g., teacher or party functionary) prompted it, the refusal to comply would definitely have disastrous effects for the child and his/her family.

The phrase "спасибо товарищу Сталину за наше счастливое детство" (thanks to comrade Stalin for our happy childhood) was a meme that even I knew as I grew up in 1970-ies. It was not said in earnest then, but more as a historical reference.

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    Although this claim must be true, this post would benefit from citing credible sources and factual evidence. Answers based on personal and anecdotal evidence may become target of denials, lengthy disputes, and partisan voting. Also (sorry for nitpicking), the question asked about "thanking Stalin for food" (Fin. ruuasta), not for "happy childhood". – bytebuster Nov 30 '17 at 17:19
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Yes.

Stalin was not just the maximum leader, he was also projected as a father figure, the great provider, etc. This theme permeated schools, orphanages, etc., where children were educated.

The most common phrase was "Thank Comrade Stalin for our happy childhood," but at mealtimes, "food" was operative word. The praise to an absent Stalin was similar to what religious people might say to "our Father in Heaven..." and at mealtimes, they would say "grace."

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