Mary Baldwin College, Staunton VA 24401
by Prof. Gordon L. Bowen, Ph.D.
One of the classic moral tales through which most of today's Russian adults learned, as Soviet youngsters, conveys the values central to the now-defunct Communist State. This tale was commemorated widely in Soviet schools and its 50th anniversary ocassioned a minor 1982 celebration in the USSR.
In 1932, Pavlik Morozov was a 13 year old schoolboy, son of a Trofim Morozov, the mayor of Gerasimovka, in western Siberia. Peasant escapees from the Gulag were slipping back toward their former homelands through Gerasimovka, but lacked proper papers. The father and mayor was observed by the son forging official passes and selling them to these frightened, desperate people. Like a good young communist, Pavlik reported to Party officials that his father was an enemy of the State. As the story goes, an independent farmer in the town got wind of what Pavlik had done and paid the boy's grandfather (Sergei) 30 rubles to murder the lad. When authorities broke the case, the murder weapon (a knife) is said to have been found behind an icon (religious symbol, a metal or wooden wall hanging) in Sergei's house.
The tale of Pavlik Morozov encompasses many of the values of the Soviet order: loyalty to State and Party, not family; intolerance of the dangerous, counter-revolutionary attitudes of independent businessmen (the farmer); the corruptness of the older generation; and the wickedness of religion (the 30 rubles is an allusion to the 30 pieces of silver Biblical Judas received for betraying Jesus; the knife was found behind an icon, etc.). In a round-about way, this fantastic tale is a confirmation of Marx's predictions about the malleability of morality, or rather, the view of the moral as a byproduct of the priorities of the powerful. The irony, of course, is that such manipulation of what is moral was supposed to have ended with the coming of the era of communism. The Morozov tale continued as part of contemporary curriculum in the schools of the modern USSR, as late as the mid 1980s, but was deleted during the Gorbachev era --much to the chagrin of latter-day unrepentant Stalinists.
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