Facebook and Soviet/Russian Animation (Cartoons) Era
What does Facebook have to do with Soviet/Russian cartoons?
Well, nothing in general and everything in particular.
If you have a Facebook account you might have paid attention that a campaign is going on Facebook now that is called "Campaign To End Violence Against Children".
The point is to change your Facebook profile picture to a picture from a cartoon that you liked to watch when a child. Facebook profile pictures are supposed to have no human faces for several days, just pictures of characters from nice, good-natured old cartoons.
The idea is to raise awareness to end Violence Against Children. It covers a huge range of problems. Not only physical violence against children, but also psychological imposing of violent feelings and ideas into soft undeveloped minds of growing generation through TV shows, movies and cartoons.
Many of nowadays movies and cartoons are invaded with violent scenes, psychological distortions and just ugly looking characters.
From gentle lively images of old classic cartoons with positive messages to simplified anime without much meaning and to violent characters.
TV cartoons and shows can effect children of different ages.
Nowadays, unlike just several decades ago, every house has several TV sets in possession (you will laugh, but I know a house where even a rest room has a small TV in it. Just imagine- watching your favorite show sitting on a "throne").
Many kids have their own TV in their rooms.
Children of different ages comprehend the world around them in different ways.
Depending on their range of attention and emotional inclinations, children can acquire certain store of energy from television broadcasting even if they don't pay direct attention to an operating TV set.
Violent sounds, ugly images and negatively exciting content may influence the toddler's pattern of viewing habits for later years and throughout life. Very often children tend to identify with a TV show or a cartoon hero. Kids become more aggressive and violent after watching violent forced content.
Sadly, but nowadays violent or just stupid content is pervasive in modern television and the role of parents who really care about their children's mental and social health is to serve as mediators of their children's viewing patterns.
Loving and caring parents should not only filter and chose TV programs, cartoons and movies that their children are watching, but also parents have to participate in watching and discussing the content.
With toddlers and preschoolers parents should be the sole censors of what their kids are watching. With children of school age, when parents often times are unable to monitor kids' viewing patterns, it is very important that parents will discuss, explain, and challenge television, encouraging their growing children to analyze and question, to become more selective and self-educating.
The latest Facebook campaign raised a wide range of emotions, stirred old memories and half-forgotten images. Besides making a good point to raise awareness to end Violence Against Children, it also gave us (to me, at least) a nostalgic opportunity to drool over childhood memories.
All Soviet cartoons with very rare exceptions were sweet, kind and emotionally positive.
My Soviet childhood cartoons.
As any medal has two sides, growing up in a socialistic country had both disadvantages and positive aspects as well.
On the one hand an "iron curtain" wouldn't allow Soviet people to know the difference. We didn't know that people in a capitalistic world had real choices that we didn't have. We were raised to think, act and behave according the pattern that was made for us by the government. We "lived in a jail" (figuratively speaking), where we were provided roof and food. We didn't know better. People worked, getting miserable pocket allowances for their salary. Highly educated specialists were paid the same money as unskilled laborers. The country was rich, the people were equally poor.
On the other hand, we lived a highly motivated and rich emotional life. Iron curtain that didn't allow us to know the good side of life in a capitalistic society also protected us from violence and negativeness of a free world.
People in the Soviet Union read a lot. Even now Russia is considered the most reading country. People read everywhere- in buses, in metro trains, on the bus stops, in lines. When people do not have much choices they tend to go towards self-education.
Old Russian movies though simple and naïve, were also positive and as a rule well done professionally.
Movies for children were no doubt very patriotic and brainwashing in their majority. However, children cartoons were very educational, positive and made with high quality. The majority of Soviet cartoons were created by talented people and that's why the cartoons themselves were highly talented in their nature.
Soviet cartoons were created not for mere profit, as the majority of foreign cartoons are made nowadays. Even Russian contemporary cartoons are made now mostly for the profit and therefore they lack individuality, have no strong message and mostly mirror the foreign market tendency. The cartoon creators cannot take a risk of making a non-profitable cartoon.
During Soviet era, cartoon industry was state-funded and if a cartoon did not go, it was just signed off. Many really talented cartoons were also "put on the shelf" because of their bold message that government censorship would not approve, but this is another story (another side of the medal).
Nevertheless, the majority (if not all) of Soviet cartoons that were on the screen at that time were positive, sweet, sentimental, with strong message.
When we moved to Israel, I took several VHS tapes with old good Soviet cartoons. My son also grew up on those cartoons, together with the best choice of Hebrew and American cartoons (Disney cartoons mostly). I was very selective and until his preteens I was pretty much monitoring what he was watching on TV and what he was reading.
I know many families of immigrants from Soviet Union who prefer to raise their foreign-born children on old Soviet cartoons and I completely understand the reason.
I've read somewhere that Pope John Paul II said, "If you want to bring up your children in a humane way show them Soviet cartoons." I don't know how authenticated it is, but even if the Pope didn't say this, it is so.
When Facebook suggested to post an image of a character from a cartoon that we enjoyed in the childhood as a profile picture, I had a hard choice. Mentally I went through many cartoons of my childhood. Many, many of them deserve the honor.
Sweet, quiet, loyal Hedgehog.
My most favorite cartoon from many favorite Soviet cartoons
"Hedgehog in the Fog"
This is a very touching story about a friendship of a little Hedgehog and a Bear cub who used to meet together every evening at Bear cub's place.
They would sit outside by the bonfire made with Juniper Twigs, drink tea from a Samovar and count stars in the night sky.
One night a little Hedgehog got lost in the fog in the woods while walking to Bear cub.
Everything looks different in the fog, the whole world takes magic aspects, every little sound and image is distorted and frightening, but at the same time attractive and magical.
Hedgehog makes his way in the surreal world of the fog, exploring and wondering.
He encounters many creatures; frightening moths and bats, a "psycho" Owl (as Hedgehog calls him- psich/псих in Russian), but also peaceful and even helpful images (snail, dog, white horse and a mysterious "Somebody" who saves him when he fells in the river).
The sounds and images are comprehended differently in the fog, putting every aspect to a different perspective. Little Hedgehog is all alone in the surreal world, but he makes his way out to a friendly place of Bear cub.
Bear cub is looking for Hedgehog, because he is worried. Finally they sit together by the fire and everything is so quiet and serene.
The author of the animation is Yuri Norshtein. The cartoon was based on a great book written by Sergey Kozlov. Later, a printed version of the cartoon was also published with the images from the cartoon.
Both, a book and a cartoon became classic. Children and adults are equally fascinated by them.
The cartoon has some special awards:
- 1976—Frunze All-Union Film Festival: Hedgehog in the Fog "best animated film"
- 1976—Tehran Children's and Youth Film Festival: Hedgehog in the Fog "best animated film"
- 2003—Tokyo All time animation best 150 in Japan and Worldwide: Hedgehog in the Fog "№1 Animated film of all the time"
Several generations grew up on this touching and kind cartoon with strong messages.
In January 2009 the character of Hedgehog in the Fog even acquired a monument. It was made in Kiev, capital of Ukraine.
Hedgehog in the Fog (Yuri Norshteyn, 1975)
"The Three from Buttermilk Village"
Though "Hedgehog in the Fog" is my most favorite, I can list more of great cartoons from Soviet era of animation, and the list will be very long.
I will name just several of them that to my mind should become world wide known. Any generation in any country will benefit from growing up on these cartoons.
I still keep at home Soviet cartoons, but I purchased DVD versions to keep up with the progress. I watch them with my son from time to time.
"Troe iz Prostokvashino"- "The Three from Buttermilk village" is another my favorite. There are three parts of the cartoon. In the first cartoon, a boy whom everybody including his parents call "Uncle Fedor" meets a cat in the stair cage of his apartment building, who goes by his last name Matroskin (Sailor's). Since Uncle Fedor's parents wouldn't allow him to have a cat in the apartment, a boy and a cat along with a stray dog Sharik (Little Ball) settle in the village of Prostokvashino (Buttermilk). All the images are very special. Uncle Fedor is very serious for his age, cat Matroskin is bossy and philosophical, dog Sharik is simple and hardworking. The cartoon is full of funny dialogs with deep meaning. Many expressions from "The Three from Prostokvashino" became folk wisdom and people quote them in everyday life.
If you like the first part of the cartoon, you can find on Youtube the other two parts as well.
There are so many more great Soviet cartoons worth of becoming world wide known!
One of the most famous characters from Soviet cartoons is, probably, Cheburashka, "a creature unknown to science".
The cartoon is based on a book by Eduard Uspenskyi.
Cheburashka is a very friendly creature from tropical forests. He accidentally arrives to Soviet Union in a box with oranges. He looks for friends and finds them in a girl Galia and Crocodile Gena. An old mischievous lady Shapokliak with a pocket rat Lariska makes lots of hardships to the friends, but they always come out the winners. The cartoon is very kind, with great music and songs.
Soviet animation also has several cartoons based on foreign origins.
Winnie the Pooh stands apart from them, because of the translation of the classical book made by great master of unexpected humor Boris Zahoder. The images are great and Zahoder's translation made the cartoon special for many generations.
"Karlson on the Roof", a book by Astrid Lindgren (a Swedish children's book author and screenwriter) got a new life with a Soviet cartoon "Kid and Karlson, who lives on the roof".
There are so many more of Soviet era children cartoons worth of mentioning that the list will be very long. But one cartoon, or rather a whole long serial of cartoons should be mentioned, because long ago it became classic.
"just you wait!" (Nu, pogodi!) is series of funny episodes about adventures of a mischievous but charismatic wolf the hooligan, who tries to catch (and probably eat) a small innocent hare. The series is mostly musical, with very little speech if at all, but with lots of music and songs of that time.
I remember how we laughed watching these episodes. Though the cartoon tells about basically not nice plans of a Wolf, but there is no violence there whatsoever. The humor is brilliant and sparkling.