Reflecting back on Soviet Times in Kerala


Theyyam17_rsThe gods have shone over us again. A bridge that is created it lasts forever, the same holds true for friendships and all other types of relationships. It just so happens that one of these relationships that was formed several years ago in the province of Kerala crossed over this bridge unbeknownst. Sreejith had promised me that he would create a post sharing about his personal story about his childhood memories of Russian literature in his homeland. Back in May of 2014, he and I created a post for “Life in Russia”, it can be seen here. I’m very pleased to share with you his thoughts and feeling about his life in Kerala during Soviet times.

8583ea007cc6ee735290302324400a57Santiago the Shepherd

I am from Kerala, a small state at the south western tip of Indian landmass.
It’s unique in comparison with all other states of India, both geographically and culturally…
More interestingly, it is here, in 1957, the First democratically elected communist government in the world, came to existence. See more here.
The Indo-Soviet friendship and coöperation was most evident in this place and we had great exposure to Soviet literature, especially children’s literature.
We had many magazines and books printed Soviet Union, but in our native language, Malayalam.
Due to all these, USSR had a special place in our minds, and when it got collapsed in 1991, it was unbearable for us, at least for me.
Soviet Union Collage-1-1

My Beloved Soviet Union was no more in Existence

Tears rolled down my cheeks and I felt the whole world is coming to an end. My fantasy world was disintegrated.

My beloved Soviet Union with swathes of red over Eurasia was no more in existence.

Neither I am from the erstwhile USSR nor from any other Soviet bloc countries, but from a small village at an obscure corner of India.
I was only a ten year old boy when I listened to the news of USSR dissolution in the afternoon news in our national television.
For me, USSR was the best friend and protector of my motherland …
It stood with us, during tough times and helped us on every front …
But, did I really have an idea about the Indo-Soviet co-operations in military, space, nuclear and all other areas, then ?
I am not sure…
Soviet Union Collage-4-1

‘Misha’ the children’s magazine

But, every month I used to wait for the postal worker to deliver ‘Misha’ the children’s magazine, published in USSR.
Once I opened it, I was drawn to a fantasy world, where fish could talk, frogs could tell tales, horses jumped over fort walls with young and adventurous princes riding them.
Soviet Land and Soviet Women talked about the political and cultural relations between our countries and many other serious topics, with my limited English knowledge I never could understand any.
What really caught my attention was the colorful dresses of Soviet folk dancers, images of Smiling children playing in parks, the pictures drawn by them, images of rockets, fighter planes and ships.
There were more serious magazines like Sputnik, Science in the USSR etc; I collected all these and stuffed my shelf like a treasure.
My father used to bring story books printed in USSR but translated to my mother tongue, Malayalam, once I get it I used to get disconnected from the real world.
Soviet Union Collage-3-1

The Magical Characters from Russian Folklore

We were so used to the Russian names for princes and princesses and one among my favorite was ‘Ivan’.
From these books and magazines I pictured a world which is powerful, people brimming with energy and happiness, and more than anything else, magical…
Who would like such a world to get shattered?
Soviet Union Collage-2-1

Russia the Great Friend of my Motherland

Years past, I read many articles and books on what happened during the Soviet times, how people led their lives, the Socio-economic situations and international relations during those days and many a things, to get an idea behind it’s fall.
The world has changed so much during last 25 years, India has now become a stronger nation and has a great economy, she could stand on her own facing any military challenges and it could send it’s own space ships…
But, I really miss those colourful magazines and story books…
I miss my fantasy land and that great friend of my motherland…
I really wish, the people of all those Soviet Lands are just as happy as they are in my old picture books…
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25 thoughts on “Reflecting back on Soviet Times in Kerala

    1. You might be surprised, Sreejith, but a lot from your fantasy world corresponded with reality at those times.
      USSR had its troubles, but many of what you read was absolutely real and true.

      p.s. Btw soviet studybooks are still valuable and top class (some are even much better than modern) – save them. Esp. ones on math, physics, agebra, geomethry etc.

      1. Thank you so much for your time and it feels great to see your comments 🙂

        I do collect old books from that time, and as you said, there are some excellent books on Science, astronomy and all…

        But nothing could beat the children’s books of that era 🙂

        Thanks again for your visit and have a nice weekend 🙂

    2. Congratulations Mr Nair and thanks for sharing such a wonderful article! I am Manish. For a moment I felt nostalgic as I was born in the 1980s and have read some old magazines of USSR of that time but unfortunately I lost them while shifting to another city. Do you have old collections of SPUTNIK,SOVIET LIFE,SOVIET WOMAN, MISHA? I am looking for SPUTNIK and SOVIET LIFE especially every monthly issues from the year 1979 to the year 1991. I am a bibliographer of Soviet magazines and books and when I read your article I could not resist myself. Please let me know where can I get these above mentioned rare magazines of USSR (Englsh edition)? Kindly reply me at mputin@gmail.com

  1. Yup, I remember those books. We used to buy them at school exhibitions and read each colorful illustration filled page over and over again, willingly transported to a fantasy world of fire-breathing dragons, Mashas and lapis lazulis (this is a word that still fascinates me). Thanks for the memory Sreejith and Steve.

    1. So glad that Sreejith decided to send this to me, feel like I’m getting a little peek in a part of India that I’ve never had the privilege to experience. I’d love to travel to India someday and see of the wonderful sights that you both have shared.

      1. Books used to be so precious at that time. Now, kids have access to so much at the click of a mouse. Thankfully, they still read books..at least mine does.
        You should definitely visit India Steve, am sure you’ll enjoy it. It’s definitely not the cleanest country, but it’s definitely spirited. The more I travel it, the more I am in awe of my own country.

  2. GOOD EARLY MORNING FROM THE USA! SIR, I read you blog or post today and it was extremely valuable for one, your friendship or acquaintance with the chap from INDIA. Does he accept communication with others? My husband and I are both educated with university degrees, he is Dutch and I am an American citizen. My husband had traveled to USSR as a young man and has different stories of his time there. He has traveled the World many times and speaks many languages. I am a former teacher/librarian and have had a friend who was from India. I agree with you friend that Russian children’s literature has great themes especially fantasy. Right now I am creating puppets from the Russian children’s tale THE KOLOBOK. Too, Russia has a special interest as a historical leader though I prefer not to mention that the Soviets who terrorized and murdered millions of its former citizens, looking at the WW 2 political leader Nikita Kruschev – who fanatically executed top Soviet military men, and women soldier. Really do not have to mention LENIN AND HIS CONSORTS; Russian is a wonderful Country as itself and the differing regions in the Country are unique. Again is it possible to write to your Indian friend? atk

    On Mon, Aug 15, 2016 at 12:32 AM, Life in Russia wrote:

    > archecotech posted: ” The gods have shone over us again. A bridge that is > created it lasts forever, the same holds true for friendships and all other > types of relationships. It just so happens that one of these relationships > that was formed several years ago in the province ” >

    1. Hello Annette, I’m sure he would be open to communicating with you. I’ve provided links to his blog through this post, hopefully you’ve found them. I’d leave a short message sharing your thoughts.

    2. Guess who? haha )
      It seems i was absent quite a long.

      > I prefer not to mention that the Soviets who terrorized and murdered millions of its former citizens

      Look at you Uncle Sams Land of “Free” and Home of “Brave” history first, before claiming such a cliche propaganda rubbish with out any credible evidences!
      Or maybe you some?
      I ,for example, have – i have not some opinions or bitter arse losers propaganda (greating to Solgenitsin mofo), but an archive data from NKVD stat and can back my words any time.

      > looking at the WW 2 political leader Nikita Kruschev – who fanatically executed top Soviet military men, and
      > women soldier.

      This sounds totaly like brain porridge. lol
      Since WWII leader was actually Stalin (Djugashvili), but not Kruschev. and you are claiming that you are educated….teacher and librarian? …ah – that american EducaYSHUN….
      In fact Kruschev was quite st00pid farmer and rare idiot, but he never executed men, and women soldier.
      Where did you get that kind of a rubbish? WSJ and NY of 1980?
      Seriously, this is just mindblowing.

      > I am a former teacher/librarian
      You definitely not a good librarian, if you wrote such a rubbish as above.
      Nothing personal – just a facts.

  3. This is such a fascinating post ~ and such a great reflection of the past history, especially one I was not aware of. Sreejith paints such a great post and photos of the importance of the relationship and thanks to you for bringing it to life as well. Wonderful cooperation all around 🙂

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