Protection of Women and Children in Soviet Russia


With the October Revolution came an almost complete change of ideas concerning diet, especially for young children. Until 1917 Russian women did not wean their children for about two years, after which time they were given exactly the same food as their parents. Now, however a fairly successful attempt has been made to teach the value of well-balanced meals. Women are encouraged to wean their children between seven months and a year after they are born, after which time much the same sort of diet is recommended as is used in western countries. Wherever groups of mothers are gathered together for the purpose of discussing child care, it is stressed that babies should not be fed at the breast after their first birthday; that they should never be given food between meals; and that they rarely be given meat before they are three years old. Although the doctors claim that curd, a common substitute for meat in Russia, is better for a child's health than meat, in any case during the winter it is almost impossible to buy the latter and a good substitute is not only desirable but necessary.

After weaning, children are given certified milk, which is not pasteurised. In every city district there is at least one Government Milk Kitchen, usually attached to medical clinics, where tested milk can be had for children. Such milk is issued only on showing a Doctor's prescription which is re-issued either at the creches or Points of Medical Consultations every twenty days. There are approximately fifteen standard milk formulas, although special ones can always be made up if it is necessary for the health of any child. Each twenty days when a child is examined by a clinic pediatrician his mother is given a new milk card which states what formula and the quantity of milk her child is to have. She receives this milk without cost if she is a worker, otherwise she must pay its cost, unless she is too poor, in which case she receives it gratis. No matter how severe a milk shortage there may be, the milk kitchens are always supplied and the prices are never altered. The same is true of other food products which are set aside for children. They are dispensed on the card system at minimum cost no matter how great the demand and how small the supply. In addition, as far as children are concerned, they always have the first chance to get food products, even before the workers themselves.

The right to claim free children's milk is always investigated by the staff of the dispensary on which their milk card is issued. Consequently those who run milk kitchens must know every one in their district fairly well and must be in constant contact with other local social institutions. Gradually, as a child grows older, milk is replaced by vegetables and fruits. Beginning at the age of two years, it is recommended that children be given raw liver about three times a week, whenever it is possible, because it contains all six vitamins. Considering the food problem which re occurs almost every winter in the U. S. S. R., it would he fairly safe to guess that not very many children have tasted raw liver. Partly as a matter of economy, most parents are told that eggs are not particularly necessary to their child's health, and that at most they should not be given them more than every other day before they are three years of age. Fresh fruit has begun to be recognized as a necessary part of the daily diet of a child. Sour milk has always been an important food in Russia, especially for children, and has not been discarded; because it is now often used as another substitute for meat. Russian doctors recommend that all children be given a strictly vegetable diet during four days of the week, and that on the other three days they can be given curd, sour milk, and occasionally, meat. It is interesting to note that both children and adults in Russia usually eat four times a day.

The diet for creche children from twelve to eighteen months, as determined by the Institute for the Protection of Mother and Child, is approximately as follows:

First Meal.
9:30 A.M.

1. Cereals with butter and milk or with water (Breakfast) and butter. 2. Russian coffee [made with roasted fruits and vegetables. It contains no real coffee], dry bread toast, bread and butter, rolls.

3. Raw fruit.

Second meal.
1:30 P.M.

1. Thick soup, puree of vegetable with butter.

2. Grated liver. Curd croquettes with sugar. (3 times a week.)

3. Puree of apples, apple sauce, baked apple, compete of apple, one piece of biscuit or toast.

Third meal.
4:30 P.M. (Perhaps at home.)

1. Milk with curd of milk or curd with sugar.

2. Toast or bread and butter.

3. Fresh fruit or berries.

Fourth meal.
Supper at home

1. Sour milk and yartch or sweet milk.

2. Toast or biscuits or bread with butter, apple butter, current jelly, honey.

3. Fruit.


[Note: Breast-fed babies have as many feedings as the pediatrician desires and usually four hour schedule is used.]

First meal.
9:30 A.M.

1. Fresh apples or other fresh fruit.

2. Cereals. (Vegetable.)

3. Russian coffee, bread with whey (curd,) honey and toast, chopped-up herring paste.

Second meal.
1:30 P.M.

1. Thick soup, puree of vegetables, bortach or tea. Vegetable soup should be given with meat only three times a week. When soup contains no meat it must contain butter.

2. a) Meat croquette, fish, brains, or liver, with puree of potatoes or other vegetables, or fresh cabbage and cucumbers.
b) Vegetable plate baked with butter, and dumplings.
c) Baked or stewed cereal, rice, toast, liver, brains, currents, apples.

3. Fruit, berries, or a compete of fresh fruit, fruit jelly.

Third meal.
4:30 P.M. (Perhaps at home.)

1. Milk, coffee with milk, or tea with lemon.

2. Toast, biscuits, or rolls.

3. Fruit.

Fourth meal.
(At home)

1. Sweet or sour milk.

2. a) Bread and butter with curd or apple butter.
b) Lettuce salad mixed with other fresh vegetables.
c) Curd croquettes with sugar.

3. Fruit.

Such is the approximate diet suggested for creche children, and it is recommended that the parents follow out more or less the same menu when they have their children with them during holidays and vacation periods. It is not very probable, however, that any family would be in a position to buy such expensive food, so for that reason the children who spend their winters in the creche always seem more healthy and better fed than other children. I notice that in these sample menus there is no mention of caviar, which is practically the only fresh food obtainable, and always cheap throughout the year. Because of this, it is given to children in the creche and in the home. Mrs. Lucy L. W. Wilson, in her book, New Schools in New Russia, tells how school children usually receive fresh caviar every morning at ten o'clock because its vitamin content is very important in balancing what might otherwise be a meager diet.

In the reception room of every creche there are charts showing the ideal diets for children, how these diets have been worked out on the calorie basis, and what is the best way to prepare the food. From time to time, when the parents are invited to a meeting with the creche employees, these subjects are discussed. The home visitors, too, attempt to teach the simplest and most effective methods of obtaining and preparing the approved foods. Parents who do not have their children in State or factory nurseries are told by the home visitors and their clubs, unions, etc.. to go to their local Museum of Mother and Child, where they can see food charts and at the same time learn how to prepare them. Both in the reception rooms of the creches and in these Museums, the following slogans are found on brightly coloured posters:

1. Nothing but fresh food should ever be given to a child, and it must be newly prepared before each meal.

2. Dairy and meat products must be kept in a cool enclosed place.

3. Always wash fruit and vegetables before eating them.

4. Be sure that your hands are clean before preparing food.

5. It is advisable to prepare food for adults and children in separate vessels and then provide individual spoons and dishes for each child.

6. The best pans and dishes for children's food are made of aluminum.

7. All pots and pans, as well as dishes, must be washed in boiling water containing soda and soap. Always rinse plates.

8. Washed dishes and cooking utensils should always be kept upside down on a special shelf.

9. Persons who are ill, especially those afflicted with tuberculosis or venereal diseases, must never be allowed to cook for children.

10. Keep all food, dishes, etc., away from flies, mice, cockroaches, and other household pests, as these breed infection.

11. Food is the most important influence on health.

12. Mother's, milk is the best food for a child during the first year of its life.

13. All food must be well cooked and tastefully served.

14. Candy and sweets should seldom be given to children, and never before meals.

15. Children must be fed regularly, according to a schedule.

16. There should be no excitement before or during a child's meal, for it upsets the digestion.

17. Immediately after a child has eaten, he should be given material for quiet play and should not be allowed to go right to sleep.

In each Museum for Mother and Child there is a case containing wax models of the various types of foods to be given to children, as well as the types of dishes and cooking utensils which are necessary for their preparation. This kind of advice regarding food, cooking, and cleanliness seems hardly necessary to the average English or American mother, in spite of the fact that very poor people the world over are just about as ignorant on these subjects as are the Russians. That the Soviet is making a systematic attempt to educate everyone (fathers as well as mothers) whom it can reach in this line, is not only admirable but necessary, since bad and poorly prepared food has always been a menace to the entire population.

The medical and social advantages of education regarding foods are very obvious, but their full significance in the U. S. S. R. can hardly be realized by those who are not acquainted with the backwardness of the Russian people in caring for themselves.

It is not very difficult for the leaders of the Soviet Government to convince the adult Russian that no matter what may happen to himself, he must give his child the best care available, for the Russians seem to care for their children above anything else in their lives. The children in the Moscow streets and parks seem amazingly clean, well dressed and well fed in spite of the fact that their parents are sometimes quite ragged. It has been ironically observed by some visitors to the U. S. S. R. that the Russian people are infinitely better parents than anything else. If this be so, the creche is not so much an innovation as it might otherwise be. It is merely a scientifically planned institution for the better care of children with the co-operation of their parents. I am by no means suggesting that all Russian adults understand and approve the modern methods of child care as seen in the creche, for they do not; I only mean that on the whole, they seem willing to learn and anxious to do anything they can for their children. Whenever I came in contact with mothers in the creches, which was usually while they were nursing their children, they showed an intense interest in the technique of child care in England and the United States. They asked innumerable questions as to how other methods compared to those they knew, and were delighted when I told them that their nurseries and clinics were just as modern and up-to-date as any I had seen in any other part of the world.

REGIME OF FIRST GROUP (from 2 months-7 months)
7:30 -
Reception; undressing
by mother; toilet
(coloured balls, rings)
During reception children
toys in their beds.
8:45 -
Preparation for sleep.
(Toys taken away)
9:45 -
Wake children: older
babies laid on stomachs;
examined by doctors.
Feeding; play
Play (rings with
bells, rings, rattles)
Each child, according
to age, development,
individuality, is given
set of two or three toys,
which are changed during the day.
10:30 -
Preparation for sleep.
(Open air sleep)
Change babies'
clothes if wet
1:00 -
Lay babies on stomach;
feeding; play
Play (same toys) All children from
3 months spend this time
out of their beds on raised
platform with fence around,
so that they do not fall
out. Toys in pen.
2:45 -
Preparation for sleep; sleep.
4:30 -
Given back to mothers.
Those too young to be in
play pens are kept in bed
until their mothers
take them home.
(Rings, cups and rattles
given to children.)

From Manual of Methods of Work from Children of Creche Age
By A. Faivonsinovitch

REGIME OF SECOND GROUP (from 7 months - 14 months).
7:30 -
Reception; undressing
by mother; stool.
During this period
child plays in pen, or
in the play corner,
a mountain, little table,
small bench, all closed
by a fence-- this
playing done while
staff cares for them.
8:45 -
Examination by doctor.
Play (wooden cups,
wooden boxes, and wooden
mushrooms which screw).
8:30 -
Play (toys same
as at 8:45).
Children are fed in groups.
While one group eats,
the other plays.
10:30 -
Preparation for sleep.
Open-air sleep.
10:30 -
Dressing after sleep.
Play 1) wagons, large
boxes with balls, rabbits, rings.
2) closed, coloured, cylinders
3) musical boxes, drums, etc.
4) bells on strings and rings
5) rattles
Each musical toy is
given twice a week,
for 20-30 minutes
before dinner; after
dinner they receive
the same toys.
1:30 -
Play. Play 1) cylinder, coloured
but open at ends, with
wooden eggs or rings.
2)metal dishes with spoons and eggs.
3) aluminum cups glasses.
4) wooden boxes, eggs and
bells--open and closed boxes.
All sets are brought
one after the other
to the groups--not
all brought at once.
2:40 -
Preparation for sleep.
Toys taken away. Sleep.
4:30 -
Stool. Children given
back to mothers.
Those awake before
mother arrives are
given toys--cups, rattles,
coloured boxes.
REGIME OF THIRD GROUP (from 1 yr. 2 months - 2 years).
DAYS 4:30 -
8:45 - 9:30 9:30 - 10:45 10:45 - 12:45
MONDAY Reception, undressing,
toilet (bath), stool
Play. Cups, eggs, balls. Hand washing, stool,
play for groups not
at table with same
material as at 8:45
Preparation for sleep,
open-air sleep, dressing
after sleep, and stool.
Play and organized occupation.
1) circle, hoops.
2) looking at pictures.
3) sand piles.
TUESDAY "" Play. Mushrooms. boxes. " " 1) horse or boat on wheels
2) musical boxes
" Play. Cups and stones. " " 1) boats, horses, etc., on
wheels, wagons. Teach co-operation.
2) talking about pictures.
THURSDAY " Play. Dolls " " 1)boxes.
2)musical instrument,
make tunes
FRIDAY " Play. Albums made of
thin wooden pages. Boxes
with eggs and balls.
" " 1) blocks, building, teach
2) having objects (ball on
string) to develop attention.
SATURDAY " Same as Friday. " " 1) boat.
2) talk about pictures.


DAYS 1:30 - 2:15 2:15 - 3:00 3:00 - 4:30 4:30 - 5:00 Remarks
MONDAY Handwashing, dinner,
Play and organized occupation.
1) Reins for driving horses.
2) Machine teaching.
Mechanics and developing
muscles (turning wheels)
Stool--sleep Giving back
to mothers
The children at the
time of reception should
be put in playrooms;
they must use the circles,
hoops, mountain with slide
and stairs, and the little
house when they wish to be alone.
TUESDAY " 1) Rings
2) Small pyramids.
" " "
" 1) Wooden pictures on wheels.
2) Play with water.
" " "
THURSDAY " 1) Balls.
2) Large pyramids.
" " "
FRIDAY " 1) Marching.
2) Colour constructive material.
Plasticine, painting, crayons.
" " "
SATURDAY " 1) Balls.
2) Dolls.
" " "


(Time Period)
MONDAY Organized
Motor playing To teach perservance
to hard task
Running on
inclined plane
A snowhill, an earth
heap or wooden plate
TUESDAY " Orientation
in nature
Development of habits
according to programme
Exercises; walks According to season
and environment
WEDNESDAY " The same as Monday The same as Monday The same as Monday The same as Monday
THURSDAY " Motor playing Development of hand-eye
coordination and movements
Throwing balls
at marks
A box of ball, targets
FRIDAY " Orientation in
Training of habits
according to programme
Exercise According to season
SATURDAY " Same as Monday
and Wednesday
Same as Monday
and Wednesday
Same as Monday
and Wednesday
Same as Monday
and Wednesday