About Women and Children in the USSR, 1961
Harvey and Alice Richards made a film in the Soviet Union (USSR) in 1961 focusing on women and children in a socialist society: A Visit to the Soviet Union, Part 1: Women of Russia (27 min.), and Part 2: Far From Moscow (20 min.). I accompanied them, at age 17, to help with the batteries and heavy equipment. It was my first airplane ride and a remarkable experience. We visited Moscow, Sochi on the Black Sea coast, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and Irkutsk in Siberia. Harvey and Alice’ films are simple accounts of social services and life styles of women and children in the Soviet Union in 1961. When we returned, Harvey and Alice projected the films for small groups to let sympathetic people see what was happening in the the USSR to build friendly public opinion instead of Cold War. When I told people of my trip to the USSR, more often than not, I was greeted by blank stares and the question, What did you go there for? Elsa Knight Thompson interviewed me on KPFA radio and then, the whole subject dropped into oblivion.
Now, 52 years later, and 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, these films are experiencing a rebirth. As part of creating this web site in 2011 to make Harvey’s films available, I made short clips from each film which I put up on YouTube and then embedded in my posts about the films. I entitled the clips Ordinary Life in the USSR, 1961. Today, over 135,000 viewers have visited my YouTube channel, including over 95,000 views of the Ordinary Life in the USSR clips alone. Viewers have come from 120 countries. Debates about the USSR abound on the comments section on YouTube.
This is the last thing I expected to happen. Now I realize that in the world today, especially outside the propagandized USA, there is widespread curiosity about women and children in the Soviet period. The experience of Russians since the USSR’s collapse fuels this interest as social services disappeared along with full employment and socialized medical care. Whatever one thinks of the Russian Revolution, Stalin, Lenin, Trotsky, or communism, the history of care and relative prosperity experienced by women and children during the Soviet period is now a lasting legacy. These two films present images helping to restart the thinking of people around the world on what governments and societies should provide for people. All of this happened after Harvey and Alice passed away. I am sure they would have rejoiced at this development, as I do.