The prison depicted directly behind the shackled Ivan Tsarevich calls to the increasing social presence of the Soviet secret police (Cheka) in the late 1910s into the 1920s. Following the assassination attempt on Lenin, the government ordered the Cheka to increase its actions against enemies of the revolution, leading to a sharp increase in arrests and executions across the country, as well as the proliferation of prisons for political opponents of the Bolsheviks. (see Siegelbaum “State Security”)
Ivan is now pictured as imprisoned by “his enemies,” which the reader can interpret as the Soviet state, for, “According to Felix J. Oinas, in the early 1920s ‘the belief that folklore reflected the ideology of the ruling class gave rise to a strongly negative attitude toward it…[Furthermore] a Special Children’s Proletkut sought to eradicate folktales on the basis that they glorified tsars and tsareviches, corrupted and instigated sickly fantasies in children, developed the kulak attitude, and strengthened bourgeois ideals” (See Balina, 106). In addition to this depiction of the Soviet’s dominance and control over the Old World’s mythology, the shackled Tsarevich is also drawn in pre-Revolutionary aristocratic garb, which suggests that the Soviet state has conquered the former capitalism’s class structures through the transition to Socialism.
As fashion and design shifted with the onset of the Constructivist movement in 1919, uniforms began to crop up in distinct sectors. Pioneer uniforms, including a white shirt and red kerchief, tend to convey professionalism and vibrancy and are easily noticeable at a distance. The Octobrist’s attire – complemented by a casual, hand-in-pocket gait – distinguishes him from the conspicuous, fairytale clothing of the other protagonists.
Many years on end,
In stories, my impudent enemies
Keep me in captivity.
Put his hands
In his trousers,
So it should be. Right
Are all these lads.
Only an idiot would judge them,
Having drunk a little blood.
This text in juxtaposition with the fugitive Ivan of the first page and imprisoned Ivan of the second shows that figures from the Old World cannot exist in this new Soviet space. When Ivan escapes from the past fairytale that is his world, he is immediately imprisoned. He cannot even be drawn in the new Soviet world in the pre-shackle stage. Furthermore, the model young boy will not help him escape, which is particularly significant, for as a children’s book character Ivan was meant to influence young audiences the most. Thus, when the Octobrist completely dismisses him and justifies his shackles, the author is commenting on how these characters cannot exist outside extremely controlled Soviet ideological and physical space. They are confined to prisons where they have no influence over members of society both because they are physically restricted and because they hold no weight in the new Soviet children’s imaginary.