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“Home” is the word illustrated on this page and now the boys, accompanied by two more local lads, march across the top of the page.

The four boys are dressed identically; they all have a wooden rifle slung across their shoulders while one also carries a flag.  They march in a perfect formation just as the soldiers had on the preceding pages.  The closing image visualizes the hoped-for aim of the military reforms of 1924-25:  the “militarization of the civilian population,” as Frunze, military commissar, called it.  The defense of the Soviet motherland, Frunze declared, could not just be one borne by a new, disciplined Red Army.  Instead, Soviet society itself should embrace military values and mobilize for defense.  The imagining of defending the socialist land, as this book and other publications illustrated, was a masculine endeavor.  All the soldiers depicted here are men; so too were all the soldiers who graced Soviet propaganda in the 1920s.  The illustration here includes boys such as Ivan and Stepan as part of this mobilization:  they will grow up to be the men who defend the USSR in the future.

The boys went home, departed in orderly fashion, and Styopka said:

“I now understand everything. There is just one thing I cannot understand. How will we pass on his greetings to the village?”

Vanka burst out laughing:

“Can’t you recognise him? He is the Red Commander from our village, Mikhail’s neighbour, Vasily’s son!

“What a joke!” said Styopka. “So, does that mean I can be a commander? Why did I go hiding in the ravine?"

So the boys came home. And from now on when they happened to be playing Red Army, they know why the Red Army is needed and how it works.


(Translation by Liz Matthews, Dalhousie University)