It is clear that many Soviet “bestsellers” are bought by parents out of nostalgia. However, when it comes to reading those books to children, it becomes a real task for a parent. Most things written in Soviet books, now are difficult to explain to children.
For example, Soviet science fiction. In Soviet times, there were no flat screen TVs, the Internet or video calls. So, all these seemed so distant and futuristic at a time. Now, it is difficult to explain to a modern child, how fun it was to read about devices that have not yet been invented, but already predicted. After all, many gadgets have become a usual part of daily life and children are surrounded by them.
And here is the list of children books, which we used to read with pleasure. In our opinion, even modern children will be interested in reading them.
Alexander Volkov and his Magic Land series
The first of these books, The Wizard of the Emerald City, is a loose translation of the first Oz book, with chapters added, altered, or omitted, some names changed (for example, Dorothy becomes “Ellie”, Oz is renamed “Magic Land”, and Toto can talk when in Magic Land), and several characters given personal names instead of generic ones. Baum’s name is mentioned in the first of Volkov books but the Soviet Union paid no royalties to the Baum estate. First published in 1939 in the Soviet Union, the book became quite popular; and in the 1960s Volkov also wrote his own sequels to the story. He liberally borrowed from some of the originals, such as using the “Powder of Life” idea from The Marvelous Land of Oz, but mostly created a divergent universe. From 1963 to 1970, four more books in the series were published, with the sixth and final story published posthumously in 1982.
Kir Bulychev and his Alisa Selezneva series
Kir Bulychev is a pen name of Igor Vsevolodovich Mozheiko. Mozheiko (Mojeiko) received a Master’s degree in 1965 and a Ph.D. in 1981. From 1963 he worked in the Institute of Oriental Studies of the USSR Academy of Sciences. He is famous for his children science fiction novels about Alisa Selezneva, the girl from the future.
Alisa Selezneva or Seleznyova (Russian: Алиса Селезнёва) is the main character of the series of children’s science fiction books by Russian writer Kir Bulychev. The series, unofficially referred to as “Alisa’s Adventures” was started in 1965 and comprises more than 50 novellas and short stories, of which many were adapted to film, television, comics and video game.
Adventures of Captain Wrongel by Andrey Nekrasov
Adventures of Captain Wrongel or “The Adventures of Captain Vrungel” is a humorous story by the Soviet writer Andrei Nekrasov. The book was first presented to readers in 1937 in the Pioneer magazine, where it was published in an abridged form, a full-fledged book edition was published in 1939. The story parodies both stories about sailors, which were popular in the 1930s, and stereotypes about foreigners and individual states. The main character of the book is Captain Vrungel, whose name has become a household name, – the sea counterpart of Baron Munchausen, telling tales about his adventures on the voyage.
A 1976-1979 Soviet musical adventure animation film is loosely based on the novel with the same name by Andrey Nekrasov.
The Adventures of Dunno and his Friends by Nikolay Nosov
The three fairy tale novels follow the adventures of the little fictional childlike people living in “Flower City”. They are described to be sized like “medium cucumbers”, a quality that has earned them the name “shorties” or “mites”. All fruits and vegetables growing in Flower City are, however, their regular size, so the Shorties invent sophisticated methods of growing and harvesting them.
Dunno, or Know-Nothing or Ignoramus (Russian: Незнайка, Neznayka that is Don’tknowka (ka – the Russian suffix here for drawing up the whole name in a cheerful form); from the Russian phrase “не знаю” (“ne znayu”), don’t know) is a character created by Soviet children’s writer Nikolay Nosov. The idea of the character comes from the books of Palmer Cox.
Dunno, recognized by his bright blue hat, canary-yellow trousers, orange shirt, and green tie, is the title character of Nosov’s world-famous trilogy, The Adventures of Dunno and his Friends (1954), Dunno in Sun City (1958), and Dunno on the Moon (1966). There have been several movie adaptations of the books.
Monday Begins on Saturday by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky
This one is probably for teenagers. “Monday Begins on Saturday” is a 1965 science fantasy novel by Soviet writers Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, with illustrations by Yevgeniy Migunov. Set in a fictional town in northern Russia, where research in magic occurs, the novel is a satire of Soviet scientific research institutes. It offers an idealistic view of the scientific work ethic, as reflected in the title which suggests that the scientists’ weekends are nonexistent. Their idealism is contrasted by an inept administration and a dishonest, show-horse professor.
The “Scientific Research Institute of Sorcery and Wizardry” (or, in Andrew Bromfield’s 2002 translation “the National Institute for the Technology of Witchcraft and Thaumaturgy”, abbreviated to “NITWITT”), located in the fictional Northern Russian town of Solovets, is portrayed as a place where everyone either works diligently, or else their loss of honesty is symbolized by their ears becoming more and more hairy. These hairy-eared people are viewed with disdain by the idealistic scientists. The more morally backward specimens are the most self-aggrandizing and sure of their own significance, while conducting the more ridiculous and nonsensical pseudo-research, to justify their position.
Tale of the Troika, which describes Soviet bureaucracy at its worst, is a sequel, featuring many of the same characters.
Electronic – the boy from the suitcase by Yevgeny Veltistov
The popular 1979 Soviet children’s science fiction TV miniseries “The Adventures of the Elektronic” are based on this book.
In the book, a robot named Electronic escapes from Professor Gromov’s laboratory. The robot looks exactly like Sergey (Serezha) Syroezhkin, a boy from a magazine cover, who was chosen by Gromov as a model to construct Elektronic.
By coincidence, the double meets its prototype. 6-grader Serezha cunningly suggests that Elektronik should impersonate him – go to school instead of him and even live in his home. His plan works, as no one can tell the difference between them. Serezha’s teachers delight in a very gifted pupil, who suddenly shows unbelievable talents in math, gymnastics, drawing and even singing. Sergey’s parents do not suspect his trick and are glad of their pseudo-son’s progress.
However, eventually the boy realizes that as the robot takes over “his” life, he may be out of business…
At the same time somewhere abroad, a gang of criminals operates. It is headed by a criminal authority known as Stump. He tells Urrie, the gang’s most skillful member to find and kidnap Electronic. They want to organize the “crime of the century” with the use of his extraordinary abilities.