Despite the social advancement that Communism represented, the ideals did not always align practically. Orphan children were a huge problem in the Soviet Union. Although the Bolshevik government immediately recognized and owned the issue, orphans remained a staple in the Soviet Union for virtually the entirety of the empire.
In the early Soviet Union, orphaned children were referred to as “unattended.” According to estimates, there were approximately 7 million homeless youth living in Soviet Russia between 1918 – 1930.
Begging and prostitution were popular means for survival for an unattended child. The majority of citizens viewed stray children as an annoyance. Due to the sheer volume, juvenile delinquency became a serious concern. Officials began to label unattended children as “urchins” and discouraged citizens from donating to them for fear that loose money in the hands of an urchin would spark a drug addiction.
It wasn’t until the 1940s when the government began purging its citizens that the Soviet Union was forced to truly confront the issue of orphans. However, with the proliferation of labor camps and the onset of WWII, the problems persisted until after Joseph Stalin’s death.