The new powers of the pedsovet: social control during the Thaw and the transformation of disciplinary practice in a town school, 1953—68
There has been a recent upsurge of interest to the Krushchev’s Thaw as not only the period of ideological liberalization, but also as a moment of broadening and deepening of social control. Yet the primary Soviet institution responsible for the social control of children and adolescents, the school, has been largely overlooked in this respect. In this paper I position the school disciplinary practices of the Thaw in the context of the high‐profile discursive and institutional trends of the epoch, including hooliganism, obshchestvennost’, and outsourcing of social control to vigilante brigades and comrades’ courts. The data come from a case study of documented disciplinary action in one rank‐and‐file school in the town of Toropetz in 1953–68. The part played by the school in the ensemble of formal and informal institutions that regulated adolescent behavior is analyzed by the systematic inquiry into the accusations worded, punishments meted out, and references to other institutions made in the disciplinary records. I argue that one of the effects of the broadening of horizontal supervision during the Thaw was a more pronounced in‐school disciplinary reaction to the out‐of‐school infringements. Seeing the school as the primary institution to exert peer pressure on the adolescent and his parents, as obshchestvennost’, the teachers felt the urge to duplicate the functions of the official penal system by their own quasi‐judicial disciplinary procedures.