Why a Stork? The Myth of Soviet Reproduction


“In some cultures, babies were “found in the cabbage,”as in Germany,
while in others, they were found in the fields of corn.
In Soviet Russia, babies were brought by storks…”
Once Upon a Soviet Child: Piano, Potatoes and Privations

The word “sex” wasn’t part of our Soviet vocabulary!
It was considered a bourgeois term, suitable for the capitalist world only, just like any other means of self-indulgence. The only official ideology allowed during Soviet times was what we did for the benefit of the group, and engaging in anything for personal indulgence was considered traitorous.

Of course, many people were still engaged in this activity after the 1917 Great October Revolution… Once doing away with the old capitalist symbols of imperial Russia, the new Soviet leadership had a predicament: how to get around this “cornstone” and how to officially explain the very fact of Soviet reproduction?

Miraculous conception would not work since religion was no longer allowed. Officially there was no God, just the Communist Party. We lived in a secular society where the belief in a “soul” was not allowed. Once you died, you simply vanished (official view).What were the Bolsheviks to do? The solution was typically Soviet:

Our leadership decided to keep the old (evidently pre-Soviet, imperial, capitalist) symbol of a stork and that’s what they put on all baby birth announcements. And the rest was simply outside of the permissible subject of discussion. Puritan society it was, as Master Yoda would say.

Once the ancient 2000 years plus old cultural Russian traditions were eradicated by the Bolsheviks’ regime, no one remembered anymore what that old ancient symbol of a stork meant. Why the stork specifically was officially associated with the birth of a child, no one in the Soviet society exactly knew. But, as my dear babushka Elya would say, “it was a minor detail, compared to the Great October Revolution.”

Babies in a maternity hospital. Illustration
Stork Flying
Illustrations by Anna Masevich




In the Introductory Newsletter you have learned the Russian word prAvda, the truth.
Eta pravda? Is this true? Is that right?

The new Russian word for today is
It means, “not true,” “wrong,” “false.”

Let’s hope that you won’t have to use this too often.
If you want to ask “isn’t that right?” you can add this little particle “lee”
to what you just learned:

ne-prAvda lee?
That means, isn’t that right?
Russian is a very complex language, ne-prAvda lee?

I will continue giving the phonetic pronunciation, and we’ll try to stick to more simple (phonetically) words at first. One or two new words per month, and soon you will be the Russian language expert, ne-prAvda lee?
Isn’t that right?

Best wishes,

A. Stork