What could a 14-year-old boy 100 years ago in Russia?
In peasant families in Russia, children were very early accustomed to responsibility and systematic work: this was both the main issue of upbringing and the key to survival. Moreover, the views of our ancestors on this process would hardly please modern teens.
Most importantly, the approach to their heirs in the public was not just strict, but very strict. First, no one then considered children equal to their parents. And it was precisely in the first years of a child’s life that adults saw the key to what kind of person he would become.
Secondly, the authority of mother and father in peasant families was unquestioned. Usually, the parents were unanimous in their views on the upbringing and responsibilities of the child, and even if they did not agree on something, they never showed it publicly, so the child had no chance to “pull” one of the parents to his side.
Thirdly, it was not customary with either girls or boys to “linger” and pamper them in vain. Typically, assignments between households were distributed by the head of the family in an orderly tone, and no one contradicted him in return. At the same time, the child was always praised and encouraged for the successfully completed task, stressing in every way that he had benefited the whole family.
Our reference. Child labor – involving children on a regular basis. Currently, in most states it is considered a form of exploitation and, in accordance with UN Convention N32 “On the Rights of the Child” and acts of the International Labor Organization, has been declared illegal. Our great-grandfathers could not even dream of such a thing. Maybe that is why they entered adulthood perfectly prepared and adapted?
“Father of the son teaches not bad”
The age criteria for children were very clear, and, accordingly, their work responsibilities were also clearly separated. Age was measured by seven years: the first seven years – childhood or “infancy.” The kids were called “baby”, “young”, “Kuvjaka” (crying) and other affectionate nicknames. In the second seven years, adolescence came: the child became a “lad” or “female”, the boys were given ports (trousers), the girls – a long girl’s shirt. The third seven-year period is youth. As a rule, adolescents mastered all the necessary skills for an independent life by the end of adolescence. The boy became the father’s right hand, a replacement for his absences and illnesses, and the girl became a full-fledged mother’s assistant.
Perhaps the requirements for boys were stricter than for girls, because it was from sons that the future “breadwinners”, “carers” and defenders should have grown. In short, real husbands and fathers.
In the first seven years of his life, the boy comprehended many of the basics of peasant labor: he was taught to care for cattle, ride a horse, help in the field, and also – the basics of skill. For example, the ability to craft toys from various materials, weave bast baskets and boxes, and, of course, bast shoes, which were supposed to be strong, warm, waterproof, was considered an absolutely necessary skill. Many 6- and 7-year-old boys confidently helped their fathers in the manufacture of furniture, harness, and other things necessary in the household. The proverb “Teach the child while it lies across the bench” was not an empty phrase in peasant families.
In the second seven-year period of life, the boy was finally assigned stable and diverse economic duties, and they acquired a clear sexual division. For example, not a single lad was obliged to look after his younger brothers and sisters or to engage in a garden, but he had to learn how to plow and thresh – girls were not involved in such physically hard work. Often, as early as 7–9 years old peasant boys began to earn extra money “in people”: their parents gave them to shepherds for a moderate fee. By this age, it was believed that the child had finally “entered the mind”, and therefore it was necessary to teach him everything that his father knows and knows.
Work on the ground.
In Russian villages, tillage was a confirmation of full male status. Therefore, teenage boys had to work in the field. They fertilized the land (scattered manure across the field and ensured that its clods did not impede the work of the plow), harrowed (loosened the topsoil with harrows or hoes), led a horse harnessed to the harrow under the bridle, or rode on it “when the father drives the furrow” .
If the land was lumpy, then the father would seat his son on the harrow to make it heavier, and he himself would lead the horse under the bridle. Teenagers took an active part in harvesting. From 11-13 years old the boy was already attracted to independent plowing. First, he was allocated a small plot of arable land on which to practice, and by the age of 14 the teenager himself could confidently plow the land, that is, he became a full-fledged worker.