Morozov, Pavel Trofimovich

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(c. 19181932), young man murdered in 1932 who became a hero for the Pioneers (members of the Soviet organization for children in the 10 to 14 age group); celebrated in biographies, pamphlets, textbooks, songs, films, paintings, and plays.

Soviet accounts of the life of Pavel Morozov are mythic in tone and often contradictory. All agree that he was born in the western Siberian village of Gerasimovka, about 150 miles from Sverdlovsk (Ekaterinburg), probably in December 1918. He and his younger brother Fyodor were murdered on September 3, 1932. The Morozov murders were taken up by the local press about two weeks after they happened; in late September 1932, the central children's press became aware of the case, and reporters were dispatched to Siberia to investigate and to press for justice against the boys' supposed murderers. In December 1932, the boys' grandparents, their uncle, their cousin, and a neighbor stood trial; four of the five were sentenced to execution.

Like most child murders, the death of the two Morozov brothers provoked outrage; equally typically, press coverage dwelt on the innocence and goodness of the victims. But since the murders also took place in an area that was undergoing collectivization, they acquired a specifically Soviet political resonance. They were understood as an episode in the "class war": A child political activist and fervent Pioneer had been slaughtered by kulaks, wealthy peasants, as a punishment for exposing these kulaks' activities.

Additionally, it was reported that Pavel (or, as he became known, "Pavlik") had displayed such commitment to the cause that he had denounced his own father, the chairman of the local collective farm, for providing dekulakized peasants with false identity papers. His murder by his relations was an act of revenge, and an attempt by them to prevent Pavlik from pushing them into collectivization. All in all, Pavlik came to exemplify virtue so resolute that it preferred death to betrayal of principle. Learning about his life was an important part of the teaching offered the Pioneers; the anniversaries of his death were commemorated with pomp, and statues of Pavlik went up all over the Soviet Union.

But indoctrination did not lead to the emergence of millions of "copycat Pavliks." Memoirs and oral history suggest that most children found the story disturbing, rather than inspiring, even during the 1930s. And during the World War II, attention switched to another type of child hero: the boy or girl who refused to convey information, even under torture. To the postwar generations, Pavlik was a nasty little stukach, squealer. Learning about his life was a chore, and he had far less appeal than the Komsomol war heroine Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya. Indeed, surveys indicate that by 2002, the eightieth anniversary of his death, many respondents either could not remember who Pavlik was, or remembered his life inaccurately (e.g., "a hero of the Great Patriotic War"). Statues of him had disappeared (the Moscow statue in 1991), and streets had been renamed. Though the Pavlik Morozov museum in Gerasimovka was still open, few visitors bothered to call there.

See also: civil war of 19171922; folklore; purges, the great


Druzhnikov, Iurii. (1997). Informer 001: the Myth of Pavlik Morozov. (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

Kelly, Catriona. (2004). Comrade Pavlik: The Life and Legend of a Soviet Boy Hero. London: Granta.

Catriona Kelly