The economic and political pitfalls between the years of 1917-1921 caused a lot of heartache and troubles for families of the working-lower classes and the peasants. The continuous shortage of bread and basic sustenance put more and more pressure on families to feed their kids, much less themselves. The rise and spread of disease and the death of parents from the war also pushed for the abandonment of neglected kids. The besprizornye or “unattended” were mostly the children from peasant and working class families; the ones that were the hit hardest by the economic devastation of 1917 and war consequences.
The besprizoryne were composed of 4.5 million children throughout Soviet Russia in 1921; however, the number increasingly rose peaking at 7.5 million at the end of the famine in 1922. The homeless children lived on the streets where most looked helpless and most never received help until the creation of children’s homes. Before the creation of these homes, these children formed gangs and “engaged in pilferage, prostitution, and gambling” (Seventeen Moments of History). These children were considered both “victims and victimizers”.
The Soviet state noticed these invisible children and put the responsibilities of handling onto the Commissariat of Health, Commissariat of Social Security and the Commissariat of Enlightenment. These government agencies created the children homes that functioned as shelter and vocational schools along with providing food and medical assistance. The Commissariat of Enlightenment created three different stages of institutions that were responsible for removing the children from the streets, an observation and evaluation home that decided if they were going to receive an education or vocational school, and then the homes that were dedicated to their rehabilitation. The number of homeless children was reduced significantly; “the number of children housed in the Russian republic was 125,000 in 1919, 400,000 in 1920, and 540,000 in 1921 and 1922”.
This period of homing and rehabilitation did not last long though, in 1931 because of collectivization and dekulakization more issues came and more children were abandoned. This time the government did not bring attention to the children and the treatment of these children were much more extreme and harsh even resulting in incarceration.