The Degradation of Adolescence

Raising boys to work the land was one of the most important moments in the transfer of necessary skills for independent living. Without these skills, the teenager could not become a full member of his village community. In the Slavic community, farming ability was seen as the foundation of a full male status.

After becoming an aide to his father, the boy participated in all of his labors. When manuring the land: the father would bring manure and separate it into large piles, his son would spread that manure across the field; then, during the plowing, the son would follow the plow and make sure that clods of earth and manure did not impede the work of the plow and did not fill the furrow.

From 11-13 years, the father educated his son to the art of plowing. Because of “the lack of time”, he rarely explained to his son how to plow, and in this there was no special need, since the son persistently followed his father and learned all the necessary methods of work through observation. The father trusted his son to create several furrows or provided the opportunity to practice by providing for independent plowing of a small area of arable land. A teenager usually mastered plowing by 14-15 years of age – on the threshold of adulthood.

In a Slavic village, on the threshold of the XIX – XX centuries, the boy’s entry into the working life of the family, the mastery of the man’s household functions was accompanied by mandatory involvement of him to care for the horses: he brought them food, gave them water and in the summer drove them to the river to drink. From 5-6 years of age, a child was trained to control the horse, while sitting on top of it. From 8-9 years, a boy learned to harness the horse and to control it, while sitting in the wagon (or a cart). At this age, he was already sent at night to the summer night grazing of village’s herds of horses.

In the Russian North and Siberia, where such trades as fishing, hunting, etc. were among the most important, children were attracted to such activities from the early childhood.

First, in the game, and then, by watching his father and older brothers, helping them to the level of own abilities, already by 8-9 years of age the boy tok over the basics of crafts: knew how to put up traps on near lakes for ducks, how to shoot from the bow. By 10 years, teenagers could already catch ground squirrels and other small critters. By selling their first prey to traveling merchants, they received their first own money, which they could spend at own discretion. At this age, almost every boy in the Siberian village could independently make a “muzzle” for fishing and install it in the river. A particular source of pride was the first caught fish.

Now, let us for the moment consider what modern children are capable of doing by the time they reach their teenage years. Not too many today are capable of many or even any useful skills or trades. Yes, there are exceptions. However, if a century ago, the great majority of teenagers were capable of leading independent lives by simply depending on own labor and independent of the system, today, the great majority of teenagers are incapable of the simplest independent tasks and, unfortunately, would not be able to survive alone for a prolonged period of time.

Information taken from

Written and edited by: Dmitriy Kushnir

Writing is hard work and takes a lot of energy, so if you found this article useful, buy me a coffee or an energy bar.

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