Staunton, June 5 – One of the clearest examples of the fundamental “idiotism of the Soviet system,” Maksim Mirovich says, was its decades’ long effort to force left-handed people to be right-handed, a program that lasted from the 1920s until 1986, was seldom successful, and had many negative consequences for those who were left-handed by nature.
The efforts used in Soviet schools and in Soviet households as a result of official directive or encouragement ranged from moral suasion which often left left-handed people with the sense of being outcasts to physical constraints which led to sleeplessness, stuttering and nervous ticks, the commentator says (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5B161FB98D16F).
Hostility to left-handed people exists in many cultures, but the basis for it varies widely. In the Soviet Union, it rested primarily in the view that no one should exist who was in any way different from the masses. But it also reflected military concerns: Soviet weapons ejected shells to the left, no problem for right-handed people but could be for left-handed ones.
Soviet scholars, following Western ones, routinely showed that true left-handedness was an innate quality that could not be completely overcome; but they were ignored by officials who continued to pursue a homogenizing agenda. Finally, in the first year of Gorbachev’s rule, the anti-lefty effort was dropped, although the prejudice against this quality likely remains.