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The myth of compulsory primary education in tsarist Russia
The myth of compulsory primary education in tsarist Russia

In tsarist Russia, compulsory universal primary education was introduced. The myth is used to belittle the merits of the Soviet government in eliminating illiteracy.

Examples of using

On the Web, one can often find statements that universal primary education was introduced by law back in tsarist Russia. The year of introduction is indicated as 1908.

In most cases, the chain of links leads to the well-known article by B.L. Brazol "The reign of Emperor Nicholas II in figures and facts (1894-1917)", as the source of this statement. In it, Brazol indicates only the year in which "initial training … became compulsory", but does not indicate a specific piece of legislation that established such a provision:

In the article by Olga Alexandrovna Golikova "Creation of a network of universal primary education on the territory of the Tomsk province at the beginning of the XX century." we find the following:

  • The list of activities indicated in the article by O. A. Golikova (“all children of both sexes, upon reaching school age, must receive free primary education,” etc.) is actually a retelling of the provisions of the bill “On the introduction of universal primary education in the Russian Empire ", introduced on February 20, 1907 by the Minister of Public Education P. von Kaufmann to the State Duma:

    1. All children of both sexes should be given the opportunity, upon reaching school age, to complete a full course of study in a properly organized school.

    2. The care of opening a sufficient number of schools, according to the number of school-age children, lies with local government institutions, while calculations regarding the number of schools required are made for four age groups: 8, 9, 10 and 11 years old.

    3. The normal duration of primary school education is 4 years.

    4. The normal number of children in primary school per teacher is 50.

    5. The normal area that one school should serve is an area with a three-verst radius.

    6. It is the responsibility of local government institutions within a two-year period from the date of entry into force of these provisions to draw up a school network and a plan for its implementation in order to achieve universal learning in a given locality, indicating the time limit and funds expected from local sources for the implementation of the school network. …

      Note:Local church and school authorities are involved in the development of the school network.

    7. To be included in the school network, a school designed for four age groups must meet the following requirements: it must have a law teacher and a teacher with the legal right to teach, be provided with appropriate school and hygienic premises, study books and manuals, and provide children with free education.

    8. The designated (clause 6) school network and the plan for its implementation are submitted by local self-government bodies in accordance with the established procedure to the Ministry of Public Education, which, after preliminary approval of the designated network and plan, communicates with the Ministry of Internal Affairs. In case of approval of these plans and networks, the Ministry of Public Education releases, within the limits of credits allocated according to the estimates of this Ministry, for each school included in the network, open or to be opened during the next academic year, an allowance for the minimum remuneration of teachers and law teachers according to their valid number in the designated schools, counting 360 rubles. teacher and 60 rubles. law teacher. At the same time, the total amount of the grant to schools in this area should not exceed the calculated amount of 390 rubles. for 50 school-age children.

      Note:Parish schools that have entered the school network, both open and to be opened during the next academic year, receive benefits from the treasury on an equal basis with schools under the Ministry of Public Education, from a loan allocated according to the financial estimate of the Holy Synod; parish schools that are not included in the network in those localities for which it is approved can be maintained only with local funds.

    9. Other expenses, both for the maintenance and arrangement of premises for schools, and for increasing the salary of students, depending on local conditions, are set by the founders of the schools and are attributed to local sources.

    10. Receiving allowances from the Ministry of Public Education does not hinder the rights of school founders to run a school. The local government is provided with the organization and the closest management of primary schools, under the direction and supervision of the Ministry of Public Education.

    11. Estates and other legal organizations and individuals, if the schools they maintain are part of the general school network, the Ministry of Public Education gives a benefit, in case of recognition of the need, according to the above calculation (clause 8) on the same grounds as for institutions of public self-government …

    12. Pending receipt and approval of school networks and plans for the introduction of universal education from local governments, the Ministry of Public Education will distribute the loan allocated according to its estimate, according to local needs and requirements, in relation to the provisions set out, with a view to the implementation of universal education in the area.

    I have the honor to present the above for the consideration of the State Duma.


    Brazol B.L. "The reign of Emperor Nicholas II in figures and facts"



    GATO. F. 126. Op. 3.D. 40.


    Blinov A.V. "On the issue of the implementation in Western Siberia of the state project on universal primary education at the beginning of the XX century." / Materials of the interregional scientific-practical conference dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the Novokuznetsk Museum of Local Lore. Novokuznetsk, - 2003.-- S. 30-32.


    RGIA. F. 1276. Op. 2.D. 495.L. 480 ob.-481 ob.

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