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How the Bolsheviks fought illiteracy
How the Bolsheviks fought illiteracy

Having coped with illiteracy, the Bolsheviks fulfilled an important historical task for the country.

Combating illiteracy

At the time of the 1917 revolution, according to various estimates, from 70 to 75% of the population of the Russian Empire did not know literacy. In other words, the Bolsheviks inherited a country that for the most part could not read and write. That is why the fight against illiteracy has become one of the most important tasks for the Soviet government.

In 1919, at the height of the Civil War, the Council of People's Commissars issued a decree on the elimination of illiteracy. According to this document, throughout the territory controlled by the Soviet government, literacy centers were to be created - educational programs. A year later, to achieve the same goal, the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for the Elimination of Illiteracy was formed.

It is worth noting that during the 1920s, there were a number of campaigns designed to provide an environment for learning to read and write for people of all ages and professions. So, in 1923, the Bolsheviks organized the All-Union Society "Down with Illiteracy" headed by Mikhail Kalinin. In 1928, when the level of literacy among young people increased significantly, the All-Russian Komsomol action "Literate, train the illiterate" was initiated. The leading role in the implementation of this event was assigned to members of the Leninist Komsomol, youth Bolshevik organizations.

In 1929, half of the country's population had already learned to read and write. According to the 1939 census, 81.2% of Soviet citizens could read and write. And among young people, that is, people under 30, the literacy rate reached 98%. Thus, the Soviet Union quickly became a state where illiteracy was defeated.

Educational courses in Petrograd, 1920

Of course, this was also facilitated by the creation of a completely new education system. Back in 1918, the Bolsheviks adopted the provision "On a unified labor school", which was based on a number of principles. First, the new training system had to be unified. That is, one educational program was envisaged for the whole country. Secondly, it is generally available. Free (which was a very important achievement of the Soviet regime).

Further - national. And this is another merit of the Bolsheviks: about 40 small nationalities of the USSR were able to have their own written language. And, finally, one of the most important principles of the new school was the so-called class approach. First of all, education was supposed to form class consciousness in a Soviet child, an understanding of how the world works from the point of view of Karl Marx's theory.

During the Civil War and the early years of NEP, the number of schools in the Soviet Union decreased somewhat, which is not surprising at all. However, their number subsequently increased sharply. New educational institutions were built in great numbers. In 1928, about 120 thousand of them were already functioning on the territory of the USSR, and in 1939 their number was already 152 thousand.

According to the regulation of 1918, the country was supposed to have 2 stages of secondary education: 1st stage - 5 years of study in primary school, and then another 4 years at the 2nd stage. Total: 9 years. The system changed in the 1930s. In 1934, a new regulation on the Soviet school was adopted and a 3-component system was established, which still exists today. From 1st to 4th grade - primary school, from 5th to 7th - incomplete secondary school, from 8th to 10th - secondary school.

For some time, the Bolsheviks did not accept a decree introducing universal primary education or universal secondary education. The problem was that the state required huge funds for mass education. But by 1930, the issue was resolved. According to the law "On General Education", the Soviet Union established compulsory 4-year primary education for rural areas and compulsory 7-year, that is, incomplete secondary education for cities.At the same time, in the 1930s, it was decided to abandon the principle of nationalization in education.

In 1938, the study of the Russian language became compulsory in all educational institutions of the USSR, including in the schools of the national republics. It should be noted that in the 1920s-1930s a cult of education developed in the Soviet Union. It is no coincidence that many Soviet children constantly saw before their eyes the famous quote of Lenin: "Study, study and study again …". This maxim became their main task.

Experiments in education

The 1920s were a period of very serious educational experimentation. A striking example of this is the widespread use of the so-called pedology in the USSR - in the opinion of some, progressive science, in the opinion of others, pure pseudoscience, which provided for a kind of comprehensive approach to raising a child. Many luminaries of pedagogical science, L. S. Vygotsky, P. P. Blonsky and others, came from the pedological system, which in many respects was focused on constant, mass testing of students for a variety of reasons.

Thanks to the introduction of pedological tools by the early 1930s, a kind of dual system developed in Soviet schools: on the one hand, pedologists who took over the functions of upbringing, on the other, teachers who were responsible for education. And yet, in 1936, the new direction in pedagogy was over. Pedology, called "pseudoscience", was exposed and liquidated by the decree of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) "On perversions in the system of the People's Commissariat for Education".


The regulation "On a unified labor polytechnic school", adopted in 1918, provided ample opportunities for various experiments in pedagogy. During this period, complex training was introduced, a brigade method of checking assignments, a project method; abolished the class-lesson system. The innovations introduced today cause an ambivalent attitude. For example, most researchers agree that a serious mistake in the 1920s was the replacement of teaching history with a new science - social science. By the way, in 1934 it was decided to cancel this experiment.

In addition to controversial educational ideas, the 1920s-1930s saw the work of the remarkable Soviet teacher Anton Semyonovich Makarenko, whose teaching and upbringing methods largely formed the basis of the Soviet educational system. Created by Makarenko, the first colony named after. Gorky near Poltava, and then (under the patronage of the NKVD) the commune of them. Dzerzhinsky became a kind of nursery that gave a start in life to a large number of underage street children and criminals.

Secondary specialized and higher education

If we talk about secondary specialized and higher education, then in this direction, the Soviet government has achieved serious success. The era of modernization (first NEP, and then industrialization) required a huge number of specialists. The training system, inherited from tsarist Russia, simply could not provide such a number of engineers and technical workers that the young Land of Soviets needed.

This prompted the Soviet leadership to take action. The system of secondary technical education was created practically from scratch. Throughout the country, like mushrooms after rain, the so-called factory schools began to appear, where teenagers received not only a general education, but also basic labor skills and professions. A special form of receiving secondary specialized education was technical schools - an intermediate link between secondary schools and higher educational institutions. In 1939, there were 3,700 technical schools in the USSR that trained specialists for various sectors of the economy.

MSU students at a lecture

As for higher education, the Bolsheviks quickly abandoned the idea of ​​university autonomy. Already in 1921, all higher educational institutions in Russia were subordinated to the system of the People's Commissariat of Education. State programs were established for them. The number of universities, especially technical ones, grew rapidly.If in 1916 there were 95 higher educational institutions in the Russian Empire, then in 1927 there were 148, and in 1933 - 832 universities, in which more than 500 thousand students studied.

By the end of the 1930s, the Soviet Union came out on top in the world in terms of the number of pupils and students of all forms of education. It should be noted that the rapid growth in the number of higher educational institutions revealed an acute shortage of teaching staff. Another problem was that in the USSR, many people of peasant or proletarian origin were significantly inferior in terms of knowledge to representatives of the intelligentsia or former exploiting classes, who had the opportunity to receive a good gymnasium education even before the revolution.

In order to overcome the competitive selection system and have a chance to enter universities, preparatory courses - workers' schools - were created for the children of workers and peasants. In addition, the system of evening and correspondence education has become actively used. So, without interrupting production, the Soviet leadership provided factories and factories of the country with a large number of specialists.

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