Russian Literacy Campaigns, 1861–1939
Irony, no stranger to history, informs the story of Russian national literacy. This story begins with the Emancipation of the serfs in 1861, with the hopes born in the period of Great Reforms, and the village schools built on these hopes. The story continues with elite intervention in the 1890s, prompted both by the faith that education was the key to progress and by the fear of “wild” popular literacy. It ends with widespread popular resistance in the thirties to a school system forcibly imposed by an authoritarian, interventionist regime bent upon destroying all vestiges of popular autonomy. A campaign that began in the largely self-governing peasant commune ended with the imposition of a ruthlessly centralized political order and the very destruction of that commune, the hearth of traditional Russian popular culture.
KeywordsSocial Mobility Short History Cultural Revolution Soviet System Literacy Campaign
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- 1.[I have relied where possible on English-language sources, or translations of Russian-language works—Author] On the bias toward higher education in Tsarist and Soviet policy, see Michael Kaser, “Education in Tsarist and Soviet Development,” in C. Abramsky, ed., Essays in honor of E. H. Carr (London, 1974), pp. 229-254. The best English-language history of Russian education remains Thomas Darlington, Education in Russia (Great Britain: Board of Education. Special Reports on Education. Number 23. London, 1909). For a more recent brief study see James C. McClelland, Autocrats and Academics: Education, Society and Culture in Tsarist Russia (Chicago, 1979). For a fuller listing of sources, see the bibliography in Ben Eklof, Russian Peasant Schools: A Social and Cultural History, 1861-1914 (Berkeley, Ca., 1986).Google Scholar
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