Soviet Union Information Bureau


The administration of education in the Soviet Union is under the direction of a People's Commissariat for Education in each of the six Constituent Republics. There is no federal Commissariat for Education. Each Republican Commissariat for Education enjoys complete autonomy in its own territory. However, as a result of cooperative effort and inter-Republican conferences, educational programs and policies are conspicuously in harmony.

In each Constituent Republic the functions of the Commissariat for Education include control over scientific organizations, museums and historical monuments, musical and art institutes, the theater and the cinema and the State publishing enterprises. All such institutions are utilized as a part of the general educational scheme.

In addition to formal educational work directed by the Commissariats, important activities are carried on by various voluntary organizations. These include various Youth Associations, the Red Army, the Trade Unions and the Cooperatives. Moreover millions of people take an active part in educational work through such societies as "Down with Illiteracy," "Friends of the Children" and many others.

The Revolution released among the masses of the population an active craving for educational advancement. The economic rehabilitation has afforded the means for a steady expansion of the educational program.

In the curricula of the schools the most modern methods are applied in accord with local needs.

Public education is a charge against the six Constituent Republics and against the localities concerned. Local appropriations are in the aggregate about double those of the Republican Governments. Expenditures for the past few years, in millions of dollars:

  1924-25 1925-26 1926-27
Budgets of Constituent Republics 62.9 84.6 105.3
Local Budgets 118.4 151.8 211.9
Total 181.3 236.4 317.2

Appropriations for 1927-28 were upwards of $400,000,000.

In the fall of 1928, 11,372,507 children were in Soviet schools (excluding kindergartens), 46 per cent more than at the time of the outbreak of the World War. There were 118,184 schools as compared with 106,400 in 1913. The teaching staff numbered 337,435. Out of each 100 children of school age 70 were in school. The percentage in the cities was 98.4 and in the villages 66.3, with the percentage steadily rising, especially in the rural districts.

In the teaching in various schools throughout the country a total of seventy national tongues are used. Out of every X,00o pupils 624 are taught in the Russian language, 75 in Ukrainian, 36 in White Russian, 27 in Tartar, 19 in Georgian, 14 in Armenian, io in Azerbaijan-Turkish, 9 in Uzbek, the rest scattered.

The steady rise in educational facilities since the famine years is shown in the following table:

  Elementary Education Secondary Education
  Schools Pupils Schools Pupils
1914-15 104,610 7,235,988 11790 563,480
1920-21 114,235 9,211,351 4,163 564,613
1921-22 99,396 7,918,751 3,137 520,253
1922-23 87,559 6,808,157 2,478 586,306
1923-24 87,258 7,075,810 2,358 752,726
1924-25 91,086 8,429,490 1,794 710,431
1925-26 101,193 9,487,110 1,640 706,804
1926-27 108,424 9,903,439 1,708 784,871

Before the war there were virtually no kindergartens in Russia. Pre-school education is now being rapidly developed. Its expansion has been somewhat held back by the fact that the struggle against illiteracy has absorbed so much of the funds and energies of the educational authorities. Figures for pre-school education:

  Schools Pupils
1925 1,139 60,196
1926 1,364 72,406
1927 1,629 85,349

During the summer of 1927 there were 4,000 playgrounds attended by 200,000 children in R.S.KS.R. (Soviet Russia proper) alone.

Institutes for higher education have expanded in the same degree as the elementary schools. At the universities and technical institutes more than a third of the students are women. Some of the statistics of higher education follow:

Higher Trade Schools
  1924-25 1925-26 1926-27
Schools 1,294 1,428 1,642
Pupils 205,840 233,430 243,810
Colleges and Universities
Schools 129 129 136
Instructors 14,700 14,800 16,000
Students 164,000 169,000 168,000
Scientific Institutions
Higher Research Workers 18,040 20,140 20,000

The figures given above do not exhaust the catalogue of educational institutions. The "Rabfacs," or high schools for workers, had 45,702 students in 1926-27. The growth of other establishments is illustrated in the following table:

  1924-25 1925-26 1926-27
Workers Clubs 5,976 6,015 5,637
    Urban 2,845 3,440 3,149
    Rural 3,131 2,575 2,488
Rural Reading Rooms 21,371 24,627 21,758
Libraries 9,736 (Partial data) 22,163 19,038
    Urban 5,301 6,315 5,226
    Rural 4,435 15,848 13,812
Museums 841 792 846
    Urban 734 703 733
    Rural 107 89 113

The warfare against adult illiteracy, conducted by many voluntary organizations as well as by the Government, has resulted in the creation of tens of thousands of schools for adult education. The figures:

  1924-25 1925-24 1926-27
Schools for illiterates and semi-literates 42,004 49,804 54,600
Pupils 2,150,000 1,600,000 1,317,000

With the spread of literacy among those able and willing to learn, the number of pupils has already begun to decline.

BEZPRIZORNI, (HOMELESS CHILDREN).- As a result of the World War, the civil struggles, the famine and particularly the widespread massacres by the military adventurers who raided the newly-formed Soviet State with armies financed from abroad, hundreds of thousands of small children were left as orphans to sustain themselves as best they could. During the early days of the new State the lack of resources did not afford an adequate opportunity to cope with the problem of these waifs, scattered over a broad territory. Their surviving neighbors or relatives likewise lacked the resources to care for them. The bezprizorn1, hardened by a desperate struggle to live, grew up as wild things. They roamed the country and prowled in the cities in predatory bands. They presented a serious social problem.

In 1922 it was estimated that there were a million of these "wild children" at large. As the country began to move towards an economic recovery, every effort was made to wean the children from lawlessness and transform them into useful citizens. The Government has expended millions of dollars on this work, and voluntary organizations, including millions of citizens, have devoted time and energy to it. Special colonies and schools for the bezprizorni sprang up everywhere and the foremost educational talent in the country has devoted itself to the problem. It has been tackled in a sympathetically scientific rather than a disciplinary or punitive manner.

To-day there are 200 colonies, each accommodating from 60 to 3,000 of the children in the Ukraine alone. By the spring of 1928 the authorities estimated that not more than 25,000 of the bezprizorni still persisted in their wild life, and the number was being steadily reduced.

LITERACY.- The western portions of the former Russian Empire, which were lost at the close of the World War, had the highest degree of culture in a country where education among the masses had been persistently frowned upon by the authorities. The excision of these lands left all the more urgent the problem of illiteracy confronting the Soviet State. Under the census of 1897, the last general census before the World War, 37.9 per cent of the male population above seven years were literate and 12.5 per cent of the female population. During the next fifteen years literacy made no great strides among the population. The general census of December, 1926, however, revealed that the energetic struggle against illiteracy conducted by the Soviet State was bearing fruit. For the first time in Russian history the majority of the population could read and write. The percentages of literacy were 65.4 for males and 36.7 for females (above the age of seven years). The literate population of the Soviet Union was: males, 35,940,975; females, 22,038,261.

The territories with the highest percentage of literacy are the Ukraine, the European part of the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic and White Russia.

Percentage of Literacy
  Ukraine European Part of R.S.F.S.R. White Russia
Men 74.4 72.5 70.3
Women 40.6 41.3 35.4

The lowest percentage of literacy is presented by the Central Asiatic republics, as shown by the following figures:

  Turkoman Republic Uzbek Republic
Men 16.2 13
Women 7.6 57

If the percentage of literacy as established in 1926 is set at 100, then the literacy prevailing at the time when the preceding censuses were taken may be expressed by the following figures for the European part of the U.S.S.R.:

  1897 1920
Men 58 77
Women 34 75

Interesting data are obtained by a comparison of the census data for 1897, 1920 and 1926 regarding the percentage of the literacy according to the various age classes. The highest percentage of literacy is shown by the following age classes:

  1897 1920 1926
Men from 12 to 15 yrs. from 25 to 29 yrs. from 20 to 24 yrs.
Women from 12 to 15 yrs. from 12 to 15 yrs. from 20 to 24 yrs.

Thus, according to the census of 1926 the highest degree of literacy is shown by the age classes of from 20 to 24 years of both sexes, while in 1897 the highest degree of literacy for both sexes was presented by the age classes from 12 to 15 years.

It is only in the old age classes that divergency between the percentage of literacy among men and women can be noticed. At the lower age classes the percentage figures for men and women for 1926 were much closer to each other than during the censuses of the previous years. Moreover, during the period between 1920 and 1926 the relation between the literacy of men and women has changed considerably in favor of women of the age class of from 20 to 29 years.

As regards the literacy of the urban and rural populations, a considerable discrepancy is still to be noted in favor of the urban population, while in the age classes with the highest literacy - (24-25 years for men and 19 years for women) - the literacy of men amounts to 95.7 per cent and that of women to 88.2 per cent; the corresponding figures in the rural localities amount to 85.4 and 55.6 respectively.

The table below gives the literacy figures for the entire population of the U.S.S.R. (of 8 years of age and over) and of its constituent parts, for men and women, under the census of December, 1926:

Territory Total Population over 7 Years Literate Per Cent Illiterate
U.S.S.R 54,967,715 35,940,975 65.4 19,026,740
R.S.F.S.R 37,221,286 25,091,387 67.4 12,129,899
European Part 29,929,128 21,705,387 72.5 8,223,741
Asiatic Part 7,292,158 3,386,000 464 3,906,158
White Russia 1,871,141 1,315,246 70.3 555,895
Ukraine 10,951,658 8,154,000 74.4 2,797,658
Transcaucasia 2,266,999 1,020,910 45.0 1,246,089
Uzbek Republic 2,239,031 291,570 13.0 1,947,461
Turkoman Republic 417,600 67,862 16.2 349,738

Territory Total Population over 7 Years Literate Per Cent Illiterate
U.S.S.R 60,075,239 22,038,261 36.7 38,036,978
R.S.F.S.R 41,853,907 15,805,761 37.8 26,008,546
European Part 34,699,681 14,336,719 41.3 20,362,962
Asiatic Part 7,114,226 1,469,042 20.6 5,645,184
White Russia . 1,981,606 700,949 35.4 1,280,664
Ukraine 11,823,890 4,802,031 40.6 7,021,859
Trnnscaucasia 2,154,343 591,046 27.4 1,563,297
Uzbek Republic 1,944,406 111,258 5.7 1,833,148
Turkoman Republic 357,087 27,223 7.6 329,864