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A b s t r a c t - During seven decades following the Revolution, Russian education became

overburdened with ideology; no discussion was possible about general human values
that might transcend class boundaries. In the wake of perestroika, there was an extreme
counter-reaction against everything connected with Soviet education. This has resulted
in colossal pessimism among many educationists and teachers, who feel that the
entire educational system is in ruins. Additional problems are created by the commercialization of all spheres of life and the growth of criminality. Teachers are
unclear about what values should be inculcated in schools, and the value of
education itself is called into question in a society where it is becoming increasingly difficult to make an honest living. The author welcomes the move towards an
educational system based on choice rather than coercion, but he believes it will
take many years to develop a new set of values that could be inculcated in Russian
Z u s a m m e n f a s s u n g - In den sieben Jahrzehnten nach der Revolution war das
russische Bildungssystem mit Ideologie fiberfrachtet, eine Diskussion fiber allgemeine,
m6glicherweise klassenfiberschreitende menschliche Werte war nicht m6glich. Im
Zuge der Perestroika gab es eine extreme Gegenreaktion auf alles, was mit sowjetischer Bildung zusammenhing. Dies ffihrte zu enormem Pessimismus bei vielen
P~idagogen und Lehrern, die das ganze Bildungssystem in Scherben sahen. Zusfitzliche Probleme schafften die Kommerzialisierung aller Lebensbereiche und der
Anstieg der Kriminalit~it. Lehrer sind sich fiber die in der Schule zu vermittelnden
Wertvorstellungen im unklaren, und der Wert der Bildung selbst wird in einer
Gesellschaft in Frage gestellt, in der es immer schwieriger wird, seinen Unterhalt
zu verdienen. Der Autor begrtil3t den Trend zu einem Bildungssystem, das eher auf
freier Wahl als auf Zwang basiert, beffirchtet jedoch, dab die Entwicklung neuer f~ir
den Unterricht in russischen Schulen geeigneter Wertvorstellungen viele Jahre dauern
R6sum6 - Au cours des sept d6cennies qui suivirent la r6volution, le syst~me 6ducatif
russe 6tait impr6gn6 d'id6ologie et interdisait toute discussion sur les valeurs humaines
fondamentales outrepassant les d61imitations sociales. La perestroika a marqu6 l'av~nement d'une contre-r6action radicale, condamnant tout ce qui avait trait h l'6ducation
sovi6tique. Ceci se traduit par un tr6s grand pessimisme parmi de nombreux 6ducateurs et enseignants qui voient tout l'6difice 6ducatif effondr6. D'autres probl~mes
r6sident dans la commercialisation de tous les domaines de la vie et dans la croissance
de la criminalit6. Les enseignants restent ind6cis quant aux valeurs ~t transmettre dans
les 6coles, et la validit6 de l'6ducation elle-m~me est remise en question dans une
soci6t6 oO il s'av~re de plus en plus difficile de gagner sa vie honn&ement. L'auteur
approuve n6anmoins l'6volution amorc6e vers un syst~me 6ducatif fond6 davantage
sur le choix que sur la contrainte, mais estime que de nombreuses ann6es seront n6cessaires pour 6laborer un nouveau syst~me de valeurs susceptible d'etre enseign6 dans
les 6coles russes.
International R e v i e w o f Education - Internationale Zeitschrift fiir Erziehungswissenschafi Revue lnternationale de l'Edueation 41(1-2): 47-57, 1995.
9 1995 K l u w e r Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.

- En Rusia, durante los siete decenios que siguieron a la Revoluci6n, la
educaci6n pfiblica estuvo recargada de ideologias, sin que fuera posible ninguna discusi6n sobre valores humanos generales que pudieran trascender las barreras sociales.
A raiz de la perestroika se produjo una extremada contrarreacci6n contra todo lo que
estuviera relacionado con la educaci6n sovi6tica. Esto deriv6 en un enorme pesimismo
entre muchos educadores y maestros, que perciben que todo el sistema de educaci6n
cay6 en ruina. Ademfis, se han generado problemas adicionales con la comercializaci6n
de todas las esferas vitales y con el aumento de la criminalidad. Los maestros ya no
saben qu6 valores inculcar en los colegios, y el valor de la educaci6n misma se esfft
poniendo en duda en una sociedad en la cual es cada vez mils dificil vivir honradamente. E1 autor aprueba el desarrol!o hacia un sistema de educaci6n basado en la
elecci6n mgts queen la coerci6n, pero tambi6n opina que el desarrollo de un nuevo
conjunto de valores que se pueda inculcar en los colegios rusos afin requerirfi muchos

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The colossal changes that have taken place in Russia and the Soviet Union
since the late 1980s have affected the realm of values and beliefs as much as
the political and economic spheres. The old rigidities of Marxism-Leninism
are no longer official doctrine, and the individual is free to search for meaning
in capitalism, nationalism, c o n s u m e r i s m and a variety of other "isms". In
ideals, as in goods, the free market reigns. While this is exhilarating, it is
also profoundly confusing for many people.
This feeling of confusion is felt especially acutely in the educational system,
which is experiencing m a n y difficulties in making the transition to the postcommunist era. It has, for example, taken several years to replace the old
ideology-laden textbooks with new ones, approved by a panel of Russian
scholars. Syllabuses have changed accordingly and now feature such subjects
as civil rights, environmental studies and basic market economics. In addition,
students are now encouraged to be generally more inquisitive and questioning
in their approach to learning. Through these means, the government hopes to
create a whole new post-communist mentality. The magnitude of this undertaking can best be understood by briefly surveying the history of Soviet education and the values which it attempted to instil.


Values and education in the USSR: historical background

For over 70 years the prevalent (or perhaps the only) possible approach in
Russian scientific and cultural life was the so-called class-oriented approach.
The underlying idea was that, in all essential features, the thinking of each
individual is determined by his or her belonging to a particular social class.
In its extreme form this meant also that there were only two classes: the bourgeoisie (the "haves") and the proletariat (the "have-nots"). There are of course
better-off workers and poorer capitalists, but everyone basically belongs to
one group or the other.
This simplistic view was very convenient for the people who captured
political power in Russia in October 1917. It was so easy to detect friend from
foe by the touchstone of class affiliation. Furthermore, since the opposition
between the two classes was considered "antagonistic", that is to say uncompromising to the last, the only way to end it was by "liquidating" the
(formerly) ruling class. This macabre word could mean exile, confinement in
a labour camp or physical extermination. At the beginning of the 1930s J.
Stalin stated proudly that the kulaks (better-off peasants) had been "liquidated"
as a class.
My purpose now is not to pronounce moral judgement on the inhuman
ideology behind the "liquidation". Another thing is more important here: what
meant physical death for many people also meant destruction of many ideas,
many intellectual achievements of the times, many published and unpublished
writings, many works of art (some already created, others only planned)
if they did not conform to the stated ideal of "proletarian" culture, science,
education, painting, sculpture, cattle-raising or machine-building, as the case
might be. Even though V. Lenin in 1922 called on the Soviet communists "to
borrow the good from abroad with both hands", in practice the Soviet Union
was cut off by what was later called the "Iron Curtain" from many ideas that
originated in the "capitalist" countries.
This bitter truth applied to education with a vengeance. Although the idea
of building a "new man" dates back many centuries, communist orthodoxy
had little use for education as it had developed before the "Great October
Socialist Revolution". Almost everything in education had to be overhauled
or rebuilt from scratch. The "atavisms of the old morality" were considered
extremely dangerous - more dangerous than, say, using certain technological
ideas originating abroad. It was even dangerous to mention "capitalist" ideas
in a critical way; the name for this "crime" was "borrowing under the pretext
of criticism".
As a result, by the end of the 1920s Soviet education and the science of
education (termed "pedagogics") were overloaded with ideology. Whatever
belonged to the new proletarian thinking was "progressive"; whatever had
anything to do with "capitalist ideas" was "reactionary" and had to be got rid
of. There was no talk about general human values that transcend class boundaries. Only much later did it become apparent that the ideology divided the

population into "our people" and "the enemies". This happened both in the
country at large and in many families.
A classic example is that of Pavlik Morozov, a 13-year-old pioneer (a young
Communist League Member). He was the son of a well-off peasant and
betrayed his father to the communist administration of his village. Later he
was killed by his father's supporters. For many years he was considered a
national hero, the ideal to be followed by the young. The fact that this was,
in effect, the opposite of fifth commandment (honour thy father and thy
mother) as a general human value was overlooked. Hundreds of monuments
to Pavlik were erected in many cities of the USSR. One of them, which stood
quite near the "White House", the seat of the Russian Parliament, was pulled
down after the August 1991 coup attempt. Perhaps it would have been better
to let it stay and remind us of our past mistakes - all the more so as what
Pavlik did was less his own fault than that of the propaganda to which he
had been subjected.
In teacher training institutions the whole history of education was presented
in terms of opposition between "progressive" and "reactionary" ideas and
thinkers. The emphasis in lectures and textbooks had always been on differences and not on generality. Soviet education and the science of education
were considered "the most progressive" and "the only scientifically based".
It goes without saying that the basis was Marxism-Leninism "as world outlook
and scientific method". There was, of course, a difficulty in the sense that
the Soviet science of education thus dropped out of world educational
progress. But the difficulty was easily presented as an important achievement:
it only showed that reactionary capitalist education was lagging behind. True,
it was sometimes admitted that schools in developed countries were better
provided with audio-visual aids, but this was just about the only good thing
about them.
The situation changed when it came to computers, for in the field of information technology it was impossible to overlook the superiority of the West.
In fact, however computers themselves were not the direct cause of the change
in attitude. It merely happened that by this time the class-oriented approach
had been shaken by the changes brought about by perestroika. Democracy,
decentralization and, more than anything else, glasnost (openness) not only
let but also made people look again at the past dogmas. And many things
appeared in a new light. Educationists began to question the exclusiveness of
Soviet education. As often happens at such times, there arose a mighty wave
of self-criticism. In almost all newspapers and magazines articles were published which showed (or seemed to show) that never had there been a worse
thing than Soviet education, that whatever was good in it had disappeared in
the middle of the 1920s when V. Lenin died and his ideas were distorted by
J. Stalin and Stalinists. There came, however, a second wave of criticism which
questioned Lenin's ideas and Lenin's personality itself. Even the short period
of 1917-1924 ("under Lenin"), which had been earlier portrayed as very
promising in the development of Soviet education, lost much of its appeal.

Today, in the eyes of many Russian educationists and teachers, almost
everything is in ruins. In my opinion this pessimistic view should not prevail.
There are encouraging trends in education. There are also general human
values, and deviations from them (however saddening) do not cancel them out
entirely. When we come to accept this, the worst thing for us to face will
be the fact that we shall have to wait (and work) for a better life and better
education longer than some other countries and cultures. I would say that
one of the most important educational trends for the Russians is the move
towards humane education, that is education which is opposed to coercion,
education that presupposes choice available to teachers and students. It is
understandable that there is no place for all this in a totalitarian state. There
may be humane teachers, but there cannot exist humane education as a general
rule. In the wake of the perestroika that began in 1985 there was a burst of
interest in democratization in education, as in all other domains of social life,
and an enthusiasm for ideas of freedom and choice in education. All this came
to be known as "pedogogics of cooperation", the opposite being "pedagogics
of command". Since, however, the people who activated all this in 1985 were
practitioners rather than scholars, and knew little of the history of education,
much of this seemed like a discovery to them. "Pedagogics of cooperation"
became a popular educational slogan and, in a way, a touchstone of progressivism in education (HeaarorHKa, 1986).
There is no diminishing the role of the perestroika people who introduced
the idea of humane education into practice. But it is easy to show that it was
not a discovery after all. Rather, it was a revival of traditions that existed all
over the world, a continuation of a step-by-step movement interrupted in
Russia in 1917. Of course, it would be an oversimplification to say that the
movement elsewhere was quite steady and without its ups and downs. But a
trend it was, and the trend - among others - makes Russian education part
of the world's educational progress.

The value change in Russia

What makes the situation in Russian particularly dramatic is that of late there
have been two value changes. One was that of the perestroika period when
M. Gorbachev initiated very significant liberalization of all spheres of life in
the former USSR. It is important to realize that the change was not an immediate result of a struggle by a significant part of the population against human
rights violations. The "dissidents" were a tiny fraction who could at most
attract international attention which could (and very often was ) easily brushed
away by the Soviet authorities. So, whatever others may say, my opinion
is that perestroika was a courageous decision of the man who wanted to
make Russia a democratic country recognized as such by the international
There is now much talk about Gorbachev's "mistakes"; perhaps future his-

torians and politicians will throw more light on this. More than anything else,
the slow pace of reform has been blamed on him. My understanding is that
even the pace he admitted was deadly dangerous for him and for the cause
itself. Suffice it to recall that, at the time he took the decision, hard-liners
were still very powerful and could easily have demoted Gorbachev from the
central position of the General Secretary of the Communist Party if they had
felt their own position to be threatened.
On the other hand, the change itself was seemingly very easy for the vast
majority of the people to accept. In fact, what was it all about? Human rights,
technically proclaimed in the Brezhnev Constitution and even in the earlier
one under Stalin (freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of
meetings, inviolability of the domicile etc.) were to be actually granted. The
power of the Party in administering the economic and cultural activity at the
centre and in the cities was to be severely curtailed. The key importance was
attached to the initiative of the working person. Private property was gradually introduced. All this and much more was gladly accepted b y the vast
majority of the people.
The picture, however, was not entirely rosy. Some thought the changes
should have been still greater initially - for example, private property should
have been allowed without any limitations. Others were not prepared for the
initiative. Another faction found it abhorrent to do certain things that were
allowed under the new regulations. Still others abused the new possibilities
to make quick money. Examples are easy to find. Many people just did not
want to become owners of factories or shops. Others, on the contrary, made
full use of the possibilities to organize enterprises of any kind, the choice
being only that of the quickest way to make money. Many people thought it
immoral to buy a thing in a state shop and sell it for five times the price at
the door of the shop. Others made it their business to do just that. And so on.
True, Gorbachev wanted to have it all under some sort of control, but he
declined authoritarian practices, and that was very well (ab)used by some
people. And it was a great change in values which was being gradually
accepted by most people.
The situation became much more acute after Yeltsin came to power in
Russia in April 1991, and especially after the coup attempt in August and the
liquidation of the USSR in December of that year. Rapid economic decline
followed the dissolution of economic and cultural links that had been built
up in the course of centuries rather than in the decades of Soviet power. For
most people (estimates vary between 40 and 85 per cent, but my personal
estimate is closer to the second figure) that meant rapid impoverishment. For
very few (3 to 5 per cent) it meant making big money in no time. The
remainder did not feel the change either for the better or for the worse in real
terms. Practically all, however, felt the general uncertainty and anxiety.
There was also another, and much more serious, change in values. It became
virtually impossible to earn decent money by decent means, and whoever
wanted to stay afloat had to accept the means that had been abhorred by most.

On top of that, racketeering, robbery, prostitution, drug trafficking, murder
for money, corruption in government and the police are now so widespread
that the situation in Russia, especially in large cities, has become, to say the
least, generally unfriendly to the people.
As far as values are concerned, this means a very hard choice for almost
everyone. Some people are prepared to stay in "honest poverty" while rejecting
the over-commercialization in all spheres of life. Others have no liking for
dubious means of making money but feel economically pressed to accept them.
A tiny minority wish nothing better.
Of course economic values are not the only ones that matter, even though
they are closely linked to almost everything else, and it may be interesting
to have a look at other values and the role that education can play in transmitting (inculcating?) them. That education has such a mission is hardly open
to question, though terminology matters very much here. Transmission and
especially inculcation of values presupposes, i n t h e eyes of many, a sort of
pressure, even violence; words like brainwashing and indoctrination also come
to mind. Nevertheless it is hardly imaginable that education can be limited
to transmitting factual, "positive" knowledge and no values. It is not only
a problem of educational philosophy; an understanding of democracy is
also involved. My understanding is that the educational system should, as
far as possible, limit itself to transmitting general human values and be
especially careful not to transmit party values. In this sense the order by the
former Minister of Education, Dneprov, forbidding party activity, was very
There are and have always been traditional values. So, in assessing the
importance of a general change in values, two things should be taken into
account. First, it should be asked whether new values have appeared that did
not exist before - a relatively rare phenomenon. Second, has there been a
change that has made some values less, some more important? The second
question is likely to yield more informative answers, reflecting overall changes
in society.
If we look at a range of values in Russia, we find that the family has always
been given high importance. In a public opinion poll in 1993 by the newspaper Moscow News 90 per cent of the respondents gave the family as value
number one. Admittedly, the poll was somewhat simplified. The respondents
were given a list of factors - family, money, work, emotions, love, friends,
sex, religion, art, national feelings - and were asked how significant a role
these things played in their lives. Only two answers were possible - "very
important" and "insignificant" - which does not allow for much precision.
Interestingly, only three per cent of respondents gave the primary value to
Despite the high importance assigned to the family, the divorce rate has
been rising steadily. In the two largest cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg, there
are now two divorces for every three marriages. The largest number of
divorces take place in the first year of married life. As everywhere, attitudes

to sex outside and in addition to marriage have become quite lenient. Because
of restricted housing conditions, however, it is not as easy as in the West for
couples to live together without being legally married. So it is understandable that sex (in and/or outside marriage) is considered "very important" by
40 per cent of the same respondents, and love by 60 per cent. In the area of
sexual relations, it has to be mentioned that some new developments have
appeared in the past two years or so. A very considerable percentage of schoolgirls (some polls indicate over 50 per cent) prefer prostitution to any other
way of making a living. Since this has now become dangerous - and not
because of the police, who are quite lenient in this respect - these girls are
almost openly assisted by their boyfriends, who take a share of the profit.
Over 90 per cent of the respondents consider their work "very important".
It is difficult, however, to interpret this result. For many people, work is
whatever brings income. Thus racketeering, prostitution, robbery and financial misdeeds are "work", although of course they cannot be openly declared.
Gone is the time when a considerable number of young people were prepared
to take up a financially less rewarding job if it was interesting. Now, for most
young people the value of a job can be measured in money terms only.

Implications for education

There has been a considerable change in attitudes to education. Roughly
speaking, the more education one has nowadays, the less money one earns.
Consequently many people take the view that one should forget about the
education one has and do whatever brings the most money. Theoretically
everyone understands that education is important, but at a time of falling living
standards people's minds are occupied by other matters. In some public
opinion polls education takes 12th or 13th place in the list of national
Patterns of enrolment in institutions of higher education have changed
markedly. Competition to enroll in science or engineering courses has drastically fallen. On the other hand, humanities departments and colleges are
experiencing a boom, as are departments of economics, management and
law. Combined with the fact that many engineers and scientific researchers
are leaving their professions (or the country) in search of more money, this
trend has serious implications for the future of science and engineering in
These changes in Russian society as a whole are reflected in the attitudes
of pupils in schools. This is shown by the results of a survey carried out in
1993 among 1012 school leavers from 29 schools in Moscow. The survey
revealed that these young people are realists, acutely aware that their world
has become a difficult place in which to survive. Hence they are motivated
by practical considerations to a greater extent than their counterparts of three
to five years ago. They also place greater emphasis on independence and

self-reliance. Thus 80 per cent of them consider that success in life depends
on oneself and not on fate or external circumstances. There is also a negative
side to these changes in attitude. For example, 51 per cent believe that any
means are justified in the struggle for existence, and 24 per cent consider it
acceptable to ignore the interests of others.
Members of this generation are turning away from the communal values
of the past and towards individual goals of success and prosperity. They aim
for careers as lawyers, managers or entrepreneurs rather than jobs in production. Joint ventures and private cooperatives attract them more than state
enterprises. At the same time, they place less value on traditional education
and more on the kind of practical knowledge that modem life requires (foreign
languages, for example).
A feeling of alienation from school was another feature evinced by these
graduates. Less than half of them were satisfied with their school, which they
valued more for human contacts than for the teaching. They complained that
the school was not adapting quickly enough to the changes in the outside
The survey also revealed apolitical attitudes among the respondents, 59 per
cent of whom said they would not support any political party or movement.
The socialist ideology was overwhelmingly rejected - only 2 per cent of the
respondents supported it. This again reflects a general trend. Before 1986
political instruction was almost obligatory at all levels and in all quarters.
Then came a brief period of genuine popular interest in politics, between 1986
and 1992, when the electorate hoped that they could determine the future of
the country. This mood changed, however, to one of disappointment in politics
and especially in politicians. Today interest in politics is low, and the number
of extreme radicals and conservatives has also fallen. At the same time, the
pattern of politics has become more pluralistic than ever before. There
remains, however, a general feeling of loss with regard to the break-up of
the USSR, which is widely shared by politicians, except for the extreme
In contrast to politics, interest in religion has enjoyed an upswing. After
seventy years of official atheism, enforced with varying degrees of rigour,
there came a turning point in 1988, the millennium of the Orthodox Church,
when Gorbachev began to free religion from its strait-jacket. Before the
Gorbachev period it is estimated that 20-30 per cent of the population were
believers - mostly Christian but also including Muslims, Jews and others.
Since perestroika, interest in religion has grown tremendously, although it is
often difficult to differentiate between interest in religion and "being religious". One thing is certain: the number of church-goers has risen sharply, as
has the number of churches and the number of religious ceremonies (baptisms,
marriages, funerals) in all denominations.
Religious education has also grown commensurately and takes various
forms. Many churches now provide Sunday schools, and these have been
widely welcomed by parents as a way of instilling ethical values into their

children. Within the state education system, many schools are now giving
pupils the opportunity to learn about religion, either through occasional oneoff lectures by visiting priests or by introducing optional religious studies as
part of the curriculum. Apart from its usefulness in promoting inter-cultural
understanding, religious education has also been widely welcomed for its
moral value and its contribution to the spiritual regeneration of society.
Another form of religious education is now provided by a number of private
religious schools of various faiths and denominations.
Religious pluralism is part of a general ethnic and cultural pluralism which
is typical of present-day Russian society. More and more people proclaim their
religious or national affiliation, including those who formerly tended to
conceal it. In the past, for example, many Jews changed their names to Russian
ones. Very few of them went to the synagogue or celebrated religious holidays,
and hardly any Jewish children learned Hebrew or Yiddish. Now all that has
changed. The situation in the Jewish community is particularly interesting.
There are more than 20 Jewish schools in Moscow alone, religious holidays
are regularly celebrated, and kosher food is now available. Many Jews,
however, say all this is not so much about religion as such. Rather, it is another
way to feel one's national identity and show it to others - the latter wish would
have been unthinkable only a few years ago.
There are also many ethnic Germans in Russian, though a considerable
number have already left for Germany. They too seize every opportunity to
learn the language of their forebears, to celebrate German cultural festivals,
to communicate with people living in Germany.
Another significant feature of many teenagers in Russia is that, increasingly, they tend to prefer Western culture to their own (Co~aTeH~o~, ! 993).
This is shown very clearly by their reading tastes, though they now read less
than teenagers did several years ago (Co6Krm, HHcapc~H~, 1992).
The system of education has considerable difficulties in inculcating values.
For one thing, some teachers feel that "inculcation" is a breach of personal
freedom, a sort of indoctrination. But another reason is the well-know inertia
of the system in assimilating new ideas. The inertia is not to be evaluated as
decidedly a drawback, for it is also a basis for some stability in an unstable
Still, education is always about values. Any personal communication
between teacher and pupils involves some transmission of values, whether
planned or not. In Soviet times there were the so-called "class hours"
(K.qaCCHble qaCb~), i.e. lessons specially designed to solve moral problems that
had arisen in the class. And, of course, there was a single criterion for solving
them: Marxist-Leninist ideology. Now the class hours have gone, together
with the ideology, and few people would wish to return to the practice. Most
students and teachers feel free and cherish the feeling. Many teachers,
however, are at a loss to know which values should be inculcated. The notion
of "general human values" does not help them very much. It may take several
years for more specific ideas to emerge. As to the means, it is mostly through

the humanities part o f the curriculum that values are transmitted. At the same
time it should be remembered that, in the opinion of students, parents and
teachers, the school plays a less significant role in the transmission of values
than the mass media, the family and peers - in that order.

In writing this article, the author made use of some material kindly provided by Prof.
Dr. S. G. Vershlovsky of St. Petersburg.
An earlier and shorter version of the article appeared in the Australian journal
Education and Society 11(2), December 1993.


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