Russian Scientists’ Contribution In Early 20th Century Towards Inclusive Education Development


The value and actuality of this research is due to the contradiction between the typical situation in the traditional educational institutions and the demand of the changing social environment in the case of inclusion. The aim of this research is to analyze the pedagogical ideas of Russian scientists of early 20th century, such as Troshin, Kashchenko, and Vygotsky, from the view of the problem of inclusive education. The comparative-historical method of the research has allowed us to track the continuity of their views and to prove the relevance of the conclusion that the social environment is the main reason of violations in development. The research summarizes the principles of integration process and the structural elements of inclusive institutions proposed and approved in the schools headed by the Russian scientists. It should be noted that Russian scientists played a great role in the dissemination of the concept of “exceptional children” not only in case of children with disabilities and difficult children, but also when speaking of highly gifted children whose interests and concerns were the focus of pedagogical science for the first time. The presented results of the scientific, theoretical and practical development of the problems of inclusive education could be used in any sphere of methodology, research and administration of educational process.

Keywords: Inclusive educationTroshinKashchenkoVygotskysocial nature of defect


Inclusive education, implying the inclusion of children with disabilities into general education environment, has a long history. The attitude of the society towards the problems of people with special needs has passed various stages before it evolved to understanding the necessity of building a society based on the principles of unity, not division (Nazarova et al., 2000). All the definitions of the term "inclusive pedagogy" are integrated by the fact of the consolidation of the theories on training, education and development of children, based on the rejection of all forms of segregation, classification, and labeling (Biewer, 2008) to make the conditions of life in society accessible to people with different needs and capabilities.

The roots of inclusive pedagogy are in the fundamental human rights and, first and foremost, the right of a person to participate in all spheres of life. Inclusive system is focused on structural changes in the typical social institutions in order to make the conditions of life in society accessible to people with different needs and capabilities.

Certainly, the awareness of the problem is not yet universal. However, inclusive education, implemented in several countries, could be a particular achievement of human culture (Mall et al., 2014). The notion of inclusion as a broader term that has become popular in the last decade, involves creating a social environment, which has no place for segregation of people on any grounds (Sander, 2004). It must be acknowledged that these days, this idea is still a desirable objective, even in highly developed countries (Ratner & Sigal, 2012). Regarding this, researches both in the field of practical application of inclusive approaches and in their scientific-theoretical justification is rather relevant and actual (Eckert & Waldschmidt,, 2010). Historical and pedagogical studies assumes particular importance enriching modern knowledge with experience and ideas of previous generations.

Problem Statement

The problem of this study is related to the scientific development of inclusive education in general, as well as with the historical aspect of the evolution of ideas of inclusion in the works of G.Y. Troshin, Kashchenko, and Vygotsky and the reflection of their theories in their later studies. Initially, it should be noted that in modern scientific research papers, the problem of inclusive education is considered from several key points. On the one hand, several works are devoted to the analysis of social problems related to general ethical issues.

In the field of educational policy and science, the guidance and framework conditions are strongly related to the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, which, ultimately, acts as a direction of modern scientific and practical research in the field of inclusion (Köpcke-Duttler, 2009). A great number of research works is also devoted to the problem of matching the concepts of “integration” and “inclusion”. It should be mentioned that there is no consensus in this discussion so far. A number of scientists believe that the terms "inclusion" and "integration" describe the same phenomenon (Hellbruegge, 1994). The concept of "inclusion" that later appeared chronologically is regularly criticized. Although the problem is not in the criticism of the term "inclusion" but its common interpretation as "more correct form of 'integration'". This criticism is well-founded since these concepts could not be more or less meaningful, they describe one and the same tendency in the development of social systems within the process of humanization and democratization of education in general (Feuser, 2002). In the historical aspect of the further development of the concepts, integration and inclusion with the same objective as the preservation or rehabilitation of the shared living and learning space for all children without exception the ideas of reformist pedagogy (Troshin, Kashchenko, and Vygotsky) are very close. In their theoretical and practical research work they consolidated the profound ideas of pedagogy, psychology, and medicine, predicting the future development of inclusion.

The modern studies have shown that the implementation of inclusive education is impossible without the close cooperation of scientists in related disciplines, primarily doctors, teachers and psychologists (Ratner & Yusupova, 2014). Social, scientific and practical relevance of such research is extremely high today. In this regard, the only thing to come is the readiness of the modern society to accept the revolutionary ideas of the past.

To narrow the problem field of this article it should be noted that the popularity of Vygotsky’s learning theory, is associated with his ideas in this field. But his research works on the problems of socialization and social compensation need studying.

Research Questions

Within the main objective of this study, the main attention is devoted to the contribution in the theory and practice of inclusive education of Russian scientists of the early twentieth century, such as Troshin, Kashchenko, and Vygotsky. The anthropological and humanistic concept of Troshin has been analyzed, and has been traced to the evolution of the theory of "exceptional childhood" in the scientific works Kashchenko, and were summarized in the views of Vygotsky on the problem of social development of children with disabilities. The other objective is to demonstrate the continuity of the views of these scientists and their fundamental role in the development of inclusive education ideas at an early stage.

Purpose of the Study

Our research is devoted to comparative-historical analysis and reconsideration of ideas of outstanding Russian scientists of the beginning of the 20th century, such as Troshin, Kashchenko and Vygotsky. They defined the turning points of the development of pedagogical inclusion.

Research Methods

Historiographical specificity of the this research work has determined the choice of the leading research method of combining historical and logical approaches, which allowed us to consider, analyse, and summarize the abovementioned theories in their historical development and to compare the level of the modern understanding of inclusion with scientific achievements of the past years. The source of the research are the scientific papers on the problems of development, education and training of children with disabilities written by Troshin, Kashchenko and Vygotsky.


Anthropologic and humanistic concept of abnormal childhood of Troshin

Troshin (1874-1938) can be regarded as one of the pioneers of inclusive education. He was a doctor, psychologist and teacher, and the author of the anthropologic and humanistic concept of abnormal childhood. The main concepts were outlined in his great work, "The anthropological foundations of education" (1915). The concept of medical and pedagogical anthropology of Troshin is built on changing the angle of consideration of the problems of the child with disabilities: it is necessary to study the child, but not the disease. This approach has formed the basis for studying both "normal" children, and children with disabilities and, ultimately, make the crucial conclusion that development in all children goes according to the same laws. Troshin was sure that “The only difference is in the way of development” (Troshin, 1915, p. XIII). So, the attention of the anthropologist Troshin was turned to the search of pedagogical tools and, therefore, to the school system. As a result, the inevitable criticism of mass school by Troshin was rather traditional: insufficient attention is paid to the children with educational problems; the school focuses on the most adaptive children; refuses admission or excludes children with disabilities as well as difficult children. The last group of children were forced to fall into the lowest social strata of society, up to the criminal circle. Thus, Troshin did not divide education on special and general, but foresaw the possibility of pedagogical integration. Critiquing the existing school system Troshin offered his own vision of school integration and created a school hospital, which existed from 1906 to 1917. It was for children who could not attend regular school because of any reason. The idea of the opening of such schools was the result of Troshin’s concept “that children's abnormality in a vast majority of cases is the product of abnormal social conditions” (Troshin, 1915, p. XV).

Thus, the role of Troshin in the development of inclusive education is related to the fact that it is based on a comparative study of the psychology of children. He was one of the first who proved the social nature of the defect and proceeded to the theoretical elaboration of the future concept of inclusion. He grounded the principles of established medical and pedagogical institution. Later they became the general principles of inclusive education. The most important of them are the strong connection of medical, psychological, and pedagogical support; intersubject links; the positive potential of the child as the basis of education; the individualization of learning process; the fundamental role of manual labour; and the creative autonomy of the child (Belenkova, 2000).

Thus, the idea of an integrated training and education, being the base of the further conceptual framework of inclusion, were developed in research work of Troshin.

Kashchenko's school for “exclusive children”

The concept and practical experience of Kashchenko (1870-1943) were of great importance for the development of the idea of inclusion. Being a doctor, psychologist and teacher Kashchenko, as well as his predecessor Troshin, considered the role of the social environment as fundamental in the development of the child. In his work «Upbringing and educating of difficult children» (1914) he emphasized that “the abnormal, ugly environment cripples the child, and healthy environment, adapted for features of the child is capable to bring him up” (Kashchenko & Kryukov, 1913, p. 10). Kashchenko has claimed the absence of such kind of environment in the traditional school of his time. Although his position was more profound than Troshin’s, Kashchenko criticized the system of education for the fact that the mass school create a kind of environment; that is aimed only at the average pupils, eliminating the others. Therefore, not only weak but also gifted children suffer from a lack of attention to their needs. There also should be noted that gifted children's learning problems in connection with the development of inclusion ideas which were raised by Kashchenko, are comparatively rarely examined by the other researchers. Kashchenko formulates one of the main thesis of future inclusive education: the child does not have to adapt to educational system, but the school should take into account specific features of each child.

In 1908 Kashchenko founded a sanatorium school which had educational, medical, and research purposes. After Troshin, Kashchenko confirmed the commitment to the basic principles of such inclusive activities as:

  • The cooperation of doctors and teachers who had special training in how to work in the conditions of integration.

  • The importance of intersubject approach in teaching that foregoes a stand-alone teaching of individual subjects.

  • The strong connection of life and education, which means the opportunity to see, compare, comprehend the utility functions of abstract knowledge.

  • A thesis about a support on presentation and manual skills that is closely connected with verbalism criticism in usual schools, and an idea of the role of touch experience as bases of abstract thinking.

  • The importance of visibility and manual labour that is closely linked to the criticism of verbalism in mass schools, and the perception of the great role of sensory experience as the basis of abstract thinking: in terms of verbalisation "student remains to be a passive listener, but his personality is asleep, not awaken by science” (Kashchenko & Kryukov, 1913, p. 9).

  • The individualization of learning, as Kashchenko requires not to impose knowledge and tasks on children, but focus on their interests, deepening it through related areas of knowledge.

These principles of pedagogical activity of Kashchenko suggest that his position largely coincides with the ideas of Troshin, as well with the more recent ideas on the requirements for inclusive education.

Kashchenko's sanatorium school existed until the 1930s, and was a medical and pedagogical centre that conducted research, and social and pedagogical work. In the 1920s the scientific school of Kashchenko became a state school and was named Medical and pedagogical sanatorium being at the same time the educational subdivision of Ministry of Education. By that time, the sanatorium included the following subdivisions:

  • Educational unit “for exceptional children, but with character shortcomings, and for not gifted children”.

  • Consultancy centre concerning education of exclusive children.

  • Museum of the exclusive childhood pedology and pedagogics.

  • Workshop for retraining teachers of special and mass school (Kashchenko & Murashev, 1929).

Apparently, the structure and principal fundamentals of that Centre had no equivalent in Europe at that time. The similar complex was founded in Germany only in the 1960s (Hellbruegge, 1977).

The structure of the school showed the inclusive character of Kashchenko’s activity. Combining efforts of doctors, psychologists and teachers within school activities Kashchenko has become the basis for the creation of so-called corrective (“corrective”) pedagogy – pedagogy oriented towards children, whose “exceptionalism” is a secondary symptom, and their education takes place in a mass school. So, the development of the concept of corrective pedagogy according to Kashchenko could be understood as the extension of the ideas of Troshin, and more than that, as the next step in the development of the concept of integrative education and inclusion.

As to the term “exceptional children” which is used in Kashchenko's works, it was borrowed from the American literature, and according to the scientist, has no negative emotional shade and includes not only children with physical and mental health disabilities, but also difficult children, and gifted children. Following Troshin, Kashchenko saw in children's "exclusivity" not only the biological causes, but the "defective social influence”. The problems all “exclusive children” face “are, first of all, social defects, the defect of the society in general. Subsequently, the fight against them has to be based, by all means, on social actions" (Kashchenko & Murashev, 1929, p. 5). In other words, Kashchenko advocated a healthy climate in children's society, standing on the positions of inclusive education. This approach Kashchenko called "reasonable education": "Reasonable education can fix a disabled child, but the bad, unreasonable education may distort the mind and character of a completely normal child. (Kashchenko & Murashev, 1929, p. 16).

Realizing that the society, the scientific and practical basis are not yet ready to deal with that problem, Kashchenko offered a kind of compromise: he urged to create an opportunity for such children to spend the rest of the day with a group of healthy children after studying in a special school. That is, the proposed solution was a step towards the social inclusion.

The idea of social value as the aim of upbringing and education in the works of Vygotsky

The complex medical, psychological and pedagogical nature of Kashchenko’s school originates in the principles and methods of pedology – the science based on an integrated approach to studying of the child from the standpoint of medicine, psychology, pedagogics, and social knowledge. Pedology arose at the turn of 19th to 20th centuries and gave a powerful impetus to the development of child and educational psychology, genetic psychology, educational sociology, and social pedagogy. Pedology reached its peak in from the 1920s to the 1930s, and played a great role in the development of the ideas of inclusive education. In Russia, pedology was connected with names such as Blonsky, Vygotsky, Zalkind, Kashchenko, Lazursky, Luriya, and others.

Within our research, the theoretical developments of the Russian psychologist and the leader of pedology, we have a particular interest in Vygotsky (1896-1934). His contribution to the development of inclusive education ideas is associated, among other things, with the fact that he strongly criticized the special education system, which was widely introduced in the early twentieth century. In contrast to methods of isolating special education, he put forward the thesis of the need to create a system that would be able to link the special pedagogy with pedagogy of normal childhood. Thus, Vygotsky stood at the origins of the concept of inclusive education. In the same way as Troshin and Kashchenko, Vygotsky believed that the greatest difficulties in the life of disabled children are caused not by biological reasons of his violation, but by their social consequences. The system of special schools based on isolation exacerbates these social violations, as it breaks communication and builds barriers to knowledge and skills. The idea of the social nature of the defect was not only supported by Vygotsky. The scientist discovered new aspects of the problem, having advanced in the understanding of phenomena such as the social consequences of disability. Vygotsky also noted that the solution of this problem lies not only in the reformation of school, but also in working with families. He drew attention to the fact that the isolation of children with disabilities begins already in the family. So, already in the family, “the blind and deaf child is first of all the special child”. The scientist spoke about excessive doses of attention and pity, which become heavy burden for the child and separate him from other children (Vygotsky, 1983, p. 62). Thus, Vygotsky pointed out the need to start an inclusive work in the early stages of education in the family.

Explaining the idea of social responsibility, Vygotsky specifies that violation in development itself does not cause much trouble to the child, because the child does not feel the problem but the difficulties it causes. The main problem is the secondary effect of the defect that is associated with a reduction in the social position of the child. In this regard, the idea of inclusion has become vital, because it means full integration of the person into society. Limited opportunities do not make the child a “disabled person”. The degree of his “disability” or “normality” depends directly on the outcome of social compensation, i.e. societal relations. Thus, Vygotsky formulated the universal purpose of any education: “Social value is the ultimate target point of education” (Vygotsky, 1983, p. 41).

It is impossible to achieve such an objective in conditions of special schools, as it is inherently anti-social. Special schools focus on the earliest isolation of the child instead of his earliest inclusion in life of society. Vygotsky emphasized the necessity of not thinking about how to isolate and "highlight the blind out of life," but how to introduce them to life at an earlier stage. Vygotsky saw the exit from the current situation in overcoming the anti-social character of special schools and carrying out scientific experiment on joint education of children with various educational opportunities and creation of such pedagogical system, which would link special pedagogics with pedagogics of normal childhood. Thereby, Vygotsky anticipated the whole complex of scientific theoretical and practical researches in the field of integration and inclusion.

The results of the comparative historical analysis of pedagogical views of Troshin, Kashchenko and Vygotsky presented in this research represent a special view of the achievements of these famous Russian scientists. Their names are widely known, and their scientific heritage still raises enormous interest in the medical, psychological and pedagogical fields. However, as a rule, their works and ideas are studied separately (Belenkova, 2000; Uljenkova, 1997; Mikhailova, 1998). In this research, the attention is focused on the perspective of an inclusive approach to education and the core idea in the theories of these three scientists presenting the social nature of violations as the impetus for the development of the theory of inclusion. From these positions, the original contribution of every scientist is used in the development of the concept of integrated inclusive education.


Summing up the results of the research, it should be noted that at the beginning of the 20th century, Russian scientists took a serious step to reconsider the problems of children with various educational opportunities, and to analyze of social development.

The postulate of the social nature of limited opportunities of children was formulated and justified, the concept of inclusion of children with various opportunities in the overall educational and social environment was defined, primary principles of inclusive educational institution were allocated and practically tested.

Of particular importance is the allocation of problems of highly gifted children in mass school and distribution of the inclusive requirements for both the non-exceptional children and talented children. Scientific theories and practical experiences of Troshin, Kashchenko and Vygotsky are still valuable for several decades of similar experiments. They remain relevant and deserve close attention and implementation.

The presented results of the scientific research could be used in the practice of inclusive educational institutions, in any sphere of methodological work for creating new-generational textbooks, for the professional training of teachers and psychologists, as well as scientific activities in order to further develop the inclusive idea.


The work is performed according to the Russian Government Program of Competitive Growth of Kazan Federal University.


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Ratner, F. L., Yusupova, A. Y., & Sigal, N. G. (2017). Russian Scientists’ Contribution In Early 20th Century Towards Inclusive Education Development. In R. Valeeva (Ed.), Teacher Education - IFTE 2017, vol 29. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 679-687). Future Academy.