Ideological Basis Of The National Education Development Of The 20th Century


This article reviews the research and interpretation of the national education and pedagogy development process of the first half of the 20th century. It underlines the historical distinctiveness of the process due to the deep political transformations experienced by Russia at that time. In the early 20th century, national pedagogical science had five leading development courses: Orthodox pedagogical, social pedagogical, individual humanistic, cognitive, and cultural anthropological. Following the revolution of 1917, all those schools continued being effectively developed and enriched. But due to the historical and geographical division of research programs, some of them began to develop in a latent manner. Leaders of the Soviet education system made efforts to get rid of all the theoretical and practical pedagogical legacy from the pre-October period, by claiming it to be backward, retrogressive, and reactionary. The study showed that in the 20s – 40s, the Soviet pedagogy developed mostly in the social pedagogical and cognitive directions, while the immigrant pedagogy followed the cultural anthropological path, which later on, gave way to the Christian anthropological, Orthodox pedagogical, and individual humanistic, and cognitive schools. In this respect, that period of time can be viewed as a time to cast away stones, i.e. the diaspora period. It was found out that conservative education reforms of the early 30s and late 50s of the 20th century generally confirmed the idea of a constant disconnection within the pedagogical tradition and the absence of ancestral succession in the national pedagogical process development.

Keywords: History of pedagogynational educationmethodology


For the Russian education system and pedagogical science, the first half of the 20th century has become the epoch of a drastic civilizational shift, kind of a bifurcation point, which gave birth to a brand new and different way of strategic development (Kaplan & Pucciarelli, 2016; Lelchitski, 2016). This circumstance has become a shaping factor for pedagogical science as well as upbringing and education practices. Until 1917, the Russian education system was focused on a strong statehood and traditional religious values. The national public education system continued having a class character alongside with principles of succession and corporate uniformity of educational institutions of various education stages. But further on, the drastically changed political regime created such conditions for the pedagogical science and practice, that they had to develop in a harsh situation of political uniformity.

Problem Statement

In the early 20th century, the developing Russian statehood provided for the realization of a unique historical opportunity – a simultaneous successful development of various pedagogical movements and theories in the context of leading sociocultural tendencies. In Soviet Russia, education becomes one of the essential elements of the internal ideological process. Leaders of the country eyed education as a key force for the massive spreading of communist ideas, a fundamental basis for the socialistic renewal of the society, state, family and everyday relations.

Further on, throughout the existence of this uniform Soviet state education system, there had been an opposition of two basic tendencies – a reformatory one (distorted in comparison with reformatory processes in the public education of the Russian Empire) and conservative (official, protective, following the principles of the Marxist-Leninist pedagogical ideology).

When characterizing the national pedagogy development process in the first half of the 20th century, scholars would traditionally underline its distinctiveness caused by the drastic political transformations that this country had been going through at that time (Gerrard, Rudolph, & Sriprakash, 2017). On the outside, it was exactly the way it looked, especially when leaders of the Soviet education system of the 1920s tried to completely get rid of the pre-revolution pedagogical legacy by claiming it to be retrograde and reactionary. The education reforms/counter-reforms conducted in the early 30s and late 50s of the 20th century generally confirmed the idea of a constant disconnection within the pedagogical tradition and the absence of ancestral succession in the national pedagogical process development.

Research Questions

With a multi-faceted study of the national pedagogy development process of the first half of the 20th century, the situation appears much different. This process looks successive, although not from a linear, one-dimensional perspective. One can state that ontologically, the process of the national pedagogical science development throughout the first half of the 20th century, was continuous, while in a historical and geographical sense, it was discrete. At the same time, it should be taken into account that according to its specific pedagogical mentality, any national pedagogy has a unique set of "pedagogical knowledge" which is then transformed into pedagogical schools.

In relation to the national pedagogy of the first half of the 20th century, the whole set of key pedagogical schools was the following:

a cognitive school which focused on the development of pedagogical science, theory of education and upbringing, content of education;

an individual and humanistic school ("free upbringing" can be viewed in its framework as well) which developed person-centered approaches to the personality formation, typical for the Russian pedagogy;

a social and pedagogical school which was focused on the pedagogization of the society, on making use of its upbringing capabilities, and involving students in social transformation;

a cultural anthropological school which focused on the psychological and physiological keynotes of personal development;

a religious and pedagogical school which used a transcendental approach to the pedagogical upbringing of children.

Purpose of the Study

The given study is aimed to present a comprehensive research of methodological, ideological, and political arguments for historical interpretation of the national education and pedagogy system strategic development in the first half of the 20th century.

Research Methods

The importance of the scientific issue under the research, the opposite views and evaluations in the modern historiography make it necessary to use different methodological approaches and scientific methods within the given study. The following research methods are used in the given study: comparative, historical and typological, historical and genetic, historiographical, historical and systematic, terminological. This study also used synthesis and interpretation of scientific information in the context of significant trends of the national education and pedagogy system strategic development.


It can be stated that all the above-mentioned schools have translated in the national pedagogy throughout the 20th century, but not necessarily on the autochtonous territory. This was mostly caused by the fact that the education legislation passed in the first years of the Soviet state, was quite controversial. On the one hand, the RSFSR laws and regulations adopted many of the pedagogical and social ideas (especially from time of Great Reforms of the 60s-70s of the 19th century), and on the other, there were signs of an ideological, political, and administrative tendency which took its final shape in the 1920s as an administrative command system.

The education legislation had a number of negative premises: a class-based approach to access to education, especially to higher education; rigorous administration; attempts to replace families with boarding schools or orphanages in order to relieve parents of extra responsibilities and focus all their efforts on building a strong socialistic state. The system completely rejected a traditional, legal administration concept, as well as general European principles of the national policy formation (Sriprakash & Mukhopadhyay, 2015). Former legal norms of the pre-October period were the first to be rejected, including the pre-revolution imperial law in the field of public education.

But despite the political changes in 1917, the national education system and pedagogy of the 1920s-1930s hadn't lost the traditions accumulated throughout the 19th century and continued to develop successfully in accordance with the modernization processes, typical for that time. This circumstance was a crucial characteristic of works of many outstanding representatives of Russian pedagogy of the first half of the 20th century.

In this historical period, a unique ideological situation emerged, which allowed many layers of the Russian population to understand the old ideas of a connection between the nation and the statehood. But this fertile soil was laid down with new radical social ideas and projects which at first, were absolutely unclear to the majority of the population, but attracted with their futuristic character (Altbach, 2013).

The Bolshevik authorities organized a new public education system in a strong and assertive way. During an active social and cultural modernization, it was necessary to create and strengthen new legal principles of the national school development which would allow to implement the ambitious plans of the national school system reorganization. The diversity of national pedagogical ideas of the 1920s also encouraged the pedagogical community which representatives were given an opportunity to work in a situation when various pedagogical systems were practiced. But this circumstance led to a disintegration of Russia's education space which damaged the quality of the national education amidst the global social and pedagogical experimentation (Bianco, 2010).

After the October Revolution, drastic social and political transformations divided the research programs which were an integral part of the national pedagogy (Horta, Veloso, & Grediaga, 2010; Horta & Yudkevich, 2016). The Soviet pedagogical research program focused on everything related to social pedagogy, career education and upbringing, connection between school and personal life, views of students, their involvement in social activities, socially useful and productive labor.

At the same time, it would be wrong to say that this pedagogical research focus was not deeply rooted in the national pedagogical tradition. A layer of revolutionary and democratic ideas of the 60s-70s of the 19th century, as well as social and pedagogical ideas of the early 20th century turned out to be useful for the Soviet pedagogy of the 1920s and were developed further on.

It goes without saying that Nadezhda Krupskaya (1869-1939) – a famous Soviet pedagogue, ideologist, and public education activist, Was the most outstanding representative of the social and pedagogical school. The activity of Nadezhda Krupskaya in the field of public education was broad and multifaceted, lasting throughout her diverse life experience.

Krupskaya was the author of key documents of the Party and developed the public education program. Krupskaya played an active role in the introduction of principles of universal access and commonality of education, as well as getting rid of class-based ideas related to education for people at large. Women began to get equal education with men. Illiteracy and semi-illiteracy started to be eradicated in a huge country. The state declared total equality of education for all peoples of the country in a native language of students. Authorities took into account local and national peculiarities and even created writing systems for peoples who did not have it.

Bringing those programme requirements into life, Nadezhda Krupskaya made a lot of efforts to implement drastic transformations of the education system. The Soviet system set a goal – to achieve total literacy of its population in the shortest period of time, to expand the network of schools, to launch universal, compulsory, and free provision of education institutions with competent teachers. Key statements of the educational policy were as follows: to pass the public education affairs under control of democratic local self-government authorities; to create a uniform, civic, universal career school system; to launch polytechnical education, and to directly connect education to socially useful child labor. The Soviet authorities made efforts to drastically increase spendings on public education, to involve teachers in solving all the public education issues, to take care of the financial situation with teaching. The public education affairs were controlled by public education departments within local power structures. The country established the Universal Career School which consisted of Level I (5 years) and Level II (4 years).

Thus, after the October Revolution of 1917, a broad program was launched to create a Soviet system of education and upbringing which had proven its feasibility and effectiveness. The young generation raised by the Soviet school with Krupskaya's active participation made an outstanding contribution to the victory in the Great Patriotic War and the post-war development of this country. Nowadays, there is a rapidly growing interest in the history of Soviet pedagogy and education (Belenchuk et al., 2018).

An outstanding Russian thinker and representative of the Russian expatriate community, Ivan Ilyin (1883-1954) rejected philosophical, legal, and political ideas of the Bolsheviks and continued to follow traditional, Christian-based concepts of national education and upbringing. Those ideas could be called conservative, but never retrograde.

Being a lawyer by education, in his philosophical works, Ilyin focused on the problem of formation of healthy legal awareness, interpreting it in a traditional Russian way with prioritizing spiritual and moral principles over the formal and legal ones. On this basis, he suggested developing a relationship between national social institutions in the field of education and upbringing of the new Russian generations. In this respect, it is worth mentioning the direct connection between this statement and an essential historical and pedagogical concept – an idea of archetypal principles, essentially, the propaganda of Russia's best upbringing practices in conditions of globalized education (Mok, 2010; Van der Wende, 2010).

Following the traditional Christian values, Ivan Ilyin considered family to be the most important social educational and upbringing institution. It was the family that could raise a good citizen who would respect the rich spiritual traditions of their Motherland. The role of the family was especially high amidst the instability and spiritual quests, typical for the revolutionary time. Ivan Ilyin believed that creative balance of the soul and healthy conservatism were the foundation of a traditional family upbringing. Those pillars made the family a true school for a child, where they were provided some key guiding principles for becoming a developed personality able to act in civil society.

In the Soviet system, such ideas could not be perceived as a call to action. Meanwhile, they contributed to making the public conscience keep its traditional, highly respectful attitude to family as a social space which carefully preserved all the best public pedagogical traditions.

Regardless of the fact that Ivan Ilyin focused on the Christian principles of living, he acknowledged the necessity of changing a traditional Russian lifestyle. At the same time, it should be underlined that philosopher's religious principles of work stayed within the needs of real public life and were just an essential condition of a Russian citizen's spiritual growth, demonstrating a huge potential of Christian spiritual foundations for further development of the civilization (Hennessy, 2012).

The ideas of Ilyin about education and upbringing of future generations do not lead into the realm of mysticism and rationality. They are aimed to solve the specific tasks of public spiritual growth. And upbringing plays a crucial role in this process. It was this problem that was raised in one of the final works of the thinker "On the Upbringing in Future Russia" which has a powerful forecasting potential. This work can rightly be called a spiritual and pedagogical declaration of the great Russian philosopher.

In his opinion, Russia needed "new upbringing" based on freedom, love, and "concreteness". The latter was used to define the main and sacred purpose of the earthly life of a Human, which gave it a supreme and final meaning. The author realized that after interrupting the spiritual tradition in conditions of the Revolution, it was necessary to come back to it amidst new circumstances, to leave the "indifference and egotism", and fall in love with what deserved the "whole love". And only in those conditions, a person would be able to develop a thirst for searching, serving, and being responsible.

Thus, acutely feeling the problem points of upbringing in Russia of his time, Ivan Ilyin developed philosophical and political principles of a unique and mainly idealistic conception. It was based on the principle of interconnection of public and individual upbringing aimed to achieve the ideal goals of Russia's development on the traditional humanistic basis and taking into account the existing social discourse trends (Milovanov & Nikitina, 2016; Rose, 2015).


Let us sum up the national education and pedagogy system development in the first half of the 20th century. In the early 20th century, the national education system had five major schools of pedagogy (Orthodox pedagogical, social pedagogical, individual humanistic, cognitive, and cultural anthropological.)

Following the revolution, all those schools continued being effectively developed and enriched. But due to the historical and geographical division of research programmes, some of them began to develop in a latent manner (Beckle, 2016). In the 20s – 40s, the Soviet pedagogy developed mostly in the social pedagogical and cognitive directions, while the immigrant pedagogy followed the cultural anthropological path, which later on, gave way to the Christian anthropological, Orthodox pedagogical, and individual humanistic, and cognitive schools.

Thus, we can state that despite social and political disasters of the first half of the 20th century, all the basic schools of national pedagogy developed continuously throughout the 20s – 40s. But this continuity was very multidimensional. It combined both external and internal processes of the pedagogical knowledge development, with internal processes being much more fruitful than the external ones.


The work was carried out within the framework of the state assignment set up by the Federal state budget scientific institution "Institute for Strategy of Education Development of the Russian Academy of Education" for 2017-2019 (No. 27.8089.2017/PM) "Realization of the potential of historical and pedagogical research in modern pedagogical education".


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Polovetsky, S. D., Ovchinnikov, A. V., Nikitina, E. E., Milovanov*, K. Y., Boguslavskaya, T. N., & Boguslavsky, M. V. (2019). Ideological Basis Of The National Education Development Of The 20th Century. In S. K. Lo (Ed.), Education Environment for the Information Age, vol 69. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 151-157). Future Academy.