Teaching In The Smolensk Province


This article is devoted to the analysis of the organization of the educational process in private women's educational institutions of the Smolensk province in the second half of the XIX–early XX centuries. The article presents the position of the state figures of the Smolensk region and the pedagogical experience of the famous Russian women teachers. On the basis of archival materials, the activities of the local community in solving the “women's issue” are demonstrated and the key ideas of organizing regional private women's education are revealed. The activity of women teachers is analyzed in detail and the characteristics of the educational and educational components of the learning process are given. The methods and forms of achieving the goal were: the active position of the local community and philanthropists on the organization of women's education in the provinces and the formation of the educational platform for women, which included methodological and educational literature, and literary evenings as well as experience the famous female teachers in Russia.

Keywords: Educational process, philanthropists, private women's gymnasiums, Smolensk province, women's education, women teachers


In pre-revolutionary Russia, state policy mainly defended the interests of men and allowed them to get a profession. Women could not professionally realize their potential, as their main function was to maintain a family economy. In the second half of the XIX – early XX centuries, education was not available to all segments of society. The peasants could not, because of the high tuition fees, get an education, send their daughters to women's high schools.

Currently, the right to education is enshrined in the Federal Law “On Education in the Russian Federation”. In it, in Article 5, paragraph 1 it is noted that in Russia everyone's right to education is guaranteed (Federal law, 2020). Article 3, paragraph 1, Part 3 details the inadmissibility of discrimination in education on racial and sexual grounds. We emphasize that in Article 3, paragraph 2, ch. 7 (Federal law, 2020) describes the freedom to choose education according to the inclinations and needs of a person, creating conditions for self-realization of everyone, as well as granting the right to choose the forms of education, forms of training, organizations that carry out educational activities. Thus, in modern Russia, in accordance with the legal educational document, the human rights to education are presented in detail.

At the present stage of the development of society, a number of Russian and foreign scientists and teachers are engaged in the development of women's education, among them, Slepenkova and Shchetinina (2019), Boguslavsky (2019), as well as foreign teachers on the issue of professional self-determination of women: Aktara and Iqbal (2017), Bhatti et al. (2012), Gorozidisand and Afanasy (2014), Mustafa and Osman (2010), Nayanaand and Mustiary (2017), Veteška and Paulovčáková (2018), Vostrý (2018), Aydogdu et al. (2020), Ige and Jita (2020), Sotáková et al. (2020), etc.

However, to increase understanding of the private women's education in Smolensk province in the second half of XIX – early XX centuries and the role of women in shaping the educational system of the country you want to refer to the historical regional experience. Huge interest in addressing this problem causes the expertise of the private female secondary education, Smolensk province (second half of XIX – early XX centuries), which allowed women to educate teachers, contributing to the development of a network of women's education not only of the Smolensk region, but throughout Russia.

Problem Statement

The problem of the study is to identify the features of the organization of the educational process in the private women's schools, Smolensk province, second half of XIX – beginning of XX centuries, and disclosure of professional potential of women who devoted his life to raising activities, which contributed to the development of women's education not only in the Smolensk region, but also in Russia.

Research Questions

How was the private initiative on the development of private women's gymnasium education in the Smolensk province carried out in the second half of the XIX – early XX centuries?

What impact did it have on the entire educational system of the country?

Purpose of the Study

The aim of the investigation–on the basis of archival materials of Smolensk province the second half of XIX – early XX century to highlight the features of the organization of the private women's education in Smolenskand to show the specifics of the educational process in female educational institutions M. K. Tenisheva, H. D. Alchevskaya, E. I. Rovinskaya, E. G. Swittau.

Research Methods

Methods of study: theoretical (analysis, synthesis, systematization and updating) and historical-pedagogical (identifying the main conditions for the implementation of a private women's education in Smolensk province, second half of XIX – early XX centuries means the public).


The problem of obtaining a woman's education and profession for a long historical period is relevant. Often, the upbringing of a woman was perceived in the context of obedience to her husband and the ability to sing, draw and do needlework. The main function of a woman, according to the public, was the upbringing of children. Professional careers for girls were socially unacceptable. A woman's knowledge of the Law of God was one of the main postulates of her upbringing. Many scholars, teachers, and clergy viewed women's education, or rather the lack of it, as a “women's issue”. They spoke with great caution about women's education, as they knew how keenly it was perceived by society.

The opponents of women's education were most often clergymen. One of the archival documents noted: “But here we hear exclamations against Christian education, and many, carried away by the spirit of the time and frivolity, try to educate themselves and others on the principles of everyday prudence or non-believing science.... As expected, this science, having made its pets more harmful than useful for itself and others, far from giving them what it promised” (Smolenskaya private female gymnasium, 1910). Thus, it is possible to emphasize the importance of a woman's study of the commandments, rather than scientific literature.

On the issue of training and education of women in special professional educational institutions, there were many like-minded people who expressed their vision of this problem: “Women are weak only in body composition, but are gifted with equal strength and dignity of the soul, will and mind. A woman's mind is short-sighted only when in infancy they do not pay attention to the formation of this heart. It often happens that they sometimes surpass people only in experience” (Smolenskaya private female gymnasium, 1910). Koreisha (1859) was an active participant. In the reports on his activities, he stated: The primary education and upbringing of young people depends more on the prudence of mothers ... In order to strengthen the general course of education, the government should take care to spread female education everywhere. He added that in order to strengthen the general course of education, the government should take care of the education of the female sex. In this regard, it is worth noting that the position of full-time caretakers of counties indicates a positive attitude of the provincial leaders to the development of women's education.

Emphasizing the ambiguous position of the local community and the state apparatus, we will highlight the main difficulties that have arisen in the process of solving the “women's issue”. Women's educational institutions that did not have the status of Mariinsky gymnasiums were not funded by the state, but were placed under the guardianship of a private initiative. Therefore, the organization of women's education in the Russian province often had its benefactors, who primarily solved the problem of opening a women's educational institution in the county. The second, no less important obstacle was the lack of its own building for the organization of the educational process. The third is the lack of methodological and educational literature, classroom equipment. The fourth is to attract qualified teaching staff. It should be noted that the teaching activity in the female class was different from the male one and required special qualifications and responsibility from the teachers.

A female teacher is an image of a well-bred and decent lady who was supposed to bring culture and morality to society. Therefore, any area of interest of girls was subject to educational supervision, since the class lady kept her pupils under strict control and had all sorts of information about their families, interests and academic performance.

In Russia, a striking example of the organization of women's education is the work of H. D. Alchevskaya. She founded a women's Sunday school in Kharkiv. In it, Alchevskaya (1912) carried out her teaching practice. Here is how Alchevskaya (1912) gave a description of one of the groups of her students:

... no one has ever transmitted a single letter of the alphabet, by any method... Almost no one has heard how others learn… They couldn't immediately find out the teachers ' names... none of the students could give me an answer to questions about our month and date, and none of them had heard a loud reading, but they all knew the prayer “Our Father” from the mother. (p. 32)

It should be noted that it was difficult for girls to get an education, because previously their level of education consisted in knowledge of the Law of God and needlework, this was taught to them in every family, and this education was considered the only correct one.

Alchevskaya (1912) was like a mother to many girls, girls. She understood that in the future, these girls would have families and they would be able to give their children good knowledge. One of the students told about Alchevskaya in the jubilee days of 1895: “That before she could not read and write, she was as dark as an autumn night. Sunday school showed me the light” (Alchevskaya, 1912, p. 35). It can be stated that the direction of women's education set by the teacher was correct and necessary for the development of the entire education system.

The teacher gave a lot of time and effort to the school. Her letter to a colleague during her illness shows how the process of teaching and educating the school's students went. He gives a detailed program of what the girls should learn next Sunday: “1st hour. View students ' homework assignments. Give them your opinion about these works, mark them in the report. Who was and who was not among them: ask those who missed last Sunday why they were not there, write it down in a separate notebook that I will send you, and start repeating the sounds you passed. 2nd hour. Show the new sounds: “l”, “I”, “n” and all the exercises on them. 3rd hour. Arithmetic. 4th hour. Those who missed last Sunday and are behind in the present, take them to a separate room for classes, and leave the strongest to read. Please convey to the students my sincere greetings and regret that I could not come this Sunday” (Alchevskaya, 1912, p. 21). It can be concluded that Alchevskaya devoted a lot of time and effort to teaching girls, strictly controlled compliance with the training program developed by her in her absence. She was scrupulous in matters of teaching and educating students and the appearance of the teacher, which subsequently affected the selection of the teaching staff. She instilled discipline, hard work, and responsibility in the girls, and demanded the same from the teachers.

Thus, Alchevskaya contributed to the education of many girls. Subsequently, they were able to implement it in their lives and in the professional field.

In the Russian province, women's education was viewed in different ways. To some, it was presented as a Europeanized direction of its supporters, and to others-as the only correct solution to the problems of the development of various industries in post-reform Russia. In the Smolensk province there were also patrons and benefactors who advocated its active development. So, for example, M. K. Tenisheva, focusing on the organization of women's education, realized her ideas for the revival of traditional folk art culture in the estate, opening a school for the education of peasant children, including girls. In the summer, many famous artists gathered in the village of Talashkino. All of them supported Maria Klavdievna in her endeavors, and M. K. Tenisheva dreamed of opening a school for peasant girls in the village, where they could learn artistic skills.

In the organization of the school, any “amateur activity” was excluded, since teachers who had graduated from special educational institutions were involved in teaching. M. K. Tenisheva constantly devoted a large amount of time to school and, especially, to the education and training of girls.

Over time, M. K. Tenisheva created art and industrial workshops at the school: carpentry, wood carving and painting, metal stamping, ceramics, fabric coloring and embroidery. They were directed by the artist S. Malyutin. For both boys and girls, this was an important and necessary occupation, because many school graduates, having achieved a certain skill, could enter secondary and higher educational institutions of a certain specialty. The situation was more complicated with girls who had access only to the gymnasium, where they could show their talent and subsequently train their pupils, receiving the profession of a teacher. We emphasize that the teacher was a supporter of changes and the development of women's education. Noting the crucial role of women, she concludes that the right to education is not a woman's desire, but something important and sent by higher forces.

The teaching profession for women was an important social problem that they were afraid of not coping with. Therefore, the direction they chose was very important for them. This allowed them to become independent, socially significant. Many girls connected their lives with teaching, opened their own educational institutions in the future, and taught in private or public women's gymnasiums. Being a trustee of a women's educational institution was prestigious. This responsibility imposed certain obligations on the woman, which set her apart from the other ladies, giving her personality a certain charm. For example, in Smolensk, the private women's gymnasium of E. I. Rovinskaya and E. G. Shvittau became particularly popular. These educational institutions filled the missing places in the city's state educational institutions, and many girls were able to get an education and a profession.

The existing system of women's educational institutions in the Smolensk province made it possible to supplement the system of general education, in which women were assigned a new socially significant role. The system of private female gymnasiums in the province was built with an emphasis on the educational component of educational institutions. It filled the need for educated and competent teaching staff and raised the cultural level of the region.

We will especially note how the educational process was organized in the women's gymnasiums of the Smolensk province. The main task of women's educational institutions was to acquire theoretical knowledge and practical skills. The spiritual and moral sphere was subjected to special control in the educational process. All this influenced the further professional development of the girls and their obtaining the title of “home mentor”.

The educational process in private women's gymnasiums consisted of a number of disciplines: Russian, the Law of God, Church Slavonic, mathematics, geography, etc., as well as optional subjects: German and French, pedagogy, drawing. We emphasize that such a list of subjects brought the women's gymnasium closer to similar men's educational institutions.

Upon completion of training in the gymnasium, certificates of the ministry (state) sample were issued. Students who did not complete their studies were issued certificates of completion.

It should be noted that in women's gymnasiums, pedagogical practice was conducted in the eighth (pedagogical) class. Students mastered teaching skills by teaching younger students. For the lesson, notes were made on each subject. Class teachers checked the trainees ' records before classes with the children. In addition to conducting their own lessons, eighth graders were required to regularly attend classes in the lower grades. The first “trial” lessons were strictly evaluated by the teachers. School notes of students and their teaching methods were the subject of special consideration at the pedagogical councils of the gymnasium. The difficulty of conducting classes was that girls were sent to the primary classes, which consisted of the largest number of students. Inexperienced eighth graders had to own a class of forty to fifty people, not every gymnasium had the opportunity to divide classes into parallels. Often, high school girls had to observe one or more junior students in the classroom, to make their psychological profile. Eighth-graders helped class teachers to conduct general supervision of primary school students” (Smolenskaya private female gymnasium, 1910). It should be noted that the students, helping the class ladies, adopted the experience of their mentors and could later apply it in their teaching activities.

It is particularly worth emphasizing that the class teachers were engaged in the education of students. Their duties included the formation of the moral qualities of the pupils.

Therefore, the educational process was under the special control of the top management of educational institutions and the Ministry itself. The discipline and behavior of the students were monitored by the class ladies, matrons. Often, teachers set up a kind of duty in the classrooms, helping students in preparing lessons, in completing tasks. In special journals, marks were made for the behavior and information about students' misdemeanors, among the most common-being late for classes, carelessness in clothing, writing. A wide range of humane punishments were applied to the guilty, the main purpose of which was to make the student repent and realize her guilt. The most common punishments were: solitary sitting of students in the classroom, reprimand with entry in a special (penalty) journal, leaving in an educational institution for one hour with notification of parents, reprimand from the pedagogical council. A special punishment was a reprimand. The students promised “not to repeat the actions discussed in the future. We emphasize that this was one of the main measures of educational influence in women's educational institutions.

Special attention was paid to the aesthetic development of the pupils. For the development of aesthetic taste, theater performances, evenings, readings, and performances were regularly held. Student performances and concerts often had charitable purposes. Many girls also participated in the church choir. Artists and choreographers were invited to the gymnasium to conduct master classes. Exhibitions of students' works were held in provincial schools. During the holidays, excursions, joint readings, and walks were organized. It is worth noting that all these activities had a positive impact on the education of girls and supplemented their knowledge.

Thus, the educational process in women's educational institutions of the Smolensk province in the second half of the XIX – early XX centuries was based on the moral, aesthetic and cultural potential of the pupils. The training of girls was effective and allowed many of them to get a profession and identify themselves in society. In many provinces of the country, the activity of a teacher was considered without condemnation, but as a new direction in domestic education, which revealed the potential of a woman and allowed her to realize her professional knowledge and qualities.


Summing up, we note that the education of women in pre-revolutionary Russia played an important role in the personal self-determination of girls. Women's educational institutions of the Smolensk province have replenished the general educational system of the country. The regional private initiative contributed to the development of the province's infrastructure. In this regard, we emphasize that charitable activities have allowed us to unlock the educational potential of girls and get a profession. Women teachers demonstrated the capabilities and abilities of girls in learning and were an example of pedagogical service to the cause of education. Such educators as H. D. Alchevskaya, M. K. Tenisheva, E. I. Rovinskaya, E. G. Shvittau, through their pedagogical activities, allowed many women from different classes to realize their professional knowledge, skills and abilities. The existing educational system of the country was replenished with women's educational institutions and new teaching staff.

The retrospective experience of organizing private women's gymnasium education is the primary basis for the development of universal education in modern Russia. The current Federal Law “On Education in the Russian Federation” is considered the main document regulating educational activities, and the entire system of state education in the country is based on it (Federal law, 2020). Thus, the historical and pedagogical basis of the educational potential of our state is built on the socio-cultural retrospective experience of previous generations, embodied in the new state standard.


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15 July 2021

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Cite this article as:

Senchenkov, N., & Makova, E. (2021). Teaching In The Smolensk Province. In A. G. Shirin, M. V. Zvyaglova, O. A. Fikhtner, E. Y. Ignateva, & N. A. Shaydorova (Eds.), Education in a Changing World: Global Challenges and National Priorities, vol 114. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 645-652). European Publisher. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2021.07.02.77