Ivan Ivanovich Betskoi

Betskoi, Ivan Ivanovich


Born Feb. 3 (14), 1704, in Stockholm; died Aug. 31 (Sept. 11), 1795, in St. Petersburg. Russian public figure. Natural son of Field Marshal I. Iu. Trubetskoi. Studied at the Copenhagen military school.

During the 1740’s, Betskoi served in the Collegium of Foreign Affairs in St. Petersburg. He retired in 1747 and lived mostly abroad until 1762. He was president of the Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg from 1764 to 1794. In 1763 he presented a plan for school reform to Catherine II, the “General Provision for the Education of Youth of Both Sexes,” in which he made use of the ideas of the Encyclopedists, J. Locke, and J. A. Comenius. The plan was confirmed in 1764, and Betskoi was charged with organizing new schools and transforming the existing ones. On the basis of Betskoi’s plan, several institutions were opened: foundling homes in Moscow (1764) and St. Petersburg (1770); a school for boys of various class origins (except serfs) under the auspices of the Academy of Arts; the Commercial School in Moscow; and the Institute for Wellborn Girls, with a division for girls of the petite bourgeoisie, founded under the auspices of the Voskresenskii (Smol’nii) monastery on the outskirts of St. Petersburg. Betskoi confronted education with the Utopian task of creating “people of a new kind”—enlightened and humane dvorianie (nobility or gentry), merchants, manufacturers, and artisans—in order to smooth over class antagonisms in the interests of absolutism. With the intensification of the reaction among the dvorianstvo after the Peasant War of 1773–75 (Pugashev rebellion), these ideas were considered too liberal, and Betskoi was removed from the direction of instructional institutions.

Betskoi’s views on educational methods were progressive for his time: educators were to be “conscientious, and examples of worthy people,” and were to teach without compulsion, taking into account the inclinations of the child; they were not to use corporal punishment. The regulations, instructions, and educational plans worked out under Betskoi’s direction or by Betskoi himself were published in the Collection of Provisions and Directions Concerning the Education in Russia of Wellborn and Petit Bourgeois Youth of Both Sexes (2 vols., 1789–91; 1st ed., in French, published in Amsterdam in 1775).


Maikov, P. M. Ivan Ivanovich Betskoi: Opyt ego biografii. St. Petersburg, 1904.