Geographical Education

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Geographical Education


training of specialists in geography at higher educational institutions. As an academic discipline geography had already been introduced at some Western European universities in the Middle Ages. It was introduced in Russian schools in the 17th century, for example, at the Kiev-Mogila Academy. The first geography textbooks appeared in the 17th century, for example, the General Geography of the Dutch scholar Varenius, which was translated into Russian at the beginning of the 18th century. By the beginning of the 18th century geography was an independent subject at the School of Mathematical and Navigational Sciences and at the St. Petersburg Naval Academy, and M. V. Lomonosov included geography in his draft curriculum for Moscow University (where geography was taught by D. V. Savich upon the university’s opening). By the end of the 18th century, geography (courses in which were already being taught at many universities in Western Europe) was clearly divided into three areas—physical geography, economic geography (more frequently called statistical geography at that time), and regional geography. Physical geography was taught at universities in the faculty of natural sciences, while statistical and regional geography were taught in the philology (history-philology) faculty.

The establishment of geography as a branch of learning in the university was recognized in Russia by the university statute of 1804. By this statute two chairs were established in faculties of philology—the chair of world history, statistics, and geography and the chair of the history, statistics, and geography of the Russian state. But the training of specialists in geography was not provided for, and courses in geography were “supplementary” in the training of historians and philologists.

The dominant trend in geography in Western Europe was regional geography. At the end of the 19th century H. J. MacKinder (Great Britain) and P. Vidal de la Blache (France) published major summaries on regional geography. In Germany major works on geomorphology (A. Penck), general geography (A. Supan), comparative physical geography (K. Ritter), and population geography (F. Ratzel) were published. The German geographer A. Humboldt had a significant influence on the development of geographic education in higher educational institutions. The French geographer and sociologist E. Reclus established in Brussels a special higher educational and scientific institution—an institute of geography. In contrast to Europe geography in the USA developed in close connection with cartography, especially within the War Department.

In 1863, chairs of physical geography were established at Russian universities and in 1884, chairs of geography and ethnology. A number of geographic disciplines were introduced into university curricula, including general physical geography, the geography of Russia, the geography of continents, anthropogeography, ethnology, and the history of geography. An important role in the development of national geographic education was played by the scientific schools at Moscow University (D. N. Anuchin, A. A. Borzov, A. S. Barkov, M. A. Bogolepov, A. A. Kruber, B. F. Dobrynin, S. G. Grigor’ev, and M. S. Bodnarskii) and at the University of St. Petersburg (A. I. Voeikov, P. I. Brounov, V. P. Semenov-Tian-Shanskii, L. S. Berg, Iu. M. Shokal’skii, and others). Geographic education was directed by G. I. Tanfil’ev at the University of Novorossiisk in Odessa, by P. I. Krotov at the University of Kazan, and by A. N. Kras-nov and others at the University of Khar’kov. At the beginning of the 20th century the new textbooks and teaching materials of A. S. Barkov, S. G. Grigor’ev, A. A. Kruber, and S. V. Chefranov played a large part in improving geographic education in schools. Field work was introduced into the curricula of the geographic specializations at higher educational institutions and training bases were established. Specialists with geographic training for research and teaching were trained in faculties of physics and mathematics.

The position of higher geographic education changed drastically after the Great October Revolution. Between 1918 and 1925 the Geographic Institute (a higher educational institution) was operating in Petrograd, and a scientific research institute of geography was established under its auspices in 1922. In 1923 a similar scientific research institute was established at Moscow University. By the end of the 1920’s the universities’ curricula and programs for geographic specializations, in particular economic geography (N. N. Baranskii), had been radically reorganized. Compulsory field work was introduced. In the 1930’s independent geography divisions were established at the universities and, later, geography and geology-geography departments. In subsequent years the graduates of geography departments specialized in even narrower areas and new subdepartments arose. Today, standard geography departments in universities in the USSR include specializations in physical geography, economic geography, geomorphology, meteorology and climatology, land hydrology, oceanography, and cartography.

In the USSR geographers are trained by universities and pedagogical institutes in day, evening, and correspondence programs. The largest centers of geographic education are universities and pedagogical institutes in Moscow, Leningrad, and Kiev. Some universities have geology-biology and geography-biology departments. In their first-year courses at the university students receive broad general geographic training. In advanced courses they study a group of specialized fields, participate in seminars, and receive special practical training (geology, geodesy, and comprehensive geography in scientific research institutes, in schools, and on field expeditions). They also write and defend term papers and graduation theses in the chosen specialization and take state examinations in sociopolitical subjects. The training of geographers at the pedagogical institutes is structured without subdivision into narrow specializations. An important part of the training is the study of pedagogical disciplines (psychology, pedagogy, teaching methods) and student teaching. Many pedagogical institutes train teachers in two specialized areas, such as geography and biology (geography-biology or natural science-geography departments) or history and geography. The curricula at all pedagogical institutes also provide for field work at training bases, as well as regional field work and long expeditions. The period of study in the geographic specializations is four to five years.

In 1970 teachers of geography were trained by 33 universities (18,700 students; annually graduating about 1,600 specialists) and by 77 pedagogical institutes (40,000 students; annually graduating 6,200 specialists, including 300 with two specializations). That year about 10,000 persons were admitted to geography departments (divisions and specializations).

Geographic subjects occupy an important place in the curricula of a number of related specializations at higher educational institutions that train cartographers, hydrologists, meteorologists, climatologists, land use planners, agronomists, forestry experts, economists, and transportation engineers. Geographic subjects are also an important part of the curriculum of special secondary educational institutions, including schools of topography, hydrometeorology, and agriculture.

Graduate study for the training of scientific research and scientific and teaching personnel in the geographic sciences is conducted at higher educational institutions, as well as at the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences of the USSR.

Specialists in geography are trained in all countries of the world where there are universities and pedagogical institutes. In the socialist countries geographic education is developing in all fields of geography. The major centers of geographic education are the oldest universities, including Berlin (capital of the German Democratic Republic), Leipzig, Warsaw, Kraków, and Budapest. In the capitalist countries the nature, direction, and forms of geographic education differ greatly. For example, at major universities in the USA (New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and others) there is narrow specialization in geomorphology, meteorology, hydrology, and the economic geography of branches of the economy. In France (the Sorbonne and other universities) training in regional geography predominates, and the scientific school of population and economic geography is very important. At British universities (Oxford, Cambridge, and London) oceanography occupies a prominent position, along with economic and regional geography. Geography teachers in foreign countries are trained primarily by the universities in three to four years. The future teachers frequently combine two areas of specialization—for example, geography and physics, geography and psychology, or geography and a foreign language. Student teaching occupies a less prominent place in the study program than in Soviet universities and pedagogical institutes.

The secondary general educational school provides a general geographic education. In the USSR geography as an independent subject is systematically taught in grades five through nine. The beginning course in physical geography includes information on topographical and geographic maps and knowledge of the earth’s spheres and the methods of investigating them; physical geography of the continents and of the USSR; and economic geography of the USSR and foreign countries. In some capitalist countries school programs and textbooks in geography emphasize regional geography.


Baranskii, N. N. Istoricheskii obzor uchebnikov geografii (1876 - 1934). Moscow, 1954.
Baranskii, N. N. Ekonomicheskaia geografiia v srednei shkole. Ekonomicheskaia geografiia v vysshei shkole. Moscow, 1957.
Geografiia v Moskovskom Universitete za 200 let (1755-1955). Edited by K. K. Markov, and Iu. G. Saushkin. Moscow, 1955.
Butiagin, A. S., and Iu. A. Saltanov. Universitetskoe obrazovanie v SSSR. Moscow, 1957.
Solov’ev, A. I. Sovremennoe sostoianie i zadachi vysshego geograficheskogo obrazovaniia: Materialy k 4 s’ezdu geograficheskogo obshchestva SSSR. Leningrad, 1964.
Prosveshchenie v stranakh mira. Moscow, 1967.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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