Historical Education

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Historical Education


in Russia and the USSR, the system of training teaching and research personnel in history.

In Russia historical education as an independent branch of higher education developed in the early 19th century. Historical subjects were introduced in philological departments of universities in 1804. History and philology sections were established in the philosophical faculties of four universities in 1835. These sections were reorganized as faculties with special chairs of history in 1849, offering courses in Russian history, philology and systematization, the history and literature of the Slavic peoples, ancient and medieval history, the theory and history of the fine arts, the auxiliary historical disciplines, Greek and Roman philology, and Oriental languages. History was taught in the spirit of the official theory of “autocracy, Orthodoxy, and nationalism.” revolutionary historical thought, represented by the works of the Decembrists and the revolutionary democrats, was persecuted. Nevertheless, the establishment of special chairs of history and faculties of history and philology in the universities promoted the development of the science of history. A number of leading Russian scholars of the bourgeois-liberal school, including T. N. Granovskii, S. M. Solov’ev, and V. O. Kliuchev-skii, greatly contributed to the development of Russian historical education.

The University Charter of 1863 had a favorable effect on the development of historical education. In the 1870’s seminars were introduced alongside lectures. At the end of the 19th and early 20th century the teaching of history was influenced by the ideological and methodological crisis of bourgeois historical science that intensified in the period of imperialism and that was marked by preoccupation with minor research problems and the spread of the theory that the laws of historical development cannot be known.

The creation of a fundamentally new system of historical education, based on Marxist-Leninist theory, was begun after the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution. The Socialist Academy of the Social Sciences was founded in Moscow in 1918; in 1924 it was reorganized as the Communist Academy with an institute of history. The Society of Marxist Historians, formed in 1925, significantly influenced historical education in the USSR. In 1919 the history and philology faculties of the universities were reorganized into departments of social sciences (FONy), including history sections. Communists, both teachers and research workers, were assigned to teach in the universities. In 1921 the Institute of the Red Professoriat (IKP) was organized to train Marxist scholars; in 1925 the IKP was divided into several institutes, including an institute of history. In 1925, the departments of social sciences were replaced by humanities departments, including ethnology and history-archaeology sections (these departments were abolished in 1931). The Moscow Institute of History, Philosophy, and Literature (MIFLI) was founded in 1931, subsequently merging with the corresponding departments of Moscow State University (1941). The Leningrad Institute of History, Philosophy, and Linguistics (LIFLI) functioned from 1931 to 1937.

The reorganization of historical education at the end of the 1920’s and the beginning of the 1930’s was, as shown by experience, in many respects unjustified and in practice led essentially to the destruction of the system of historical education. This development was closely linked to the virtual abolition of the teaching of history in secondary school. The decree of the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR and of the Central Committee of the ACP (Bolshevik) of May 16, 1934, On the Teaching of Civic History in School elaborated the basic principles for the teaching and study of history and pointed out that it was inadmissible to ignore historical education. This resolution marked a turning point in the development of historical education in the USSR. Departments of history were established at the universities of Moscow and Leningrad in 1934 and subsequently at many other universities and pedagogical institutes. New history textbooks for secondary and higher schools were prepared under the supervision of the Central Committee of the ACP (B) in the late 1930’s. In the course of this work, Marxist-Leninist solutions to a number of important problems of the history of the USSR and of world history were found. Among the many prominent Soviet scholars who made important contributions to the development of historical education in the USSR were B. D. Grekov, N. M. Druzhinin, E. V. Tarle, M. V. Nech-kina, M. N. Tikhomirov, E. A. Kosminskii, A. M. Pankratova, S. D. Skazkin, V. M. Khvostov, I. I. Mints, A. S. Bubnov, and E. Iaroslavskii, who helped prepare textbooks for higher and secondary schools.

The present system of Soviet historical education developed in the 1930’s. In the USSR in 1971 specialists in historical education were being trained at more than 150 universities and pedagogical institutes in day, evening, and correspondence courses. History curricula include courses in the history of the USSR, archaeology, and world history (ancient, medieval, modern, and contemporary history; the history of the West and South Slavs and of the countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America), courses in such historical disciplines as historiography and the study of sources, and courses in the history of philosophy, of religion and atheism, and of art. An important place in the history curriculum is devoted to the study of methodological and socioeconomic disciplines, such as Marxist-Leninist philosophy, scientific communism, and political economy, to the history of the CPSU, and to one or several foreign languages. Since the principal task of historical education is the training of teachers of history and social science, history curricula include a number of pedagogical disciplines—pedagogy, psychology, and methods of teaching history and social science. In the university about 20 percent of the student’s classroom time is devoted to his area of specialization—the history of the USSR, world history, archaeology, museology or archival science, ethnology, the history of religion and scientific atheism, or the history of a single country. In pedagogical institutes historians are trained without specialization. Practice teaching and practical training takes place in schools, on archaeological and ethnologic expeditions, and in archives and museums. Historians specializing in the countries of Asia and Africa are trained in the departments of Oriental Studies at the universities of Yerevan, Leningrad, Tashkent, and Tbilisi, at the University of the Far East in Vladivostok, and at the Institute of Oriental Languages of Moscow State University. Specialists in the history of the arts are trained at the universities of Moscow, Leningrad, and Tbilisi and at the University of the Urals in Sverdlovsk. In universities the course of study is five years and in pedagogical institutes, four years (for history teachers with a knowledge of a foreign language it is five years). Instruction in universities and in most pedagogical higher educational institutions is completed by defending a diploma thesis and passing state examinations.

In 1971 there were 104,700 students specializing in history in universities and pedagogical institutes, including students in evening and correspondence courses. Of these, about 45,000 were enrolled in universities. That same year approximately 20,000 students were admitted to history departments, including 7,700 at universities, and 15,700 specialists in history graduated, including more than 6,000 from universities. In addition, more than 3,000 students were being trained in historical-archive science at the Moscow Historical-Archive Institute.

Research and research-teaching personnel are trained in graduate programs offered by higher educational institutions, by the scientific research institutions of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and of the republic academies, and by the scientific research institutions of the Academy of Social Sciences attached to the Central Committee of the CPSU. Specializations in these graduate programs include the history of the CPSU, the history of the USSR, the history of the workers’ and communist movements, world history, the history of international relations and foreign policy, historiography, and the study of sources. Over 3,000 students specializing in history were being trained in graduate programs in 1971.

In 1971 there were over 166,000 history teachers in general secondary schools and 26,500 research and teaching-research workers in history in higher educational institutions and scientific research institutions, including about 12,000 doctors and candidates of sciences. Between 1937 and 1971 the Supreme Attestation Commission approved the academic degree of doctor of historical sciences for 1,700 persons and the degree of candidate of historical sciences for 15,700 persons.

Departments for improving the qualifications of history teachers in higher educational institutions were organized at the end of the 1960’s at the universities of Moscow, Kiev, and Leningrad, at the University of the Urals, at the Moscow Pedagogical Institute, and at a number of other large higher educational institutions. To raise the qualifications of history teachers in secondary schools, institutes for the advanced training of teachers have been established in all the republics and oblasts of the USSR.

Specialized courses in the history of the national economy, the history of economic studies, the history of the state and law, the history of philosophy, the history of science and technology, and the history of art are offered in the corresponding departments of various higher educational institutions. Courses in the history of the CPSU, philosophy, political economy, and scientific communism are obligatory at all higher educational institutions, taking into account the student’s field of specialization.

General historical education is provided in secondary schools, both general and specialized, and includes the study of basic facts about the history of the ancient world, the Middle Ages, modern and contemporary history, the history of the USSR, and social science.


Bushchik, L. P. Ocherk razvitiia shkol’nogo istoricheskogo obrazovaniia vSSSR. Moscow, 1961.
“O rabote istoricheskikh fakul’tetov gosudarstvennykh universitetov” (K 25-Ietiiu postanovleniia TsK VKP(b) i SNK SSSR “O prepodavanii grazhdanskoi istorii v shkolakh SSSR”). Voprosy istorii, 1959, no. 7, 11, 12; 1960, no. 1.
Alekseeva, G. D. Oktiabr’skaia revoliutsiia i istoricheskaia nauka v Rossii (1917–1923). Moscow, 1968.


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