Philological Education in the USSR

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Philological Education in the USSR


an educational system for the preparation of specialists in language and literature, including linguists, literary theorists and critics, teachers, and translators.

The beginning of philological education in ancient Rus’, between the tenth and early 13th centuries, is associated with the introduction and dissemination of Slavonic writing and with the need to translate ecclesiastical works and train native men of learning. Major monasteries acquired large library collections, translated books from Greek, copied manuscripts, and trained the clergy. The children of members of druzhiny (princes’ retinues), learned men, and boyars mastered the knowledge found in books in state schools, which were established by princes to educate public servants. The development of education was hampered by the Mongol-Tatar yoke, established in ancient Rus’ in the 13th century. In the Ukraine and Byelorussia, which were ruled by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, philological education developed in the 16th and 17th centuries in schools run by religious societies; Old Church Slavonic was the principal subject, although Greek, Byelorussian or Ukrainian, Latin, Polish, the trivium, and poetics were studied as well.

In the 17th century, the knowledge of languages and rhetoric was provided by Greek and Latin schools in Moscow, which trained public officials, translators, and teachers. Language schools were established in the early 18th century for the study of ancient and various Western European languages. Before the founding of Moscow University, the principal centers of higher philological education were the Kiev Mogila Academy and the Slavonic-Greco-Latin Academy; the latter’s students included such prominent figures in Russian culture as V. K. Trediakovskii and M. V. Lomonosov. These academies were the primary producers of philologists and teachers.

The Russian language, including grammar, rhetoric and poetics, first became the principal course of study alongside Latin at the Academy University and Academy Gymnasium under the directorship of M. V. Lomonosov, which began in 1758. Lomonosov’s fundamental philological works on the Russian literary language revealed new avenues of approach in the development of scientific and scholarly literature; they included A Letter Concerningthe Rules of Russian Prosody (1739), A Short Guide to Rhetoric (1743), A Short Handbook on Eloquence (1748), Russian Grammar (1755), and Preface Concerning the Use of Sacred Books in the Russian Language (1758).

A new era in philological education in Russia began with the opening of Moscow University in 1755 and the founding of other Russian universities in the 19th century. Courses in literature and rhetoric were taught in Russian in the faculty of philosophy of Moscow University. The Moscow and Kazan Gymnasiums affiliated with Moscow University instituted instruction in Russian, including grammar, rhetoric, and versification; classical and Western European languages were also studied. Literature and languages were fundamental disciplines in the Boarding School for the Nobility, established in 1779, which was affiliated with Moscow University until it became independent in 1791. The school’s students included V. A. Zhukovskii, A. S. Griboedov, and M. Iu. Lermontov. The Philological (Translation) Seminary of Moscow University, which was founded in 1779 as the Teachers’ Seminary by N. I. Novikov and others, educated literary publishers, translators, and teachers; the program, based on the humanities and philology, continued until 1784.

In accordance with the Statute for Educational Institutions (1804), Russian universities taught Greek and Roman literature and history, Russian literature and history, and Western European literatures and languages; the programs of instruction were presented by the departments of philology of the faculties of philosophy. In the first half of the 19th century, philology teachers for higher educational institutions and secondary schools were trained at three-year pedagogical institutes, such as those affiliated with the universities in Moscow, Kazan, and Kharkov; the first such institute was founded in 1804. The same training was also offered at the St. Petersburg Pedagogical Institute (1804–16) and the department of historical and philological sciences of the Chief Pedagogical Institute in St. Petersburg. In 1815 the Lazarev Institute of Oriental Languages was founded in Moscow. Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and other Eastern languages were taught at the universities in Kazan and St. Petersburg. In 1854 the faculty of Eastern languages was organized at St. Petersburg University by M. Kazem-Bek and others; Kazem-Bek also served as the faculty’s first dean.

By the 1830’s, almost all Russian universities had established chairs of Slavic studies. Chairs of history and literatures of the Slavic languages were established at the universities in Moscow, Kazan, St. Petersburg, and Kharkov, and chairs of world literature were established at St. Petersburg and Moscow universities. Departments of Romance and Germanic philology have existed since 1884 at St. Petersburg University and since the early 20th century at the universities in Moscow, Kiev, and Kharkov. Prominent 19th-century authors of scholarly works in philology included F. I. Buslaev, A. Kh. Vostokov, I. I. Sreznevskii, N. S. Tikhonravov, and A. A. Shakhmatov. Of great significance in the development of philological education were the works of revolutionary democrats. The F. F. Fortunatov school of linguistics was established at Moscow University, the A. A. Potebnia school at the University of Kharkov, and the I. A. Baudouin de Courte-nay school at the universities in Kazan and St. Petersburg.

At the Aleksandrovskii Lycée (until 1844, the Tsarskoe Selo Lycée) in St. Petersburg, the Nikolai Lycée in Moscow, and the Demidov Lycée in Yaroslavl, philology was one of the cornerstones of education in the humanities, and it enjoyed the same status as did law in the curricula. Teachers of classical and Western European languages, the Russian language, and Russian literature were also trained at the St. Petersburg (1867) and Nezhin (1875) institutes of history and philology, in advanced courses for women, and in the department of history and literature of the Women’s Pedagogical Institute in St. Petersburg (1903). An important contribution to philological education was made by V. I. Dal’ through publication of his Russian Popular Sayings (1861–62) and A Defining Dictionary of the Living Russian Language (vols. 1–4, 1863–66).

In men’s Gymnasiums—the principal type of secondary general-education school in prerevolutionary Russia in the 19th and early 20th centuries—instruction in the fundamentals of philology became somewhat one-sided because the tsarist regime emphasized the formal-grammar orientation of classical education at the expense of other scholarly subjects. Under the pressure of a progressive public, classicism gradually yielded its position of primacy in the schools. At the beginning of the 20th century, the number of classroom hours devoted to Latin was decreased, and Greek was no longer a required subject in most Gymnasiums. Beginning in the 19th century, the theory of literature and a survey of the history of Russian literature gradually occupied an increasingly important place in curricula.

Since the October Revolution of 1917, the content and organization of philological education have undergone fundamental changes. In the USSR, writing systems have been created for peoples who did not have them previously, and native languages have been introduced for use in instruction. Existing literary languages have been developed further, new ones have been established, and new socialist literatures have been created by the peoples of the USSR. The Russian language has become the language of international communication for all peoples of the USSR.

The social role of literature and literary criticism has also increased. Soviet study of literary theory and criticism, which has developed in close connection with the cultural inquiries of the new society, thoroughly investigates literature, the origin and social implications of literature, the principles of the historical literary process, and the methods of artistic expression. Linguistics has been transformed into a diversified science founded on the Marxist conception of language as a means of human communication. With their efforts to create a theory of the formation and development of literary languages, R. I. Avanesov, S. G. Barkhudarov, V. V. Vinogradov, S. I. Ozhegov, A. M. Peshkovskii, D. N. Ushakov, and L. V. Shcherba have made important contributions to philological education. Problems in literary theory and criticism and in linguistics have been studied by scholars in all the national republics.

Today, philological education is offered at higher educational institutions—universities and pedagogical institutes. In universities it is represented by the study of languages and literatures: Russian, the native languages and literatures of non-Russian peoples of the USSR, Slavic, Eastern, Romance, Germanic, and classical. The Institute of Asian and African Countries at Moscow State University trains philologists in the various languages and literatures of these countries. Several universities have separate departments of Romance and Germanic philology (Voronezh, Ivanovo, and Kiev) and foreign language departments (the Bashkir, Kirghiz, and Latvian universities). The universities of Azerbaijan and Tbilisi have departments of Oriental studies, as do the Far East, Leningrad, and Tadzhik universities and the University of Tashkent. The University of Samarkand has separate departments of Uzbek and Tadzhik, Russian, and Romance and Germanic philology. Pedagogical institutes train teachers of Russian, native languages and literatures, and foreign languages. Pedagogical institutes of foreign languages train instructors for higher educational institutions, teachers for secondary schools, and translators (seeFOREIGN LANGUAGES, PEDAGOGICAL INSTITUTES OF and MOSCOW PEDAGOGICAL INSTITUTE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGES).

Philological education in higher educational institutions includes all branches of linguistics and the study of literary theory and criticism. Students study general linguistics, phonetics, lexicology, grammar, stylistics, dialectology, structural and applied linguistics, mathematical linguistics, the history and theory of literature, and methods of teaching languages and literatures; provision is also made for practice teaching. Much attention is devoted to the theory and practice of translation. The education of a student philologist in a university is completed with defense of a diploma thesis on a selected topic or, in pedagogical institutes, with the successful completion of state examinations. Philological education is also offered at evening and correspondence divisions of universities and pedagogical institutes. The preparation of scholars in philology is continued in graduate study. Philological education is the foundation for training specialists in other fields as well (seeJOURNALISM EDUCATION; LITERATURE, INSTITUTE OF; LIBRARY AND BIBLIOGRAPHICAL EDUCATION; and ). Foreign languages are taught in all higher educational institutions in the USSR.

In addition to the departments of philology in higher educational institutions, an important role in raising the level of philological education is played by the following institutes of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR: the A. M. Gorky Institute of World Literature, the Institute of Slavic and Balkan Studies, the Institute of the Russian Language, the Institute of Linguistics, the Africa Institute, the Institute for Oriental Studies (all located in Moscow), and the Institute of Russian Literature at the Pushkin House (in Leningrad).

The fundamentals of philology, as studied in literature and language courses in the USSR, are part of the student’s general education in the humanities, nonmaterial culture, and the harmonious development of the individual. Such education is offered in general-education schools, specialized secondary educational institutions, and those vocational-technical educational institutions that have a general-education curriculum on the secondary school level in addition to their programs in vocational specializations. The fundamentals of philology also serve as the cornerstone for higher education. In Russian and native language classes, students master basic information about the modern literary language, including the language’s major phonetic characteristics, vocabulary, and grammatical structure, as well as the cultural aspects of the written and spoken use of the language. The core content of literature lessons in schools is the study of the best works of prerevolutionary Russian literature, Soviet literature (including the literatures of peoples of the USSR), and Western European literature; students are also acquainted with the history and theory of literature. The study of English, German, French, and Spanish is designed to provide competence in reading, speaking, and writing.

Since 1947, some secondary general-education schools in large cities have provided programs in the advanced study of foreign languages; in such programs the foreign language may be used as the medium of instruction for a variety of subjects. The study of Eastern languages, such as Arabic, Persian, Chinese, Urdu, and Hindi, has been introduced in certain schools and boarding schools in Moscow, Leningrad, Kazan, the republics of Middle Asia, the Kazakh SSR, and the Azerbaijan SSR.

With the development of the modern sciences of linguistics and literary theory and criticism, the course content and methodology of teaching literatures and languages have improved. Departments of philology concerned with the Russian language and its literature, the native languages and literatures of the USSR, and foreign languages and literatures provide regular assistance to teachers through refresher courses and through participation in the work of institutes for advanced teacher training. Related problems in scholarship are covered in such journals as Filologicheskie nauki (Philological Sciences), Voprosy literatury (Problems of Literature), Voprosy iazykoznaniia (Problems of Linguistics), and various journals written in the languages of the peoples of the USSR. Special journals covering methodology for teachers include Literatura v shkole (Literature in the School), Russkii iazyk v shkole (The Russian Language in School), Russkii iazyk v natsional’noi shkole (The Russian Language in the National School), Inostrannye iazyki v shkole (Foreign Languages in the School), and several other journals published in the Union republics.

Departments of philology and of history and philology maintain ties with educational and scholarly institutions in foreign countries, exchange faculty and students, and participate in the organization and work of international congresses and symposia for linguists, specialists in literature, and ethnographers. At the A. S. Pushkin Institute of the Russian Language in Moscow, research is conducted on problems in the study of Russian as a foreign language, and programs of courses are given for foreign teachers and stazhery (students in special courses not leading to a degree). The publishing house Russkii Iazyk (Russian Language) publishes educational and other literature for foreigners learning Russian as well as scholarly and methodology handbooks for teachers of Russian as a foreign language. The USSR plays an active role in the International Association of Teachers of Russian Language and Literature (president, Academician M. B. Khrapchenko). The People’s Friendship University has a department of history and philology. Seminars for foreign teachers of Russian are organized at major higher educational institutions in the USSR.

Interest in the study of Russian abroad has grown with the increasing international prominence of the USSR. Abroad, Russian is studied in universities and other higher educational institutions and is being introduced as a subject in general-education schools.


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