Tsarskoe Selo Lycée

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Tsarskoe Selo Lycée


a privileged residential institution of higher education for the children of the nobility in prerevolutionary Russia; its principal function was to train high-level state officials. The Lycée was founded in 1810 in Tsarskoe Selo (now Pushkin, Leningrad Oblast); the building in which it was housed was rebuilt from an older one in 1811 (architect, V. P. Stasov), and the Lycée opened on Oct. 19, 1811. It was under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Public Education until 1882, when it was taken over by the military. The Lycée admitted children aged 10 to 12; the number of students ranged from 30 (between 1811 and 1817) to 100 (after 1832).

The Tsarskoe Selo Lycée had a six-year course of study, consisting of two three-year terms; four 1½ year terms were instituted in 1836. The curriculum consisted of the moral sciences (religious instruction, ethics, logic, jurisprudence, and political economy), philology (languages and literature—Russian, Latin, French, and German—and rhetoric), history (Russian and world history and physical geography), physical and mathematical sciences (mathematics, elementary physics and cosmography, mathematical geography, and statistics), and fine arts and physical exercises (penmanship, drawing, dancing, fencing, horseback riding, and swimming).

The Lycée’s academic program underwent several changes, but the original curriculum, based on the humanities and jurisprudence, was preserved. Graduates had the same rights as university graduates, and they were given 14th- to ninth-class standing in the civil ranks. Those who wished to enter military service received supplementary military training and were granted the same rights as graduates of the Corps of Pages. From 1814 to 1829 the Lycée included the Blagorodnyi (Noble) Pension, a boarding school for members of the nobility.

In the Lycée’s early years, from 1811 to 1817, the atmosphere was one of enthusiasm for Russia’s new literature—as represented by N. M. Karamzin, V. A. Zhukovskii, and K. N. Batiushkov—and the French literature of the Enlightenment (Voltaire). Sharing this enthusiasm, a number of young people joined together in a creative students’ group, devoted to literature and poetry, whose spirit came to characterize the Lycée itself. The group included A. S. Pushkin, A. A. Del’vig, W. K. Küchelbecker, V. D. Vol’khovskii, A. D. Illichevskii, K. K. Danzas, and M. L. Iakovlev, and it published various journals in manuscript form—for example, Litseiskii mudrets (The Sage of the Lycée), Vestnik (The Herald), and Dlia udovol’stviia ipol’zy (For Pleasure and Benefit). The group also held literary competitions among its members; Pushkin, Del’vig, and Küchelbecker were among the Lycée’s students whose poetry, beginning in 1814, was published in the well-known journals Vestnik Evropy (Herald of Europe), Rossiiskii muzeum (Russian Museum), and Syn otechestva (Native Son). The Lycée students’ creative work in poetry, as well as their interest in literature, were encouraged by Zhukovskii’s friend N. F. Koshanskii, professor of Russian and Latin languages and literature, and by A. I. Galich, who succeeded him in 1814.

The Lycée at that time was permeated with the ideas of liberation associated with the newly formed Russian ideology of Decembrism. A. P. Kunitsyn, assistant professor of moral sciences, influenced various students, including Pushkin and I. I. Pushchin, to adopt views critical of serfdom. While attending the Lycée, Pushchin, Küchelbecker, and Vol’khovskii frequented the secret circle of the Decembrist I. G. Burtsov at Tsarskoe Selo. Pushchin and Kücheḷbecker formally joined the Decembrists and were convicted.

The year 1825 marked the beginning of harsher restrictions on the Lycée’s students and stronger controls over the selection of instructors and orientation of the lectures. The Lycée was reorganized in late 1843; renamed the Alexander Lycée, it was moved to St. Petersburg in January 1844. The new Lycée came under the jurisdiction of the fourth section of His Imperial Majesty’s personal chancellery; in the late 19th century its administration passed to the Department of Institutions of Empress Mariia. The Lycée was closed with the abrogation of class privileges after the October Revolution of 1917.

In the 33 years of its existence, the Tsarskoe Selo Lycée had 286 graduating students—234 in the civil section, 50 in the military section, and two in the naval section. Many of them entered the ranks of the aristocratic bureaucracy of the Russian Empire—for example, A. M. Gorchakov, A. K. Girs, N. K. Girs, A. V. Golovnin, D. N. Zamiatnin, N. P. Nikolai, N. A. Korsakov, M. A. Korf, S. G. Lomonosov, F. Kh. Steven, and D. A. Tolstoi; they included ministers, diplomats, senators, and members of the Council of State. Others chose scholarly or scientific work in preference to careers in the civil service; this group included K. S. Veselovskii, Ia. K. Grot, and N. Ia. Danilevskii.

Several of the names in the graduating class of 1817 brought the Lycée its greatest historical renown—namely, A. S. Pushkin, A. A. Del’vig, and the Decembrists W. K. Küchelbecker and I. I. Pushchin. The poet L. A. Mei and M. V. Petrashevskii graduated from the Tsarskoe Selo Lycée in the 1840’s, and M. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin attended the Lycée for five years (the last year, 1844, in the Alexander Lycée).


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