Tsifirnye Shkoly

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Tsifirnye Shkoly


(“mathematical,” or “ciphering,” schools), in Russia from 1714 to 1744, state primary schools of general education for boys. By a decree of Peter I, all the provinces and counties were to set up such schools for the compulsory education of all the gentry’s and officials’ children aged 10 to 15. This requirement was subsequently extended to the clergy’s and merchants’ children. The tsifirnye shkoly also admitted children from all the other strata of the population with the exception of the peasantry.

These tuition-free secular schools provided a basic course of instruction in arithmetic and elementary geometry; in addition the schools taught reading of printed Cyrillic (the Civil typeface), writing and geography. The students were given the basic education needed for service in the state institutions, the army, the navy, industry, and trade, as well as for admission to professional schools such as the navigation and admiralty schools. The instructors in the tsifirnye shkoly were graduates of these specialized educational institutions—in particular, of the School of Mathematical and Navigational Sciences in Moscow.

Peter I did not succeed in implementing the compulsory education requirement for the gentry, the clergy, and the merchants. There were 42 tsifirnye shkoly in 1723; thereafter they gradually merged with the garrison schools, bishops’ schools, and mining schools. As a result of the Senate decree of 1744 On Combining the Provinces’ and Counties’ Mathematical and Garrison Schools in One Place, the tsifirnye shkoly ceased to exist as such.


Konstantinov, N. A., and V. Ia. Struminskii. Ocherki po istorii nachal’nogo obrazovaniia v Rossii, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1953. Pages 37–50.
Ocherki istorii shkoly i pedagogicheskoi mysli narodov SSSR: XVIII v. –pervaia polovina XIX v. Editor in chief, M. F. Shabaeva. Moscow, 1973. Chapter 1.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.