Korenizatsiia: How the National School is made Indigenous

M. Nadezhdin, How the National School is made Indigenous: Results of an Investigation. 1933


With M. Solomonov


Original Source: Revolutsiia i natsionalnosti, No. 1 (1933).

At the beginning of the Second Five-Year Plan, general education extended to all the National Republics and districts which used to be culturally the most backward ones, not to speak of such large Republics as the Ukraine, where as early as 1930-31 no more than 2 per cent of the children between eight and ten remained outside school … In 1921-22, 1,430,000 children were taught in the schools of the Ukraine; in 1924-25, 1,844,000; in 1927-28, 2,383,000; in 1929-30, 2,873,000; in 1930-31, 3,758,000; in 1932-33, 4,208,000. No capitalist country has known such rates of making school education accessible to the children of the broad working masses. Let us quote a few more National Republics and Provinces:

Buryat-Mongolia, on the eve of the October Revolution, had only 48 schools, but in 1932-33 it had already 700, including 319 national schools. Before the Revolution, there were 1,000 pupils; in 1932-33 they numbered 67,000, including 27,000 Buryat-Mongols. 92 per cent of the children of the whole Republic had been admitted to the schools. Compared to the preceding year, the number of schools in the current school year increased by 8 per cent, and the number of national Buryat schools by 11 per cent. The number of pupils in the whole Republic has grown by 33 per cent, and for Buryat schools by 45 per cent. Thus, the national school in the Republic developed faster than the Russian school. Steps have been taken to admit 82 per cent of those completing the elementary (fourth group) national school into the fifth group, in the academic year 1932-33. In all national schools, the teaching is in the native tongue and in the Latin script.

The incorporation of Bashkiria in the Ural Kuzbass system makes for radical changes in her social and economic structure. Under the conditions of rapid industrialization and a consistent application of the Leninist national policy, immense successes have been achieved in Bashkiria also on the front of elementary education. Before the Revolution, the Bashkirs did not even have a written language of their own, nor were there any Bashkir children in the Russian schools. The proportion of the children of all nationalities who attended school in the territory of Bashkiria prior to the October Revolution hardly amounted to 30 per cent. The illiteracy among the Bashkirs reached 99.5 per cent, i.e. it was almost total. By 1929-30 58 per cent of the children had been admitted to the schools, and to-day 99.3 per cent of the children of school age are attending school in Bashkiria. At the present time preparations are in hand for the introduction of universal seven-year teaching, which must be in operation in the 1932-33 academic year. So far, only 69 per cent of the children who have completed the first stage are attending the seven-year school.

In Uzbekistan, under the Tsarist regime, the general literacy of the population amounted to hardly 2 per cent. But in 1932 every third inhabitant of Uzbekistan was receiving education. The increase in the number of children admitted to education was particularly noticeable during the last few years owing to the introduction of universal elementary education. The teaching in all the schools under the People’s Commissariat of Education of the Uzbek SSR, including also the secondary schools, is in the native tongue. In the 1932-33 academic year, all the higher educational establishments are to go over to teaching in the native tongue.

In Tataria, the plan for universal education has been accomplished by more than 90 per cent. Education in all the schools is conducted in the native tongue, and all the illiterate adults up to the age of forty have been drawn into education. A pedagogical institute and a communist institute for higher education have been opened. Before the Revolution the literacy in Tataria amounted to 19 per cent, at present it exceeds 90 per cent. Universal elementary education has already been introduced. Tataria is tackling the introduction of the seven-year program of universal education.

A recent mass check on the national schools in the RSFSR has revealed that, among the overwhelming majority of the nationalities (except for the territory of the extreme north), universal education has, in fact, already been introduced, and that 80 per cent of the teaching in the first stage is in the native tongue. This means that universal school education has been introduced in 70 languages, and that it includes as many as 2,060,000 children, as against 1,506,000 children in the 1930-31 academic year.

The check-up has also shown that the plans for universal education and the korenizatsiia of the national schools have been accomplished in the main by the time fixed by the government. Several national autonomous units have reached, before the appointed time, the preliminary figures of the universal education plan allocated to them. They include Daghestan, Bashkiria, Buryat-Mongolia and others. In 1932-33 many national units are to pass from the four-year course of universal education to the seven-year course in the villages as well as in the cities. These include Chuvashiia, Tataria, the Crimea, the Western Province. In other national units, in the 1932-33 academic year, the seven-year course of study is introduced only in the cities, at the new constructions, in the state farms and in the districts of complete collectivization.

The achievements in school development are both quantitative and qualitative. It has been shown beyond doubt that compared to pre-revolutionary times the content of the work of the national school has changed in matters of principle; many national schools are making exemplary efforts in reorganizing their work by consistently conforming to the resolution of the Central Committee of the CPSU(b) of September 5, 1931.

In various parts of the RSFSR (such as the Nenets and Vitimo-Olekmin counties, in Buryat-Mongolia, Kalmykia, Daghestan, in the Volga-German Republic, Tataria and others) many schools have been able to put the organization of teaching work into proper order. They have raised the quality of communist upbringing and education, and have mobilized the forces and resources of the local public for the cause of education. The work of the pioneer organizations and pupils’ self-government in the national school have been developed.

Owing to the introduction of universal education and the ever-expanding korenizatsiia of the school, the national teaching cadres have considerably grown in numbers, and the teaching staff has much improved as a result of the influx of Komsomol members, workers and collective farmers. In some districts the party and Komsomol members among the teachers amounted to 20-30 and even 50 per cent.

The construction of school buildings has been accelerated. In Daghestan, apart from the schools provided for in the budget, 100 buildings are being constructed solely by the forces and resources of the local working population.

In many distant and out-of-the-way districts of semi-nomadic regions, where 75 per cent of the schools are in buildings adapted to school needs, the necessary repairs are often neglected, and the population is not being sufficiently drawn into the work. Alongside the advanced national autonomous units (in the Central Black-Earth Region, the Northern Caucasus, the Urals and Daghestan) there are many others where the school buildings have been left unfinished for several years.

But wherever the people know how to adopt local building materials, the plans for school construction are accomplished successfully (Eastern Siberia, Daghestan, the Leningrad Province, the Volga-German Republic).

The organs of National Education are not giving sufficient direction to school construction. The People’s Commissariat of Education of the RSFSR has worked out a building project for the five-year school, but it has not yet reached many of the outlying national districts.

The following is a picture of the work in the national schools. With some difficulty the brigade inspecting national schools reached the Avar aul of Sugrat (Daghestan). The only means of getting there was on horseback over mountain paths. The inhabitants of the aul had built a good school: at present the school has eight forms. The teacher showed the brigade a thorough plan of study for 1932-33. By attending the current lessons, the brigade ascertained that the teaching of arithmetic, geography and social sciences was properly organized. The pupils from the mountain tribes showed good interest. In the opinion of the brigade leader, they knew more than is required of them (in the elementary school). A locksmith’s shop, a joiner’s shop and a smithy are attached to the school, but their equipment is equally primitive: there is not a single lathe. In the workshops the pupils are taught by an Avar instructor. The older pupils themselves make the school furniture, and also the tools required for their workshops-planes, benches, joining planes, drills, chisels, knives. They have replaced on their typewriter the Russian by the Latin script and are producing complicated things such as knives, razors and so forth. The fame of the school, from which well-trained master craftsmen are graduating, has spread throughout the whole of Daghestan …

Apart from the considerable successes which have been achieved, the work of most of the national schools is still unsatisfactory. In some schools, distortions of the party line on universal education and the polytechnization of the school are reflected in the use of the pupils as a labor force, and in the overburdening of the teachers with technical office work. When that occurs, the level of knowledge among the pupils goes down, and in many national schools it is plainly unsatisfactory. It happened that the number of subjects has been reduced, so that the school education was whittled down to overcoming illiteracy.

Nor are the problems of anti-religious and international education given their due place in the national school. The ways and means of that work are outmoded: religious holidays are sporadically used as occasion for it instead of its being integrated with the whole of teaching.

The korenizatsiia of the national school is still far from complete. There are still cases of Russification of the national school, of chauvinism on the part of the predominant nationality and of a failure duly to rebuff it. Thus, the investigation has produced evidence of Tatarization of Bashkir schools in Tataria.

The korenizatsiia of the school meets with great difficulties, especially in districts where the national minorities are interspersed among the mass of the population of a different nationality. Generally the nationality which is more numerous is better provided with teachers and text-books. That is why more attention must be paid to the national minorities and to their cultural requirements. It has been observed, for instance, that in the Tatar Republic the Nenets schools have no text-books. In the Ukraine, too, the needs of the national minorities’ schools in many places are taken too little account of.

In those national minorities’ schools of Magnitogorsk which have been inspected, the new school curricula are in the Russian language: this greatly impedes the work of the teachers who do not speak Russian. The Tatar-Bashkir schools have no text-books in the vernacular, and during the whole of the last academic year Russian text-books had to be used. The schools had also to make frequent use of the local Tatar newspaper in lieu of text-books. The Tatar-Bashkir Factory Workshop School has no text-books in physics and mathematics at all (not even in the Russian language), except for one or two copies used by the teachers. The investigating brigade has also noted that the curricula of these schools do not draw enough on-the concrete local material-such as the construction of Magnitogorsk, and sovkhoz and kolkhoz development in the Magnitogorsk district. The subjects of natural science are not sufficiently related to the mineral resources of the Urals.

In many districts of the Urals, korenizatsiia has not been applied to more than 50 per cent of the national schools of the higher grade. Characteristically, the teachers in the local organizations are advancing the following unconvincing ‘justifications’ of the slow rates of korenizatsiia. If, they say, the secondary school teaches the children in their native tongue, they will not be able to enter the higher educational establishments or technical schools; they will either not pass the entrance examination or find study difficult.

At the same time, cases of what might be called artificial korenizatsiia of the schools are evident. This applies, in particular, to the Ukrainian schools in Western Siberia and others. In those districts attempts at korenizatsiia of the schools are made against the wishes of the population, who have long forgotten their native tongue and for whose young generation, in particular, it has become alien and unfamiliar. Such attempts are a distortion and violation of the party’s policy of switching the schools to the pupils’ mother-tongue.

The lack or shortage of text-books, periodical text-books and teaching appliances is the sorest spot in the work of the national schools. It is, to a large extent, the root cause of the slowness with which the national schools are being based upon the indigenous civilization. When teaching mathematics, the teacher explains it in the native tongue, but when writing down the theorem on the blackboard, he uses the Russian language and quotes Russian scientific terms. This, of course, makes it very difficult for the children to understand the theorem. The Provincial State Publishing House must do everything possible to increase, both in the center and locally, the publication of text-books for the national schools. It is necessary to give the collective of text-book authors the benefit of public attention and assistance.

The korenizatsiia of the schools depends in particular on the training of the teaching cadres. The qualifications of most of the national teachers are unsatisfactory: in some regions 50-70 per cent of the elementary school teachers have only had elementary education and short-term training. The efforts to improve the qualifications of the national teachers are not yet up to the required level.

Correspondence teaching in the national language is almost wholly lacking, and the teacher who has finished the elementary school, has attended two or three months’ courses, and knows no Russian, has often no means of improving his qualifications.

The instructors and the organs of National Education are not giving enough methodological direction to the work of the national teachers as a whole, nor do the schools serving the masses receive sufficient assistance from the model national schools. Most of the national regions suffer from an almost complete lack of methodological literature in the national languages on the teaching curricula and the polytechnization of the schools.

The People’s Commissariat of Education of the RSFSR has raised the extremely important question of concentrating the training and retraining of cadres of teachers and instructors in methodology and the publication of text-books and methodological literature in the national languages for small groups of national minorities in those Autonomous Provinces, Territories and Republics where those particular nationalities predominate. But such a concentration does not in any way imply that the National Education Departments of those districts and the other educational and public organizations, Soviet bodies, assistance councils and so forth are released from the duty to assist in every way in the training of cadres and the provision of the national schools with text-books and teaching aids in the native tongue.

Consultation in aid of the young teacher must be organized at the model schools and pedagogical technical schools and institutes in every district. It is necessary to hold regular conferences of young teachers, and in the schools to attach them to old and experienced teachers.

Due attention should be paid to the training of women teachers. In some national districts where environmental survivals are particularly strong, it is necessary at this stage to organize special schools for girls, since they are not allowed to go to schools where men are teaching. The local organizations and the local public do not always pay attention to this aspect of the matter.

A negative factor considerably affecting the work of the national schools is the extensive non-attendance by the pupils, particularly towards the end of the year: this occurs even in those national schools which are crowded at the beginning of the academic year. In some national districts, as many as 50-60 per cent of the pupils are falling off. In some schools of Kirghizia and Bashkiria, only 40 per cent of the pupils had remained in the schools by May 1932. In certain schools of Daghestan, Kalmykia and the northern territory, attendances fell to 15 per cent in the spring of 1932, and in the Komi province the lessons ceased officially by May 1. The shortcomings in the provision and maintenance of the schools and boarding schools, salary arrears, or failure to supply hot meals-such are the reasons why the pupils are staying away from the schools. Their dropping out, therefore, is due to the lack of administrative abilities and initiative on the part of the local organizations, individual district officials and the schools themselves. Of course, the movement of groups of the population in the national regions to the pastures and to fishing and seasonal work has also a serious effect on the school attendance by the end of the academic year. This is an additional proof that the local authorities have not yet learned to adapt themselves to the specific conditions in which semi-nomadic populations live.

Small-scale schools, traveling schools and separate schools for girls are often lacking in those districts where they are particularly required. There are also few schools for backward children. It happens that, in one and the same group, an eight-year-old pupil sits beside a fifteen-year-old one.

In several republics and provinces (Kalmykia, Kazakhstan, Bashkiria) it has happened that the local organizations have failed to ensure that the teachers received their salaries in time and were provided with the stipulated food norms. The poor material position of the teachers cannot, of course, but affect the quality of the teaching. There is no need to prove that satisfactory material provision (school buildings, equipment, supplying the teachers with necessities) is a most important factor in improving the quality of the teaching in the difficult and peculiar conditions of the national schools.

The local means and resources for improving the provision of the schools are not sufficiently utilized. There is little information about the organization of school kitchen gardens, rabbit hutches and similar subsidiary economies.

It is necessary to devote more attention to the peculiarities of the national schools, the peculiarities of the national minority schools, the problems of universal education, the polytechnization of the national schools, the removal of the ‘inherent shortage’ of school buildings, the training of cadres, and the publication of text-books and literature in the native tongues. It is necessary to improve the guidance provided for the national school by the People’s Commissariat of Education and the organs of National Education.

Source: Rudolf Schlesinger, ed., Changing Attitudes in Soviet Russia; the nationalities problem and Soviet administration (London: Routledge & K. Paul, 1956), pp. 204-211.

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