V. I.   Lenin

The Question of Ministry of Education Policy[2]


Written: Written April 27 (May 10), 1913
Published: First published in 1930 in the second and third editions of V. I. Lenin’s Collected Works, Vol. XVI. Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 137-146.
Translated: The Late George Hanna
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2004). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.README

Our Ministry of Public (forgive the expression) “Education” boasts inordinately of the particularly rapid growth of its expenditure. In the explanatory note to the 1913 budget by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance we find a summary of the estimates of the Ministry of Public (so-called) Education for the post-revolutionary years. These estimates have increased from 46,000,000 rubles in 1907 to 137,000,000 in 1913. A tremendous growth—almost trebled in something like six years!

But our official praise-mongers who laud the police “law and order” or disorder in Russia ought not to have forgotten that ridiculously small figures always do grow with “tremendous” rapidity when increases in them are given as percentages. If you give five kopeks to a beggar who owns only three his “property” will immediately show a “tremendous” growth—it will be 167 per cent greater!

Would it not have been more fitting for the Ministry, if it did not aim at befogging the minds of the people and concealing the beggarly position of public education in Russia, to cite other data? Would it not have been more fitting to cite figures that do not compare today’s five kopeks with yesterday’s three, but compare what we have with what is essential to a civilised state? He who does not wish to deceive either himself or the people should admit that the Ministry was in duty bound to produce these figures, and that by not producing such figures the Ministry was not doing its duty. Instead of making clear to the people, and the people’s representatives, what the needs of the state are, the   Ministry conceals these needs and engages in a foolish governmental game of figures, a governmental rehash of old figures that explain nothing.

I do not have at my disposal, of course, even a hundredth part of the means and sources for studying public education that are available to the Ministry. But I have made an attempt to obtain at least a little source material. And I assert boldly that I can cite indisputable official figures that really do make clear the situation in our official public “miseducation”.

I take the official government Russian Yearbook for 1910, published by the Ministry of the Interior (St. Petersburg, 1911).

On page 211, I read that the total number attending schools in the Russian Empire, lumping together primary, secondary and higher schools and educational establishments of all kinds, was 6,200,172 in 1904 and 7,095,351 in 1908. An obvious increase. The year 1905, the year of the great awakening of the masses of the people in Russia, the year of the great struggle of the people for freedom under the leadership of the proletariat, was a year that forced even our hidebound Ministry to make a move.

But just look at the poverty we are doomed to, thanks to the retention of officialdom, thanks to the almighty power of the feudal landowners, even under conditions of the most rapid “departmental” progress.

The same Russian Yearbook relates in the same place that there were 46.7 people attending school to every 1,000 in habitants in 1908 (in 1904 the figure was 44.3 to every 1,000 inhabitants).

What do we learn from these figures from a Ministry of the Interior publication that the Ministry of Public Education did not feel inclined to report to the Duma? What does that proportion mean—less than 50 people out of a 1,000 attending school?

It tells us, you gentlemen who uphold our hidebound public miseducation, of the unbelievable backwardness and barbarity of Russia thanks to the omnipotence of the feudal landowners in our state. The number of children and adolescents of school age in Russia amounts to over 20 per cent of the population, that is, to more than one-fifth. Even   Messrs. Kasso and Kokovtsov could without difficulty have learned these figures from their departmental clerks.

And so, we have 22 per cent of the population of school age and 4.7 per cent attending school, which is only a little more than one-fifth! This means that about four-fifths of the children and adolescents of Russia are deprived of public education!

There is no other country so barbarous and in which the masses of the people are robbed to such an extent of education, light and knowledge—no other such country has remained in Europe; Russia is the exception. This reversion of the masses of the people, especially the peasantry, to savagery, is not fortuitous, it is inevitable under the yoke of the landowners, who have seized tens and more tens of millions of dessiatines of land, who have, seized state power both in the Duma and in the Council of State, and not only in these institutions, which are relatively low-ranking institutions....

Four-fifths of the rising generation are doomed to illiteracy by the feudal state system of Russia. This stultifying of the people by the feudal authorities has its correlative in the country’s illiteracy. The same government Russian Year book estimates (on page 88) that only 21 per cent of the population of Russia are literate, and even if children of pre-school age (i.e., children under nine) are deducted from the total population, the number will still be only 27 per cent.

In civilised countries there are no illiterates at all (as in Sweden or Denmark), or a mere one or two per cent (as in Switzerland or Germany). Even backward Austria-Hungary has provided her Slav population with conditions incomparably more civilised than feudal Russia has; in Austria there are 39 per cent of illiterates and in Hungary 50 per cent. It would be as well for our chauvinists, Rights, nationalists and Octobrists to think about these figures, if they have not set themselves the “statesmanlike” aim of forgetting how to think, and of teaching the same to the people. But even if they have forgotten, the people of Russia are learning more and more to think, and to think, furthermore about which class it is that by its dominance in the state condemns the Russian peasants to material and spiritual poverty.

America is not among the advanced countries as far as the number of literates is concerned. There are about 11 per cent   illiterates and among the Negroes the figure is as high as 44 per cent. But the American Negroes are more than twice as well off in respect of public education as the Russian peasantry. The American Negroes, no matter how much they may be, to the shame of the American Republic, oppressed, are better off than the Russian peasants—and they are better off because exactly half a century ago the people routed the American slave-owners, crushed that serpent and completely swept away slavery and the slave-owning state system, and the political privileges of the slave-owners in America.

The Kassos, Kokovtsovs and Maklakovs will teach the Russian people to copy the American example.

In 1908 there were 17,000,000 attending school in America, that is, 192 per 1,000 inhabitantsmore than four times the number in Russia. Forty-three years ago, in 1870, when America had only just begun to build her free way of life after purging the country of the diehards of slavery—forty-three years ago there were in America 6,871,522 people at tending school, i.e., more than in Russia in 1904 and almost as many as in 1908. But even as far back as 1870 there were 178 (one hundred and seventy-eight) people enrolled in schools to every 1,000 inhabitants, little short of four times the number enrolled in Russia today.

And there, gentlemen, you have further proof that Russia still has to win for herself in persistent revolutionary struggle by the people that freedom the Americans won for them selves half a century ago.

The estimate for the Russian Ministry of Public Miseducation is fixed at 136,700,000 rubles for 1913. This amounts to only 80 kopeks per head of the population (170,000,000 in 1913). Even if we accept the “sum-total of state expenditure on education” that the Minister of Finance gives us on page 109 of his explanatory text to the budget, that is, 204,900,000 rubles, we still have only 1 ruble 20 kopeks per head. In Belgium, Britain and Germany the amount expended on education is two to three rubles and even three rubles fifty kopeks per head of the population. In 1910, America expended 426,000,000 dollars, i.e., 852,000,000 rubles or 9 rubles 24 kopeks per head of the population, on public education. Forty-three years ago,   in 1870, the American Republic was spending 126,000,000 rubles a year on education, i.e., 3 rubles 30 kopeks per head.

The official pens of government officials and the officials themselves will object and tell us that Russia is poor, that she has no money. That is true, Russia is not only poor, she is a beggar when it comes to public education. To make up for it, Russia is very “rich” when it comes to expenditure on the feudal state, ruled by landowners, or expenditure on the police, the army, on rents and on salaries of ten thousand rubles for landowners who have reached “high” government posts, expenditure on risky adventures and plunder, yesterday in Korea or on the River Yalu, today in Mongolia or in Turkish Armenia. Russia will always remain poor and beggarly in respect of expenditure on public education until the public educates itself sufficiently to cast off the yoke of feudal landowners.

Russia is poor when it comes to the salaries of school teachers. They are paid a miserable pittance. School-teachers starve and freeze in unheated huts that are scarcely fit for human habitation. School-teachers live together with the cattle that the peasants take into their huts in winter. School-teachers are persecuted by every police sergeant, by every village adherent of the Black Hundreds, by volunteer spies or detectives, to say nothing of the hole-picking and persecution by higher officials. Russia is too poor to pay a decent salary to honest workers in the field of public education, but Russia is rich enough to waste millions and tens of millions on aristocratic parasites, on military ad ventures and on hand-outs to owners of sugar refineries, oil kings and so on.

There is one other figure, the last one taken from American life, gentlemen, that will show the peoples oppressed by the Russian landowners and their government, how the people live who have been able to achieve freedom through a revolutionary struggle. In 1870, in America there were 200,515 school-teachers with a total salary of 37,800,000 dollars, i.e., an average of 189 dollars or 377 rubles per teacher per annum. And that was forty years ago! In America today there are 523,210 school-teachers and their total salaries come to 253,900,000 dollars, i.e., 483 dollars or 966 rubles per teacher per annum. And in Russia, even at the present   level of the productive forces, it would be quite possible at this very moment to guarantee a no less satisfactory salary to an army of school-teachers who are helping to lift the people out of their ignorance, darkness and oppression, if ... if the whole state system of Russia, from top to bottom, were reorganised on lines as democratic as the American system.

Either poverty and barbarism arising out of the full power of the feudal landowners, arising out of the law and order or disorder of the June Third law, or freedom and civilisation arising out of the ability and determination to win freedom—such is the object-lesson Russian citizens are taught by the estimates put forward by the Ministry of Public Education.

So far I have touched upon the purely material, or even financial, aspect of the matter. Incomparably more melancholy or, rather, more disgusting, is the picture of spiritual bondage, humiliation, suppression and lack of rights of the teachers and those they teach in Russia. The whole activity of the Ministry of Public Education in this field is pure mockery of the rights of citizens, mockery of the people. Police surveillance, police violence, police interference with the education of the people in general and of workers in particular, police destruction of whatever the people them selves do for their own enlightenment—this is what the entire activity of the Ministry amounts to, the Ministry whose estimate will be approved by the landowning gentry, from Rights to Octobrists inclusive.

And in order to prove the correctness of my words, gentlemen of the Fourth Duma, I will call a witness that even you, the landowners, cannot object to. My witness is the Octobrist Mr. Klyuzhev, member of the Third and Fourth Dumas, member of the supervisory council of the Second and Third Women’s Gymnasia in Samara, member of the school committee of the Samara City Council, member of the auditing board of the Samara Gubernia Zemstvo, former inspector of public schools. I have given you a list of the offices and titles (using the official reference book of the Third Duma) of this Octobrist to prove to you that the government itself, the landowners themselves in our landowners’ Zemstvo, have given Mr. Klyuzhev most important posts in   the “work” (the work of spies and butchers) of our Ministry of Public Stultification.

Mr. Klyuzhev, if anybody, has, of course, made his entire career as a law-abiding, God-fearing civil servant. And, of course, Mr. Klyuzhev, if anybody, has by his faithful service in the district earned the confidence of the nobility and the landowners.

And now here are some passages from a speech by this most thoroughly reliable (from the feudal point of view) witness; the speech was made in the Third Duma in respect of the estimate submitted by the Ministry of Public Education.

The Samara Zemstvo, Mr. Klyuzhev told the Third Duma, unanimously adopted the proposal of Mr. Klyuzhev to make application for the conversion of some village two-year schools into four-year schools. The regional supervisor, so the law-abiding and God-fearing Mr. Klyuzhev reports, refused this. Why? The official explanation was: “in view of the insignificant number of children of school age.

And so Mr. Klyuzhev made the following comparison: we (he says of landowner-oppressed Russia) have not a single four-year school for the 6,000 inhabitants of the Samara villages. In the town of Serdobol (Finland) with 2,800 in habitants there are four secondary (and higher than secondary) schools.

This comparison was made by the Octobrist, the most worthy Peredonov[1] ... excuse the slip, the most worthy Mr. Klyuzhev in the Third Duma. Ponder over that comparison, Messrs. Duma representatives, if not of the people, then at least of the landowners. Who made application to open schools? Could it be the Lefts? The muzhiks? The workers? God forbid! It was the Samara Zemstvo that made the application unanimously, that is, it was the Samara landowners, the most ardent Black-Hundred adherents among them. And the government, through its supervisor, refused the request on the excuse that there was an “insignificant” number of children of school age! Was I not in every way right when I said that the government hinders public education in Russia, that the government is the biggest enemy of public education in Russia?

The culture, civilisation, freedom, literacy, educated women and so on that we see in Finland derive exclusively from there being no such “social evil” as the Russian Government in Finland, Now you want to foist this evil on Fin land and make her, too, an enslaved country. You will not, succeed in that, gentlemen! By your attempts to impose political slavery on Finland you will only accelerate the awakening of the peoples of Russia from political slavery!

I will quote another passage from the Octobrist witness, Mr. Klyuzhev. “How are teachers recruited?” Mr. Klyuzhev asked in his speech and himself provided the following answer:

One prominent Samara man, by the name of Popov, bequeathed the necessary sum to endow a Teachers’ Seminary for Women.” And who do you think was appointed head of the Seminary? This is what the executor of the late Popov writes: “The widow of a General of the Guard, was appointed head of the Seminary and she herself admitted that this was the first time in her life she had heard of the existence of an educational establishment called a Teachers’ Seminary for Women”!

Don’t imagine that I took this from a collection of Demyan Bedny’s fables, from the sort of fable for which the magazine Prosveshcheniye was fined and its editor imprisoned. Nothing of the sort. This fact was taken from the speech of the Octobrist Klyuzhev, who fears (as a God-fearing and police-fearing man) even to ponder the significance of this fact. For this fact, once again, shows beyond all doubt that there is no more vicious, no more implacable enemy of the education of the people in Russia than the Russian Government. And gentlemen who bequeath money for public education should realise that they are throwing it away, worse than throwing it away. They desire to bequeath their money to provide education for the people, but actually it turns out that they are giving it to Generals of the Guards and their widows. If such philanthropists do not wish to throw their money away they must understand that they should bequeath it to the Social-Democrats, who alone are able to use that money to provide the people with real education that is really independent of “Generals of the Guards”—and of timorous and law-abiding Klyuzhevs.

Still another passage from the speech of the same Mr. Klyuzhev.

It was in vain that we of the Third Duma desired free access to higher educational establishments for seminar pupils. The Ministry did not deem it possible to accede to our wishes.” “Incidentally the government bars the way to higher education, not to seminar pupils alone, but to the children of the peasant and urban petty-bourgeois social estates in general. This is no elegant phrase but the truth,” exclaimed the Octobrist official of the Ministry of Public Education. “Out of the 119,000 Gymnasium students only 18,000 are peasants. Peasants constitute only 15 per cent of those studying in all the establishments of the Ministry of Public Education. In the Theological Seminaries only 1,300 of the 20,500 pupils are peasants. Peasants are not admitted at all to the Cadet Corps and similar institutions.” (These passages from Klyuzhev’s speech were, incidentally, cited in an article by K. Dobroserdov in Nevskaya Zvezda No. 6, for 1912, dated May 22, 1912.)

That is how Mr. Klyuzhev spoke in the Third Duma. The depositions of that witness will not be refuted by those who rule the roost in the Fourth Duma. The witness, against his own will and despite his wishes, fully corroborates the revolutionary appraisal of the present situation in Russia in general, and of public education in particular. And what, indeed, does a government deserve that, in the words of a prominent government official and member of the ruling party of Octobrists, bars the way to education for the peasants and urban petty bourgeois?

Imagine, gentlemen, what such a government deserves from the point of view of the urban petty bourgeoisie and the peasants!

And do not forget that in Russia the peasants and the urban petty bourgeoisie constitute 88 per cent of the population, that is, a little less than nine-tenths of the people. The nobility constitute only one and a half per cent. And so the government is taking money from nine-tenths of the people for schools and educational establishments of all kinds and using that money to teach the nobility, barring the way to the peasant and urban petty bourgeois! Is it not clear what this government of the nobility deserves? This government that oppresses nine-tenths of the population in order to preserve the privileges of one-hundredth of the population—what does it deserve?

And now, finally, for the last quotation from my witness, the Octobrist official of the Ministry of Public Education, and member of the Third (and Fourth) Dumas, Mr. Klyuzhev:

In the five years from 1906 to 1910,” said Mr. Klyuzhev, “in the Kazan area, the following have been removed from their posts: 21 head masters of secondary and primary schools, 32 inspectors of public schools and 1,054 urban school-teachers; 870 people of these categories have been transferred. Imagine it,” exclaimed Mr. Klyuzhev, “how can our school-teacher sleep peacefully? He may go to bed in Astrakhan and not be sure that he will not be in Vyatka the next day. Try to understand the psychology of the pedagogue who is driven about like a hunted rabbit!”

This is not the exclamation of some “Left” school-teacher, but of an Octobrist. These figures were cited by a diligent civil servant. He is your witness, gentlemen of the Right, nationalists and Octobrists! This witness of “yours” is compelled to admit the most scandalous, most shameless and most disgusting arbitrariness on the part of the government in its attitude to teachers! This witness of yours, gentlemen who rule the roost in the Fourth Duma and the Council of State, has been forced to admit the fact that teachers in Russia are “driven” like rabbits by the Russian Government!

On the basis provided by this fact, one of thousands and thousands of similar facts in Russian life, we ask the Russian people and all the peoples of Russia: do we need a government to protect the privileges of the nobility and to “drive” the people’s teachers “like rabbits”? Does not this government deserve to be driven out by the people?

Yes, the Russian people’s teachers are driven like rabbits. Yes, the government bars the way to education to nine-tenths of the population of Russia. Yes, our Ministry of Public Education is a ministry of police espionage, a minis try that derides youth, and jeers at the people’s thirst for knowledge. But far from all the Russian peasants, not to mention the Russian workers, resemble rabbits, honourable members of the Fourth Duma. The working class were able to prove this in 1905, and they will be able to prove again, and to prove more impressively, and much more seriously, that they are capable of a revolutionary struggle for real freedom and for real public education and not that of Kasso or of the nobility.


[1] Peredonov—a type of teacher-spy and dull lout from Sologub’s novel The Petty Imp. —Lenin

[2] Lenin prepared this draft speech for a Bolshevik deputy to the Duma; the speech was delivered on June 4 (17), 1913 by A. E. Badayev during the debate on the Budget Committee’s report on estimates of the Ministry of Education for 1913. The greater part of Lenin’s draft was read almost word for word by Badayev, but he did not finish the speech. When he read the sentence “Does not this government deserve to be driven out by the people?” he was deprived of the right to speak.

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