Almost simultaneously with the creation of the Red Army, a struggle began in its ranks against a grave inheritance from the old order – the illiteracy of the Red soldiers.
Regardless of the difficulties of life on the march or at the front, this struggle was not suspended even for one moment, and it produced extremely valuable results. Whereas in the old Tsarist army 85 per cent of the men were illiterate, in the Red Army, after the appropriate measures had been taken, 85 per cent were literate. By the end of 1920 the Army was coming close to the moment that would see not only the rout of the last major hireling of foreign capital, Baron Wrangel, but also that of the other most evil enemy of the working masses – illiteracy, that is, complete ignorance.
But it is only since the Army has entered a peacetime situation that it has become possible to wage a fully planned struggle against illiteracy. At the present time there is still a rather big percentage of illiterate Red Army men in certain units, especially where the fresh reinforcements are concerned.
This must not be.
We must set ourselves the task of liquidating illiteracy in the Army, at any cost, by the day of the militant festival of worldwide proletarian solidarity, by May 1, 1922, and we must make the festival of the First of May this year the festival of 100-percent literacy in the Army.
All commanders, commissars and political workers are instructed to carry out with maximum energy a campaign of struggle against illiteracy in their units, putting into effect steadily and with full persistence the provisions of the Revolutionary War Council of the Republic’s Order No.2915 of 1921 
Developing the aforesaid order, and supplementing its Point 3, it is ordered that:
(1) At once, on the responsibility of the commanders and commissars of units, a careful check is to be made on the state of literacy in units, and the results of the registration of illiterates are to be communicated to the appropriate higher authority, through the usual channels.
(2) Without disrupting the work in progress in the Red Army schools of literacy and of a higher type at the time when this order is published, all the illiterates found in regiments are to be assigned to special educational companies or squadrons, and those in other separate units, to special educational squads.
(3) Where there is found to be a shortage of experienced specialist teachers, and also in those units in which, owing to the nature of their service (extreme dispersion of the unit, or other circumstances), it is not possible to carry out fully the assignment of illiterates to separate educational companies, the teaching of illiterate Red Army men is to be carried on by the method of comradely mutual instruction, wherever possible under the guidance of experienced school instructors and specialist teachers.
For this purpose the illiterate Red Army men are to be divided into groups of not more than five, and individuals from the commanding personnel, or Red Army men with a good standard of literacy, are to be attached to them and, under the guidance of specialist school workers, to undertake the teaching of the illiterates.
(4) As many hours as possible are to be devoted to school work every day.
(5) Illiterate Red Army men who have been assigned to school work are to be exempted from all duties and missions except for the internal duties ordered by higher authority, and they are to be deprived of the right to leave for the entire period in which they are being taught.
This measure is to apply also to those Red Army men who have been assigned to work as teachers of the illiterates.
(6) By order of divisional commanders and persons possessing the same powers, at the end of April a check is to be made on the state of literacy in all the units subordinate to them, and the most distinguished of these units are to be put up for awards. When a man has completed his course of instruction, he is to be given a certificate of literacy.
(7) When commanders and commissars have ascertained the results of the work, they are to put up, through the usual channels, those teachers who have most distinguished themselves, for awards, which are to be made at the discretion of the commanders of military districts.
(8) Those units which have most distinguished themselves in the work for liquidating illiteracy are to be mentioned in district (or front) orders and reported to the Revolutionary War Council of the Republic.
(9) A festival of 100-per-cent literacy in the Army is to be organised with as much ceremony as possible, this ceremony to coincide this year with the proletarian festival of the First of May.
(10) With a view to the better organisation of the campaign to liquidate illiteracy in the units, the Red Army’s Political Department is to seek help from the local organs of the People’s Commissariat of Education.
(11) The Chief Directorate of Political Education and the local organs of the People’s Commissariat of Education (the Provincial Departments of Education and the Provincial Departments of Political Education) are to give their utmost support to the Red Army.
(12) The Plenipotentiary of the Revolutionary War Council of the Republic for providing the Red Army and the Red Navy with articles and aids of a cultural-educational character is to take urgent steps to supply the schools of literacy with the necessary aids (alphabets, arithmetic books, stationery and handbooks on method).
The supply administration of the People’s Commissariat of Education is to co-operate in every possible way in making the necessary articles listed above available to the plenipotentiary of the Revolutionary War Council of the Republic.
(13) This order is to be brought into force by telephone, and is to be read to all companies, squadrons, batteries, task-forces and ship’s crews.
1. Order No.2915, dated December 28, 1921, by the Revolutionary War Council of the Republic laid down rules for organising the fight against illiteracy. Among other things, this order directed that the illiterate men be concentrated in special school-companies and school-squadrons. The order also contained regulations for the general-education schools of the Red Army and the Red Navy of the RSFSR.
Point 3, to which Order No.515 refers, reads as follows: ‘To assist those in charge, in addition to the teachers who are on the strength and those brought in as supernumeraries to establishment, there are to be appointed, to carry out the duties of the platoon and section commanders, a special complement of instructors from the commanding personnel, both senior and junior, or from those Red Army men who are fully literate and have already undergone a course of instruction, with the provision that each instructor shall have in his class not fewer than ten illiterates.’
Last updated on: 28.12.2006