From Most Well-Read to Most Educated

Moscow State University

Russian education has long been criticized throughout the world as too structured, too easy to obtain, and backward- looking. While this may be true in many regards, it has also made Russia the most educated country in the world, in terms of people with college degrees. This focus on education began after Vladimir Lenin realized the massive spread in literacy rates between rural folks and urban dwellers. Many things changed the literacy rates in the Soviet Union. “…Reading and writing clubs were set up in factories; there was an unprecedented push in education; newspapers were available for next to nothing; in fact one didn’t even have to buy them: they were hung in the parks and along public thoroughfares for passersby to read” (RR 627). This push shot literacy rates through the roof in a very short period of time. “By 1927, 70 percent of Soviet citizens were able to read and write. By 1939, the percentage rose to 94” (627). A government report from 1970 outlined various population data from the Soviet Union, and provided the following: “In 1970 only 170,000 illiterate men and 269, 000 illiterate women were registered in this age group, primarily individuals who were unable to attend school because of physical defects or chronic illness. Illiteracy has been eliminated in all the Union republics” (USSR Council Report 15). There were surely many reasons for the desired growth in literacy throughout the country. Obviously Lenin wanted his nation to be better than before in all aspects, and education is a main contributor to country success. However, reading allowed for the spread of ideas much quicker than other channels during the early 20th century. The government could quickly spread propaganda through the written word in newspapers and books. The government also owned all of the bookstores in the country, so media was very skewed ideologically, and many written pieces surely did not make it into the extensive stacks of books available for sale. This continued until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, but the education rates never dropped from the Soviet-era highs. Currently, 54% of Russians between the ages of 25-64 have a college degree. This number is the highest in the world, and will continue to grow as younger Russians thrive for education. The amount of students in STEM is also growing, and Russia will continue to be a mainstay for engineers and scientists. While the Soviet Union did many things wrong for its citizens, the push towards education was a major positive for the country.

-Alex

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“Report by the U. S. S. R. Council of Ministers’ Central Statistical Administration: THE POPULATION OF OUR COUNTRY.” The Current Digest of the Russian Press [Minneapolis] 18 May 1971, 23rd ed.: 14-18. Print.

Barker, Adele Marie, and Bruce Grant. The Russia Reader: History, Culture, Politics. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2010. Print.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/22/countries-with-the-most-c_n_655393.html

 

The “Real” Big Deal: Russia’s Impending Cold War with America

Stalin Gathering in Red Square
Stalin Gathering in Red Square

Vera Dunham’s self-titled “big deal” conforms well to the Soviet ideology of loyalty to country and the communist objective of happy, equal citizens. Stalin made very few agreements that were helpful to the general Soviet population, but the “big deal” was one that fulfilled multiple needs. Citizens enjoyed seeing Ally country economic successes, thus demanded more democratic tendencies within the government. Stalin, being a semi-dictator, resented these demands given the many rights of Soviet citizens. To quell potential unrest, he struck a deal with the middle-class to increase their social privilege, and accommodate their demands for middle class values (Fitzpatrick 8). Many authors and playwrights took this new democratic ideology of the citizens and created works that portrayed the ally countries as propaganda machines. A phenomenal example of “American anti-Russian propaganda” is seen in Konstantin Simonov’s play The Russian Question.

“…first they’ll conquer Europe, then America, then Australia. Then the Antarctic… Of all the bunk!”(von Geldern 429). This anti-Russian phrase from The Russian Question sums up Simonov’s intent in writing his play depicting American propaganda. The storyline surrounds a large American newspaper and its sending of a correspondent to the Soviet Union for a news article. Ironically the correspondent returns to the states with a positive image of the Soviet Union and the citizens there. The main intent of the journey was to “dig up dirt” on the Russians and their poor treatment of people. The newspaper owner intended to write a negative article about the country, and even after listening to the correspondent’s positive opinion about the Soviets, wants a negative piece written to stir up anti-communism sentiment. This play did a wonderful job portraying the Americans as lying, scheming people, who’s main intent was to bring down the Russian people. The entire play turned into a movie can be seen here:

Simonov completed his objective much like Stalin did with the “big deal”. The play and movie were very highly received by the Soviet people because they did not want to fit the same profile as the corrupt Americans, but rather stay in a communist mindset. Vera Dunham’s naming of Stalin’s deal with the middle-class citizens is perfect because for the government it was a huge deal to quell unrest among the masses. It also stoked the flame for anti-American sentiment within the country, and may have laid the base for the following Soviet tactic: The Cold War.

-Alex

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Fitzpatrick, Sheila. The Cultural Front: Power and Culture in Revolutionary Russia. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1992. Print.

Geldern, James Von, and Richard Stites. Mass Culture in Soviet Russia: Tales, Poems, Songs, Movies, Plays, and Folklore, 1917-1953. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1995. 422-30. Print.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ePawW0W-do

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Russian_Question

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