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Revolution and rebellion: students in Soviet institutes of higher education, 1921-1928.

One of the important tasks facing the Bolshevik regime in Soviet Russia after its consolidation of power in 1921 was to transform higher education into a class-oriented system producing specialists for a burgeoning Soviet state and society. Students in higher educational institutions were to become the vanguard of a new elite by taking top positions in the Party, the scientific community and the national economy. This revolution within the student body was to be accomplished through revolutionary changes in the structure of higher education, the eradication of political and academic opposition, and the inculcation of socialist values among the youth.

Expansion and social upheaval in institutes of higher education (vuzy) in many ways reflected the complex struggles of the Soviet state embarking on the road toward socialism. While political battles over educational policies during N.E.P., the period of the New Economic Policy (N.E.P.), 1921-1928, have been traced elsewhere,(1) student responses to these changes and the conflicts between policy and practice have received less attention. The evolution of higher education revealed contrasts in revolutionary social and political policies initiated by state organs against confusion and disorganization on the local level, as well as variegated forms of student resistance to institutional and Party authority. While state and Party organs were successful in imposing a complex array of academic, social, and political demands upon students, they were less successful in realizing a uniformly "ideal" student body: students who were academically competent, socially active and politically loyal to the Soviet regime. This paper examines the responses of Soviet students to state and Party initiatives, as well as the interplay of generational and political conflict within institutes of higher education during N.E.P. Much of the material used in this paper is taken from newspapers, journals, and archives in Leningrad, with special reference to Leningrad State University. The author has been fortunate enough to gain access to documents from the Leningrad Party Archives which were previously forbidden to Western and Soviet readers. This material has provided invaluable insights into the development of higher education in Leningrad and the state structure as a whole during the first decade of Soviet power.


The debate over higher educational policies following the November Revolution in 1917 was sharpened by the new regime's attack on what it called the "bourgeois" and class discriminatory system which existed in Tsarist times. Leading the attack on the "privileged" educational system was Anatolii Lunacharskii, head of the Commissariat of Education (Narkompros). Lunacharskii and Nadezhda Krupskaia, one of the most influential Soviet pedagogical theorists, envisioned a system based on free access to education at all levels (especially for under-privileged working-class and peasant children), an unbroken ladder of schools with decentralized administrative control providing a progressive system of education from the elementary school to the university, and a new curricular programme applying theories of Marxist pedagogy in the social and physical sciences. A more radical view of the new educational system was espoused by influential Party members such as Nikolai Preobrazhenskii and Leon Trotskii; this "left wing" of the Party advocated a more polytechnical school, with emphasis on specialist disciplines in the industrial sector, as well as admissions policies favouring workers and peasants.(2) But the majority of professors and school administrators (very few of whom were Bolshevik supporters) saw the November Revolution as an attempt to neutralize gains made in the area of academic freedom and institutional democratization following the February Revolution in 1917.(3) These conflicting currents in higher educational policy provided the basis for the extended struggle of Narkompros to work out an educational strategy feasible in the contemporary political environment.

The political reality of the Bolshevik regime's unstable grip on power during the Civil War (1917-1921) dictated that compromises in higher educational policy would have to be made. Recognizing the weak authority of Narkompros among the established universities and the poor financial state of educational programmes in general, V.I.Lenin sought a middle road which would enable the ravaged system of higher schools to be eventually remodelled according to socialist principles. Speaking at the third conference of communist youth (Komsomol) in 1920, Lenin argued that any attempt to completely destroy the old system of education would be folly: "we must take what was good from the former schools," he stated. The key, Lenin believed, was to develop and distribute a contingent of textbooks and programmes, based on Marxist methodology, which would replace the old "passive" learning tools in higher schools. The students' new role, Lenin continued, was to study with discipline in order to gain the specialist knowledge essential for the rebuilding of the country, and to exhibit "communist morals" (political activism and social responsibility) exemplary of the future leaders of Soviet society.(4) Under these guidelines, Narkompros desperately struggled to formulate new educational strategies, convince hostile non-Marxist teachers to adopt these new approaches, and cope with the continual funding and material shortages left by the Civil War.(5)

After the conclusion of Civil War hostilities in 1921, the Bolsheviks made more concerted attempts to implement earlier decrees projecting universal access to higher education, the democratization of the teaching profession and the elimination of "bourgeois" teaching methods.(6) Narkompros and Glavprofobr, its subsidiary organ dealing with professional education, executed a series of selective admissions and funding policies designed to recruit students from working-class and peasant backgrounds in an attempt to eliminate the privileged caste system of higher education which existed in Tsarist days. In 1919, workers' faculties (rabfaki) were established at universities to enable those with little or no education to gain adequate training for enrolment in vuzy.(7) Apart from representing the future elite in Soviet society, rabfak students were to play the crucial role of waging a "class war" against bourgeois students in higher schools. Although the rabfaki encountered substantial hostility from professors (who believed that poorly-qualified students were being hurried up the educational ladder) and financial obstacles, it was proudly noted by one official in the rabfak department of Narkompros that the number of students enrolled for Russia had grown from 196 in 1919 to 21,029 in 1921.(8)

By 1923, a series of discriminatory admissions policies had been established with the intent of allotting quotas to certain groups of students -- Party or Komsomol members, workers, trade union members -- in order to more effectively control class representation.(9) However, as conflicts between Party factions raged after the defeat of the Trotsky Opposition in 1923 and the debate over industrialization policies intensified in 1924-25, Narkompros found itself unable to maintain a line independent of the oscillating demands of the Central Committee.(10) Although striking improvements in worker and peasant representation in vuzy were reported by Narkompros officials by 1927,(11) the actual value of these statistics has undergone severe scrutiny by Western historians.(12)

The problem of student funding -- exacerbated by total economic breakdown during the Civil War -- also became highly politicized. The ravages of the Civil War initially made Lunacharskii's goal of universal funding for students unfeasible. During the early years of N.E.P., the standard stipend of twenty roubles per month was barely adequate to cover subsistence needs. Despite an increase in stipends to twenty-five rubles per month in 1925, more than half of Soviet Russia's vuzy students were forced to rely on parents, outside work or other means to continue their education.(13) In an effort to make higher education financially viable for residents in remote areas, reimbursements for moving expenses were offered to worker and peasant students beginning in 1925.(14) But the problem of student underfunding continued throughout N.E.P. After the Fourteenth Party Congress in 1925, official Party policy emphasized the development of an alliance (smychka) between the town and countryside, with the goal of co-ordinating industrial and agricultural development. The Council of National Economy (Sovnarkom) demanded better training and productivity from workers and specialists. However, Narkompros officials and rectors, speaking at a conference in May 1926, argued that without adequate funding of students, the production of quality specialists would be impossible.(15)

Narkompros was also faced with the problem of sorting out the political and social responsibilities of each student, given that the new system of higher education was geared toward specific political and ideological goals. Under the discriminatory admissions and funding statutes in 1926 favouring worker and peasant students, the Central Stipend Commission demanded that stipendees augment the "social value" of their education by undertaking what was described as "socially useful work."(16) Earlier examples of these duties included the mobilization of brigades to aid famine victims in 1922,(17) the establishment of student arteli (co-operatives designed to provide material support and employment) and numerous student clubs designed to combine serious political discussion with organized recreation.(18)

Student organizations at each campus were to be the centres of social and political activity, but their roles changed with the contours of Party policy during N.E.P. In June 1923, the Central Bureau of Proletarian Students (Ts.B.P.S.) was established with the objective of co-ordinating Party, social, and academic work among regional and local student organizations. Emphasis was laid upon students receiving training in production and management as part of their academic programme.(19) These student groups were expected to work with the vuz administration to co-ordinate academic and extra-curricular programmes, represent the general voice of the student body, and set a fine example of academic achievement for their non-Party peers. By 1925, for example, more than half of the 4,275 students at Leningrad State University (L.G.U.) belonged to student organizations affiliated with Ts.B.P.S.(20) But conflicting goals resulted in a number of problems and contradictions within the student organizations. Widespread disputes had erupted over student ispolkom (executive committee) responsibilities and powers. Charges that they were acting in a high-handed manner and were misrepresenting the voice of the general student population had already begun to surface during the Civil War.(21) By the mid-1920s, tension developed into all-out disputes about students' essential political and social responsibilities, with many non-student observers arguing that student organizations were taking too much administrative power into their own hands.(22) After the defeat of the Leningrad Opposition in 1925 and the attempt by the Central Committee in Moscow to more tightly control state organs, most student administrative duties were transferred to the vuz Council (soviet) and local professional sections. The extended control given to the Narkompros Executive Head for the Leningrad region at the end of 1925 was also a function of the move toward a re-centralization of the administrative structure.(23) These reforms seemed to backfire: Narkompros and Party officials began to observe that many students, as a result of these changes, were becoming apathetic about academic and school affairs in general.(24)

Even for those student organizations judged effective by Party observers, it was difficult to find an operative medium between excessive and insufficient time spent by students on social and political activities. A survey of vuzy by Glavprofobr in 1927 calculated that Party-member students spent an average of 1.45 hours per day on political activities (excluding "extra" duties often dumped on them).(25) Another report by a former student provides a contrasting picture: most members of these organizations, he stated, were merely registered for reasons of political expediency and never once participated in any activities. In fact, most wanted nothing to do with politics:

You can come across them everywhere: they saunter around the boundless corridors of the vuzy -- diligently and punctually visiting seminars, listening to lectures. Their sphere of interest encompasses everything: tests, gossip, theatre and music, sexual problems, chess . . . but not politics.(26) Even the student who exhibited political enthusiasm for his or her array of obligatory duties was often faced with an excessive workload. To make matters worse, students were often given little guidance or preparation for carrying out their duties, as was the case with many who journeyed to the countryside after 1925 in order to educate villagers and co-ordinate political activities in rural localities.(27) Despite such problems the Leningrad Party organization, in accordance with the official policy of "face to the countryside" (litso k derevniu), was determined to flood the countryside with student brigades in order to conduct educational campaigns among local peasants.(28) The problems which ensued were by-products of a system which still lacked effective communication between local and central agencies, as well as trained specialists to carry out such delicate tasks.


The proliferation of social and academic demands on students made it much more difficult for them to meet the exacting standards set by the State Academic Council (G.U.S.). The debate over curricula and methods of teaching revolved around the question of practical specialized knowledge versus a more general programme. Party and Narkompros officials agreed that student preparation was a critical problem, but disagreed over ways to ameliorate the situation.(29) Discrepancies in political and academic policies toward the student body had the net effect of prolonging disputes between the two. These battles contributed to students' sense of confusion arising from an unbroken series of curricular and structural changes between 1924 and 1928 which made it much more difficult for them to fulfil academic requirements.(30) After 1925, the proliferation of socio-economic disciplines and the "cycle" system (whereby students would complete a set of sub-disciplines in one area, then move to another discipline) made it arduous for many students to adequately grasp even the basics of a given discipline. The introduction of the group-laboratory method of study in most scientific disciplines and the extension of four-year programmes by one year further complicated matters for students and administrators (who wondered where the money would come from). As a result, officials reporting on vuz activities frequently noted that there was a clear connection between constantly changing programmes, inadequate material resources, and poor academic performance.(31)

The most plausible reason for poor student performance, however, was their generally poor level of preparation. Numerous reports in the archives by rectors and vuz officials bluntly stating that students from rabfaki and technical schools did not even have the basic skills of reading and writing, let alone the ability to master complex mathematical or theoretical exercises, indicate that the problem of poorly prepared worker and peasant students was pervasive.(32) Although statistics comparing academic performance for graduates of various middle schools are incomplete, these observations seem to have been well founded.(33) In effect, the problem of poor preparation was a carryover from the pre-Revolutionary period, when it was reported that many students had little more than an elementary grasp of grammar and arithmetic.(34) In 1923, a survey conducted by the Petrograd Department of Education (an organization generally sympathetic to student concerns) concluded that one third of the pupils sampled were inadequately prepared to continue their studies.(35) Unionwide figures for 1924 reported that 10.9 per cent of vuz students were given failing grades and 22.5 per cent were forced to retake courses, and the majority of these were either rabfak or technical school graduates.(36) Continued demands placed on students and inconsistent methods of evaluation resulted in up to a 50 per cent failure rate in some university departments in 1925, prompting Narkompros to reintroduce compulsory entrance examinations for all but rabfak students in 1926.(37) Better academic performance was noted among Communist students, but in general their level of preparation was still cited as poor.(38) Although these figures do not gauge the overall knowledge of Soviet students, they are clear indicators that many students found it difficult to adapt to their rapidly changing environment.

The daily student grind also affected academic performance. During the decade preceding the Revolution many students, faced with accommodation and job shortages in the increasingly crowded cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg, found it difficult just to maintain a subsistence level of living.(39) After the Revolution political conditions changed but students remained impoverished. During the Civil War, academic institutions were plagued by lack of heat, buildings in disrepair, and acute food shortages. In Petrograd and elsewhere, starvation was not an uncommon fate for many students and professors.(40) Despite the state's attempt to provide aid to materially deprived students through the establishment of the Committee For the Improvement of Student Living Standards (K.U.B.U.Ch.) in 1921, the first years of N.E.P. showed only marginal improvement: the best rations equalled approximately 400 grams of "extremely disgusting" black bread per day, with little chance to obtain regular supplies of meat, fats, or vegetables.(41) A former student recalled that in 1923, he had 5.80 rubles of expendable income per month for food and other essentials after paying for his dormitory room. This amount allowed him a daily diet of a bowl of meatless soup (nine kopeks) and some black bread; a "luxurious" dinner of soup with some meat would cost him forty-two kopeks, while the cost for an essential service such as shoe repair was over three rubles!(42)

Student health and hygiene also suffered, as was noted by many concerned physicians who conducted extensive surveys in the 1920s on student life. Frequent examples of students' poor health, poor hygiene and lack of information were cited by doctors. Prominent campaigns against alcoholism were also launched by Narkompros officials, believing that excessive drinking was a major cause of hooliganism, poor study habits and debauched behaviour.(43) In 1925, Narkompros launched a programme promoting better student awareness of health and physical fitness with the hope that this would result in better academic performance and more responsible behaviour, but the campaign was met with little enthusiasm by students.(44) After 1924, frequent links between health and academic performance were being made. One observer decried the poor health of students at the Moscow University rabfak: 42.1 per cent of the students in the first level and 80 per cent in the third level were classified as having some form of illness ranging from tuberculosis to venereal disease. The conclusion here was that a progressive neglect of health -- common among students who were overloaded with studies and political duties -- provided an additional obstacle to academic progress. It was also noted that peer pressure and egotism affected student attitudes toward health: male students often perceived that preventive measures would lessen their sexual bravado among their peers (and hence their social status).(45) M. Kotenberg, a sociologist studying student habits, also noted that students frequently refused to take prophylactic measures, especially in the common practice of resorting to prostitutes or casual sex; the result, Kotenberg wrote, was a high frequency of venereal disease.(46)

Many students were just plain irresponsible in getting themselves organized. A proliferation of detailed surveys of student incomes and time-budgets conducted by educational theorists in the mid-1920s often concluded that students had not yet developed prudent habits in allotting their time and income. One critic lamented that some Komsomol students were demanding loans from the student kassa (financial co-operative) for non-essentials such as costumes for parties. Other students, he continued, commonly wiped out half of their stipends on alcohol.(47) In another report, budgetary studies of Leningrad students revealed some disturbing figures: students spent 46.4 per cent of their budget on food (compared to 47.2 per cent for Moscow students), and had very little left over to spend on other necessities. Despite this, 51 per cent reported that they smoked and 60 per cent said that they drank regularly.(48)

Even if students were to adopt what their peers regarded as exemplary health habits and social conduct, the dormitory atmosphere made it difficult to function effectively. A number of surveys of dormitory life were conducted by social scientists during the 1920s; these surveys exposed a picture of dormitories in chaos and constant disrepair. The Civil War wreaked havoc on the infrastructure of Soviet higher schools. Most had fallen into utter disrepair and lacked the basic necessities of heating and lighting. Attempts to rebuild dormitories met with a number of problems which were exacerbated by continual material shortages and political bickering between Narkompros and Sovnarkom during N.E.P. Dilapidated and overcrowded dormitories became a traditional part of student life. A survey of the Samara Agricultural Institute in 1926 reported that 80 per cent of students did not have their own room and 82 per cent had no chairs or desks. Similar complaints were lodged all over Leningrad, with the result that in 1927 the Leningrad branch of Narkompros again made an urgent appeal to Moscow for more funds to conduct necessary repairs.(49) The basic problem, especially in larger centres, was that there were never enough spaces to accommodate students arriving from other cities. Interminable repairs of dormitory rooms at the Central Asian University in Tashkent meant that arriving students were forced to put up 100-200 rubles to secure a room, then stay for days or weeks at the train station while waiting for repairs to be completed.(50)

Cramped quarters often resulted in strained relationships among students. At L.G.U., one student wrote a lengthy article complaining about one of his roommates who liked to get up and study at 4 a.m., while everyone else tried to keep "normal" hours. In another survey, many students pointed to the frequent visits of "unwelcome guests" and late-night parties in neighbouring rooms as the most bothersome features of dormitory life.(51) Overcrowded dormitories also contributed to animosity between students and outsiders. At Moscow University, one critic pointed out that "spacious" dormitory rooms occupied by vuz employees were left unused all day, while resentful university students suffered in cramped quarters.(52) Many younger students were also victimized by their peers after being introduced to the dormitory environment. It was not uncommon for first-year students to be forced to take the filthiest and most crowded rooms while the starichki (senior students) took the view of "we had to live like you earlier [so don't complain]."(53) As part of their "initiation process" this form of humiliation may have been difficult to accept for some young students, believing that they would be entering an environment of comradely spirit and equality.

Within this milieu, contrasts between communal and anti-social behaviour could be found. Typically of youth behaviour in a peer environment, Soviet students tended to embrace the communal spirit when it was evident that most of their comrades had decided to set an example. A former student at L.G.U. fondly remembered her life in the dormitory, despite the lack of amenities: in the morning, everyone would go down to the first floor and share the hot water; this was a meeting point where students would get news, exchange gossip, meet new friends or loan things to others who were out of cigarettes, soap, and so on.(54)

There were also many examples of the communal spirit either breaking down or never getting off the ground. A somewhat cynical article written by student Beliakov (also a resident of the Mytnia dormitory at L.G.U.) provides a good example. Beliakov lived on the seventh floor with one law, one medical and two political economy students in a single cramped room with no lamps, chairs or desks. His roommates (two of whom received large stipends) were not terribly comradely. Neither shared any of their abundant supplies of food; they conversed little, and they kept their own closed circle of friends. Life in the rest of the dormitory provided other sources of complaint for Beliakov. Students would stumble around the filthy, unlit halls (which continued in such a state, despite incessant campaigns by student leaders for the "struggle against uncleanliness"); foul language was commonly used when students conversed about everyday matters; communal stores of bread would often "mysteriously" disappear; and harassment by students who always wanted to borrow a cigarette "on credit" was common. In this environment, Beliakov wondered, how could one receive a good education?(55) Dormitory commandants were often bombarded by complaints of the poor state of dormitories, but quite often they threw their hands up in despair, resorted to heavy drinking, or blamed the students for letting their rooms fall into a dilapidated state. Confronted by the everyday hardships of dormitory life, many students found it difficult to believe that everything possible was being done to ensure that they received a good education.(56)


The chaotic political environment and continual battles over educational policies had significant effects on students' political and social perspectives, as well as the cohesion of student society in general. Student movements during the Tsarist period were largely united by common social and political goals: freedom from police repression and excessive state supervision, the right to autonomous student organizations, better material and financial support by the state, and a desire to see a limiting (if not outright elimination) of autocratic powers. Following a period of rapid expansion in higher education after 1910, large numbers of peasants and other "non-privileged" class flooded Moscow and St. Petersburg; this had the effect of fragmenting the student body both socially and politically.(57)

By 1917, political groups ranging from anarchists to Bolsheviks were competing for the loyalties of students. Student support for Bolsheviks, however, was limited to a small minority; one Soviet historian calculates that only 2-3 per cent of students in Petrograd vuzy were members of Bolshevik collectives.(58) Most students continued to support the war, although demonstrations against high-handed vuz officials and repressive state policies continued. The February Revolution accentuated the fragmentation of the student body: initial unity displayed during demonstrations supporting the revolution and democratic rights for students and professors quickly collapsed, as rival political factions competed for the loyalties of students on each campus. Heated arguments over the war effort, university autonomy, and other issues broke out between Bolshevik, Constitutional-Democratic (Kadet), and non-aligned students at student council meetings; these quarrels commonly resulted in factions walking out or attempting to establish their own independent organizations.(59) Violence between factions struggling for political power and the loyalty of the mass of non-aligned students was not uncommon.(60)

Political feuding among student groups continued after the Bolshevik coup on November 7. The new political masters, however, were not prepared to tolerate the wave of strikes by professors, teachers, and students which had paralysed many schools. Speaking at a student meeting on November 25, Nikolai Bukharin (a prominent spokesman on youth issues) warned that the Bolsheviks would actively struggle against any "counter-revolutionary activities" among students who attempted to block the establishment of communist student executive committees at each vuz.(61) Despite this pressure, Kadet students (the largest faction among Russian students) continued their protests against the November coup and what they viewed as Bolshevik repression.(62)

The Civil War brought sharpened conflicts and crisis in all areas of Soviet society. The establishment of the Extraordinary Commission on Counter-Revolutionary Activities (Cheka) resulted in an escalation of terror by both Red and White forces. Many S.R. and Kadet student groups were either dispersed or were forced to curtail their activities because of the political and military situation. In 1921, after the Bolsheviks had consolidated their grip on power, Lenin instituted a series of economic reforms (known as the New Economic Policy) designed to free up agricultural surpluses and rebuild the industrial sector. The N.E.P. also brought a relatively relaxed political atmosphere, allowing Kadet and S.R. student groups to resume their activities. By the end of 1921, a network of Social-Democratic and S.R. groups had been established across the country, with a number of illegal publications being distributed among students.(63) However, following the implementation of the new university statutes later in 1921 (eliminating university autonomy and placing control of student affairs under a communist council of student elders [starosty]) and increased agitation by S.R. and Menshevik opposition groups, arrests and shootings of students by Cheka organs became more frequent.(64)

True to their pre-revolutionary tradition, many students continued to protest against what they believed was an authoritarian atmosphere in higher schools and an attack on student political power on campus. In direct contrast were the groups of pro-Bolshevik students who had just returned from the Civil War front: many of these students were workers who had benefitted from the introduction of rabfaki in 1919; they attacked their colleagues as bourgeois counter-revolutionaries who were desperately clinging to privileges they enjoyed under Tsarism. Tensions between students spilled into the political arena, where student meetings were often bogged down by the issue of representation of Party and non-Party groups in regional student councils.(65) Sergei Zhaba, a former student activist in Petrograd who was forced to emigrate in 1922, argued that most students were willing to join in non-partisan organizations which would help rebuild their schools, but when the Bolsheviks arrested many of these non-Party activists in October 1920 and sent them to labour camps, fellow students took to the streets in Petrograd and expressed their vehement opposition to the regime's strong-arm tactics. These demonstrations marked the beginning of a series of protests by the non-communist student body against what they viewed as a violation of their right to political and academic autonomy. In 1922, the Petrograd Cheka clamped down on protests again by arresting (and in some cases executing) dozens of students.(66) A series of top secret correspondences two years later between the O.G.P.U. (successor to the Cheka) and local Party committees in Petrograd reveal that concern over anti-Bolshevik elements continued even after the dispersal of organized student opposition groups.(67) While student organizations loyal to the Bolsheviks were expanding rapidly after 1921, the contingent of disaffected youth was not diminishing.


The gulf between state and students during the first ten years of Soviet power can best be illustrated by the contrast between the state's perception of student behaviour and students' awareness of their own environment. The Soviet press and educational journals reported alarming stories of hooliganism and "time-wasting" among students during the 1920s. These stories and commentaries, often paternalistic in tone, are notable for their propensity to link incidents with the larger problem of "anti-Soviet behaviour" among students. While many Soviet historians have portrayed student opposition to Bolshevik policies in higher education as a product of a tightly knit band of Menshevik, Kadet, and bourgeois disrupters, many former students have pointed out that student opposition was also directed against authoritarian and disrespectful figures, such as bombastic Party or Komsomol members or supercilious professors.(68) Students exhibiting anti-Soviet behaviour were often castigated by their student organization, disciplined, or even expelled from school. The latter measure was often applied to students exhibiting "anti-Soviet behaviour," but in many cases the definition of anti-Soviet activity was clouded. A former student described a scene in a class laboratory in which some (allegedly) Menshevik students decided to break a retort stand just as a prank. A foul smell ran through the entire building, with the result that these students were accused of politically deviant behaviour. In this example, it was unclear whether or not the prank was designed to deliberately disrupt classes, but the Party committee at Petrograd University took this as a sign of anti-Soviet activity.(69) In other cases, local Party organizations continually battled against what they called "hostile elements" who either engaged in open or subversive agitation against Bolshevik power. Arrests of students supporting other parties continued throughout the N.E.P. period.(70)

Contradictory Party policies toward the student body reflected a larger problem emerging in the early 1920s: how to encourage individuals and groups ill-disposed toward Soviet power to work for the rebuilding of the state. Even before the onset of N.E.P., Lenin admonished the left wing of the Party for harassment of non-Party specialists, professors, and students,(71) but many local Party organs were unwilling to trust apolitical or anti-Bolshevik elements on campus. Party authorities frequently castigated non-communist "time-wasters" and "pot-boilers" in higher schools as disrupters who hindered the progress of other students. These vices were later cited as examples of decadent student behaviour imitative of the poet Esenin and a number of avant-garde literary societies where discussion ranged from politics to aesthetics.(72) One example of "pot-boiling" was cited by an observer at L.G.U. in 1924. Independent artists would set up exhibits of "questionable" artistic value and then ask for donations, claiming they were in dire financial straits. Even more disturbing to the observer was the tendency to accompany these exhibitions with primitive and disorganized dances -- resulting in "disjointed movements" and the sexual arousal of students who participated in them.(73)

Young students also exhibited behaviour typical of their age and peer environment. But certain types of behaviour were often viewed scornfully by observers. A. Aspid, a Narkompros official reviewing the Vetluzhskii Forestry School (a small provincial technicum), remarked that the student club was well-designed and quite pleasant.

if one doesn't pay attention to the spider webs, the dirty rags being dried on top of the oven, and the spittoons which are all over the place. Through the smoke one can, with difficulty, make out the figures of students. One, without a shirt, is zealously pointing out something about physiology while others, lying on the floor with their legs draped over the table, now and then offer expressions of agreement or doubt.

If students went to all six lectures that day, Aspid reported, they were considered "heroes" and usually spent the rest of the week recovering at the club; some would return to class only because they had run out of cigarettes (where they could "tie one on" from a friend). Students kept their rooms "like pig sties," carried on rambunctiously at lectures while professors struggled to maintain order, and insisted on wearing distasteful caps. "We are accustomed to this in the theatre," Aspid concluded, "but we cannot accommodate this in the higher school."(74) The portrayal here of students as generally disrespectful and apathetic toward academic performance and authority is not entirely representative of the student body as a whole, but it does point out that through all the political and social changes some patterns of youth behaviour remained constant. Despite a highly politicized environment, simple pleasures such as lounging for long periods in the local club or exchanging stories about academic procrastination bonded young people together in the face of trying circumstances.

As a measure of their continued regional and cultural diversity, differences between first-year and senior students and the identification of some as "outsiders" were common practices. Senior students would laconically state how they "read and read, but God only knows what it all means," in an attempt to stir up anxiety among newly arriving students; "Provincial intellectuals" studying at L.G.U., it was pointed out by urban dwellers, were narrow-minded and tended to overrate their own knowledge; and bourgeois sons and daughters of "former people" (those designated as former exploiting classes) were allowed to attend lectures and seminars but in humiliating fashion were prohibited from participating in discussions.(75) Other forms of superciliousness toward "provincial" students and "green" first-year students continued as a function of regional and social cliques which frequently developed on campuses. A short commentary in Izvestiia noted how thousands of students were flocking to Moscow as the "Mecca" for higher education. Meanwhile, several students and vuz officials made it plainly known that they were less than enthusiastic about accepting these "provincials" into an already overloaded system.(76) This attitude was consistent with the development of "localism" in many vuzy, where both students and professors defended their territory against outside interference from Party and Narkompros organs or changes which they thought were destructive.(77) More importantly, these traditional attitudes and suspicions illustrated the persisting urban-rural and cultural gulfs in Soviet Russia and the challenges facing Party leaders attempting to bridge these gaps during N.E.P.

Another form of undesirable behaviour often cited by observers was hooliganism. The term "hooliganism" had a broad meaning in the Soviet context -- embracing everything from petty thievery to drunken violence -- and often had explicit political connotations. An exasperated official at Moscow University cited several examples of hooliganism at his school: drunken students were smashing chairs at the local club, scribbling graffiti on walls, terrorizing their neighbours in the dormitories by forcing them to engage in drinking games, and intimidating "provincial girls."(78) Consistently poor behaviour exhibited by some students in Leningrad vuzy led to the establishment of a Committee Against Hooliganism at the Leningrad Polytechnical Institute and a Committee For Tidiness at L.G.U. Complaints about hooliganism and disrespect shown toward professors also surfaced more prominently in the regional press: "The struggle with tardiness at lectures, with skipping out and slamming doors during study time, and also with drunkenness and untidiness in the dormitories has begun, and is receiving full support from the student body at their meetings." Examples were to be made of students who exhibited this type of poor behaviour. A former student "N" of the Geography Faculty at L.G.U. (expelled the previous year for not paying his tuition) broke into a meeting and demanded that Administrative Secretary Nachinkin reverse the previous decision and readmit him; when Nachinkin refused to discuss the matter at the moment, "N" hurled verbal abuse at the Secretary. As a result, the L.G.U. student committee resolved to put "N" on trial in absentia for his unacceptable behaviour.(79) Clearly, student hooliganism had emerged as a significant problem in the eyes of Party officials, although few were willing to admit that the generational gap and student disaffection with academic life were parts of the problem.

The gulf between students and the state was further widened by the student purge (proverka) in 1924. As a result of the purge, student attitudes became decidedly more cynical toward their studies and more politically cautious. Conversely, Party officials and state security organs reasserted their demands for tighter supervision of students and the diminishing of student administrative power in higher schools. Overcrowded classrooms, poor academic performance and the fact that only 38.8 per cent of vuzy students were of worker or peasant origin were cited as the major reasons for the necessity of a major purge of students.(80) Another motivation for the proverka (although rarely cited in public) was the presence of Trotskyite sympathizers among the student body following the defeat of the latter at the Twelfth Party Congress in April 1923. The extent of student support for Trotsky, however, has been a matter of controversy.(81)

The proverka was the most extensive in a series of student purges since 1917. In 1923, a significant number of students had been expelled from vuzy and rabfaki as "social aliens"; (sons and daughters of non-labouring classes who continued to hold their place in overcrowded schools).(82) Admissions for first-year students the following academic year were more tightly controlled on the basis of class composition and Party membership, as figures for Leningrad show:(83)

Percentage of Students:
Period Students Workers Peasants Other RKP (b)
1923/24 8794 30.0 23.0 47.0 25.0
1924/25 1497 40.6 30.9 28.5 49.7

Continued problems with "perpetual" (vechnye) students who retook courses and overloaded the educational system, as well as student apathy towards political indoctrination and improved academic performance, were cited as the major reasons for an overall deterioration in classroom performance.(84) Both Narkompros and Party officials viewed this as a crisis which required immediate attention.(85)

Reflecting the generally poor level of communication between state and Party organs in Soviet Russia during the mid-1920s, the proverka was at best haphazard in its implementation. Local personal and political rivalries made it difficult to ensure a consistent application of the purge, and this in turn aroused local opposition among Party and non-Party officials alike.(86) After the first two weeks of the purge, opposition to "planned targets" of expulsions by purge committees resulted in a substantial retreat from a campaign which had evidently gotten out of hand. Already on 29 June, the Moscow purge committee had reviewed 6,391 student requests for reinstatement and accepted 175 back into vuzy.(87) The reasons for this topsy-turvy process have been revealed by secret correspondences between Party organizations. The original plan was to begin the proverka in late May with a plan worked out by Glavprofobr, but this was quickly superseded by a secret agenda formulated by the Central Committee of the Party: this plan included "quotas" for expulsions of students in higher schools, despite the fact that the existence of these quotas was denied by I. Khodorovskii, Chairman of the Central Purge Commission.(88) The purge was met with substantial resistance from vuz administrators. Many regarded such a potentially huge disruption of the academic year as a destructive measure; as a result, expulsion rates often depended upon the leniency of rectors and purge committee officials who evaluated their students.(89) These problems were partly responsible for the decision by Narkompros basically to nullify the purge in late August by announcing mass reinstatements of students expelled in May and June.(90)

The most noticeable effect of the proverka was a darkened mood among the student body. Suicides reportedly reached epidemic proportions by the end of 1924 (self-immolation, slashed wrists and the ingestion of toxic substances were popular methods).(91) A secret Party report at L.G.U. recorded that students were deeply disturbed by the affair: many became depressed, some became prostitutes, rumour-mongering became common, and the suicide rate shot up. Many anti-Bolshevik students, with the aid of some professors, tried to organize campaigns against the proverka. After the announcement of reinstatements the mood reportedly settled, though many remained distrustful of official decrees.(92) Suspicion and a generally hostile mood among students seemed to be fuelled by the feeling that many students who should have been expelled were allowed to remain in vuzy. Some students reportedly cited the need to conduct a purge solely of Jewish students, while many communist students attacked mass reinstatements by Glavprofobr as politically reactionary.(93) A source of equal concern was student apathy. Many of those who were expelled and then reinstated reportedly resisted attempts to get them more involved in student political and social work; instead, they preferred to hang around the cafeteria and smoke, or just loaf about in the dormitories with little concern for their studies.(94) Party and Komsomol officials now found it even harder to organize groups for work in local student organizations, and student apathy was noted as the primary reason for this.(95)

The long-term effects of the purge on student behaviour are more difficult to gauge. The political and social reality of the school environment had changed drastically after 1924. Restrictions on student enrolment and authoritarian supervision of student organizations made it difficult for students to function freely. Disaffection among the communist youth, particularly after the defeat of Gregory Zinov'ev and the Leningrad Opposition in December 1925, had become an increasing source of anxiety among Party officials. Secret reports by the Leningrad regional committee remarked with concern that many students were disillusioned over the "new paternalism" displayed by Party authorities; dozens had declared themselves supporters of the Leningrad Opposition.(96) Many students, who had eagerly embraced the revolutions of 1917, were still looking for the brighter future which had been promised to them.


The balance sheet of student life during N.E.P. provides a curious contrast of willingness to accept and participate in revolutionary change with a reticence to accept the established social and political authority which emerged in the 1920s. Deviant or socially irresponsible behaviour could be linked to student frustration over their own situation, the desire to be accepted by their peers, or just plain boredom. Students from worker and peasant backgrounds, feeling the pressure to perform as society's new chosen elite, found it difficult to cope with lofty and often confused political goals set by state and Party leaders. Behaviour in the classroom, in the dormitories and towards school authorities reflected a certain amount of frustration which characterized youth in general during N.E.P. The radicalization of economic policies and the militant ideology which characterised the Civil War period gave way to a series of measures during N.E.P. which many communist activists regarded as too moderate. On the other side of the political spectrum, students who were apolitical or supportive of opposition movements were not successfully wooed by the Bolsheviks. The majority of these students -- many of whom became disillusioned with school life -- exhibited their opinions by becoming more cynical, apathetic, or "hooliganistic" at school. In short, the goal of uniting the student body under the cultural and political banner of communism had not yet been realized.

Continued attempts by the state to seek a combination of optimal academic performance with social and political activism wreaked havoc on the everyday lives of students, professors and officials who struggled to cope with endless problems. Attempts by students to cope with their daily grind were made more difficult through the authoritarian and paternalistic style of educational management exhibited by Party and Narkompros organs, as well as the chaos resulting from the proverka in 1924. Even attempts to monitor and evaluate student life by sympathetic observers exposed a wide rift between the state's perceptions of student social and political behaviour on campus and what students viewed as their own realities. The net result was that generational conflict continued during N.E.P. and accentuated the gulf between the state and many students. Campaigns to mobilize and politicize the youth, although they had their successes, deepened the cynicism of many students who felt themselves victims of arbitrary political and social crusades. Even for those students who eagerly accepted the new socialist system, the travail of school life during N.E.P. resulted in many losing interest in either academic or political affairs. As the country entered the First Five-Year Plan in 1929 and the period known as the Cultural Revolution, these problems and contradictions intensified even further.

(*)I would like to thank the Association of Colleges and Universities of Canada for a grant which allowed me to conduct my research in St. Petersburg during the 1991-92 academic year.

(1)See Sheila Fitzpatrick, Education and Social Mobility in the Soviet Union, 1921-1934 (New York, 1979); Kendall Bailes, Technology and Society Under Lenin and Stalin (Princeton, 1978).

(2)For a more detailed discussion of the debates over higher educational policies following the revolution see James McClelland, "Bolsheviks, Professors, and the Reform of Higher Education in Soviet Russia, 1917-1921" (Ph.D dissertation, Princeton University, 1970).

(3)Pitrim Sorokin, a professor of sociology at Petrograd University, recounts that the majority of professors wanted nothing to do with "political" demands made by the Bolsheviks. Sorokin himself was involved in the underground publication of a right-wing newspaper following the Bolshevik takeover, and was eventually arrested and deported in 1922 for 'anti-Soviet' activities. See Pitrim Sorokin, A Long Journey (New Haven, Conn., 1963).

(4)V.I.Lenin, Lenin o narodnom obrazovanii (Moscow, 1967), pp. 337-39.

(5)For a detailed political analysis of the development of Narkompros during this period, see the excellent study by Sheila Fitzpatrick, The Commissariat of Enlightenment: Soviet Organization of Education and the Arts Under Lunacharsky, October 1917-1921 (London, 1970).

(6)Sobranie uzakonenii rasporiazhenii rabochego i krestianskogo pravitel'stva (S.U.), no. 2, st. 16, 29 Oct. 1917; S.U., no. 71, st. 771, 27 Sept. 1918; S.U., no. 72, st. 789, 1 Nov.1918.

(7)S.U., no. 45, st. 443, 9 Sept. 1919.

(8)Vestnik rabochikh fakul'tetov No. 2-6 (1922), p. 77.

(9)See Biulleten' Narkomprosa 1 (1923), pp. 11-14.

(10)In the area of admissions, Narkompros changed its policies from an emphasis in 1921-24 on favouring worker and Party students regardless of qualifications, to policies in 1925-26 favouring peasants and well-qualified students, to a system in 1927 allowing equal consideration of non-labouring classes. See Ezhenedel'nik Narkomprosa R.S.F.S.R.. 8 (1924), pp. 1-4; 4 (1926), pp. 1-4; 18 (1927), pp. 1-3.

(11)In 1927, official statistics reported that workers accounted for 34.7 per cent of the student population in vuzy, while students of peasant origin made up 24.3 per cent of those enrolled in higher schools. Party membership had risen to 22 per cent and Komsomols 32.2 per cent of the vuz student body. See "Itogi priema v vuzy R.S.F.S.R. v 1927g" Narodnoe prosveshchenie 11/12 (1927), pp. 89-92.

(12)For this controversy see David Lane, "The Impact of Revolution: The Case of Selection of Students For Higher Education: Soviet Russia, 1917-1928" Sociology, No. 2 (1973), pp. 241-52; and James C. McClelland, "Proletarianizing the Student Body: The Soviet Experience During the New Economic Policy" Past and Present Vol. 80 (1978), pp. 122-46. McClelland argues enrolment figures for workers are inflated by up to 25 per cent, mainly due to the ease with which many students were able to falsify their "worker" origin. Lane believes that despite instances of falsification, there was a substantial increase of proletarian representation in vuzy. My own view is that even archival documents cannot reveal the extent of "class falsification"; there were many instances of admissions committees discovering peasant or white-collar students who had worked for a few months in factories or docks, and hence were able to call themselves "workers." Were these students falsifying their status, or merely offering themselves the social and educational advantages of working-class status?

(13)An anonymous survey of Leningrad students in 1926-27 revealed that 37 per cent were forced to live off income derived from outside work; of those who received stipends, more than two-thirds were forced to rely on parental support to get by. K kharakteristike sovremennogo studenchestva. Po materialam anonimnoi ankety provedennoi v Tekhnologicheskom institute imeni Leningradskogo soveta v 1926 godu (Leningrad, 1927), pp. 30-32.

(14)Sobranie postanovleniia pravitel'stva, No. 30, st. 198, 24 Apr. 1925; SU no. 3, st. 6, 30 Jan. 1926.

(15)See Ezhenedel'nik Narkomprosa R.S.F.S.R. 27 (1926), pp. 10-14.

(16)Izvestiia, 16 Nov. 1926.

(17)Izvestiia, 1 Feb. 1922. During the Civil War, the Petrograd Defence Committee reserved the right to call up all students to military service, regardless and class background or educational performance (Dekrety sovetskoi vlasti, 12 Sept. 1919; 9 Jan. 1920.

(18)Clubs were perhaps the most important centre for student political discussions and the airing of views and complaints in the 1920s. One student's essay on his local club called it "the parliament," where members worked out problems, admonished khalatniki (careless members) and took care of daily affairs. M.Iankovskii, Kommuna sta tridtsati trekh (Leninrgad, 1929), p. 46.

(19)V.N. Voskovoinikov, "Ideino-politicheskaia rabota Tsentral'nogo Biuro proletarskogo studenchestva v 1923-1924 gg." Trudy Moskovskogo gosudarstvennogo istoriko-arkhivnogo instituta Tom 16 (Moscow, 1961), p. 84; p. 104.

(20)Krasnyi student 6 (1925), pp. 23-24.

(21)In 1919, the Leningrad head of Narkompros sent a memo to all vuzy demanding stronger supervision of all student ispolkomy, because he had noticed the appearance of "bureaucratism," which was hindering the work of these committees. Central State Archives of St. Petersburg -- formerly Central State Archives of the October Revolution in Leningrad. (Hereafter cited as TsGA SPb), f. 2555, op. 1, d. 9, 1. 69.

(22)For example, see E.Z., "O strukture studkomov" Krasnyi student 1 (1925), pp. 25-26.

(23)Ezhenedel'nik Narkomprosa R.S.F.S.R. 52 (1925), pp. 17-18.

(24)In 1924, many vuz Party organizations in Leningrad grew concerned over student apathy, with the result that a movement to eliminate all extra-curricular duties gained wide support after the purge in 1924. Central State Archives For Historical Documents, St. Petersburg -- formerly the Archives of the Institute of History, Leningrad Party Organization. (Hereafter cited as TsGA IPD), f. 4, op. 1, d. 339, ll.1-3, f. k-141, op. 1, d. 1, ll. 17-18.

(25)A. Anbinder, "Biudzhet vremeni i usloviia zhizni studenchestva v R.S.F.S.R." Narodnoe prosveschchenie 1 (1927), p. 81. Other types of service (unspecified) added up to approximately 0.9 hours per day.

(26)Sotsialisticheskii vestnik 10 (1924), p. 13; see also, ibid., 14 (1926), p. 15.

(27)N.Matorin, "Studenchestvo i rabota v derevne" Krasnyi student 6 (1925), pp. 19-20. Matorin reported that many students were regarded suspiciously by locals, and in some cases chased out of the village.

(28)TsGA IPD, f. 984, op. 1, d. 120, 1. 25.

(29)See Fitzpatrick, Education and Social Mobility, pp. 19-42.

(30)This was compounded by the fact that academic programme changes had to approved by G.U.S., and more often than not programme changes were not approved until well into the new academic year. As a typical example, L.G.U. in 1926 was thrown into disarray after disputes between the Party organization and G.U.S. over the academic programme resulted in most classes not beginning until November. TsGA IPD, f. 4, op. 1, d. 6, 1. 220

(31)TsGA SPb, f. 2556, op. 1, d. 137, 1. 17. This particular report detailed student activity at the Leningrad Mining Institute. See Ezhenedel'nik Narkomprosa RSFSR 1 (1925), pp. 17-18, on the implementation of the laboratory method.

(32)For example, the Petrograd rectors' conference in 1923 reporting on the level of academic competence among students (TsGA SPb, f. 2556, op. 1, d. 534, 1. 467; d. 3, 1. 228).

(33)An admissions report by L.G.U. for the 1927/28 academic year indicated that only 33 per cent of middle-school and 51 per cent of technical school students taking entrance exams were able to pass them all. Of all candidates, 45 per cent failed more than half of their subject entrance exams. TsGA SPb, f. 2556, op. 4, d. 19, 11. 29-30

(34)In 1914, the Ministry of Education complained publicly about the lack of basic skills and knowledge among graduates entering vuzy from middle and technical schools. See Samuel Kassow, Students, Professors, and State in Tsarist Russia (Berkeley, Cal., 1989), pp. 345-46.

(35)Krasnaia gazeta, 22 Feb. 1923.

(36)Izvestiia, 15 Mar. 1924. Despite these alarming figures, the author of this article maintained that students were performing better than those in the pre-Revolutionary era (although no evidence was given).

(37)I.Frolov, "O rabote iacheek RLKSM" Krasnaia molodezh' 2 (1925), p. 69; V.Iakovlev, "O vzaimootnosheniiakh studorganizatsii s pravleniiami vuzov" ibid., 2 (1925), pp. 78-79. A report by the L.G.U. Academic Council for the 1927/28 academic year found that only 32 per cent of students in the Physico-Mathematics faculty were able to pass on to the next level. TsGA SPb, f. 2556, op. 4, d. 280, 11. 19, 23, 28, 32, 33.

(38)A confidential report by the Leningrad province vuz organization noted that academic improvement for Komsomol and Party-member students was minimal in their given specialties. Widespread student-professor hostility was cited as a major reason (for example, one professor at the Polytechnical Institute deliberately gave a Komsomol student failing grades on an exam, with the result that this student threatened to kill him). TsGA IPD, f. 4, op. 1, d. 904, 11. 44-46.

(39)See Kassow, Students, p. 317.

(40)See James McClelland, "The Professoriate and the Civil War" in Diane Koenker et al. ed, Party, State, and Society in the Russian Civil War (Bloomington, Ind., 1989), pp. 258-59.

(41)Izvestiia, 2 Dec. 1921; V.V.Mavrodin, ed. Na shturm nauki: vospominaniia byvshikh studentov fakul'teta obshchestvennykh nauk Leningradskogo universiteta (Leningrad, 1971), p. 44.

(42)Ibid., p. 216.

(43)See I.V. Sazhin, "Intellektual'naia zhizn' obshchestva i alkogolizm" Krasnyi student 7 (1924), pp. 12-14.

(44)Izvestiia, 24 Feb. 1925.

(45)V.Dobrovol'skii, "K voprosu o pravil'noi organizatsii otdykha" Krasnoe studenchestvo 5 (1926), p. 43; V.Druzhinin, "Byt' Leningradskogo studenchestva" ibid., 9 (1927), p. 51.

(46)M.Kotenberg, "Ocherednaia zadacha" Krasnoe studenchestvo 8 (1925), pp. 79-80.

(47)S.Bich, "Bol'noe v vuzovskoi deiatel'nosti" Krasnoe studenchestvo 5 (1926), p. 76-78.

(48)K kharakteristike studenchestva, p. 54.

(49)TsGA SPb, f. 2552, op. 1, d. 101.

(50)Krasnoe studenchestvo 2 (1927), p. 41.

(51)Studencheskaia pravda, 26 Nov. 1927; V.V.Kizevetter, "Obsledovanie studencheskikh obshchezhitii pri Leningradskikh vuzakh v sanitornom i bytovom otnosheniiakh" Sotsial'naia gigiena 4 (1928), p. 61.

(52)P.Kostomarovskii, "Privilegiia li?" Krasnoe studenchestvo 7 (1926), p. 53. Kostomarovskii was criticised in a later issue for his remarks: it was reasoned that because these workers did important work, they should not "have to fit into the lumber room [ i.e., be put in cramped quarters]." S.Dorechkin, "Da privilegiia" ibid., 9 (1926), p. 19.

(53)M.Uspenskii, "Iz zhizni i byta komosmol'skogo studenchestva" Krasnoe studenchestvo 2 (1927), p. 18.

(54)Na shuturm nauki, p. 79 and p. 197. Student communes, located outside the school, increased in popularity during N.E.P.

(55)I.Beliakov, "Mytnia" Krasnyi student 3 (1925), pp. 18-20.

(56)Studencheskaia pravda, 31 Jan. 1928. Poor relations between students and commandants were quite common. This was often the result of pressure by state organs on dormitory administrators to complete repairs, manage quarrels between students, and maintain some kind of administrative order. Cases of commandants being dismissed for drunkenness, poor relations with students or poor management (as was the case with the Mytnia commandant at L.G.U. in 1928) were quite common. For one example, see TsGA IPD, f. 984, op. 1, d. 301, 1. 44.

(57)See Kassow, Students, pp. 371-72. Between 1900 and 1912, representation by children of the nobility in Russian vuzy dropped by 30 per cent, while that of children of the merchant class increased by 20 per cent (ibid., p. 409; p. 414).

(58)I.P.Leiberov, "Revoliutsionnoe studenchestvo Petrogradskogo universiteta nakanune i v period mirovoi voiny (mart 1914 - fevral 1917 g.) "Ocherkii istorii Leningradskogo Universiteta Vol. 2 (Leningrad, 1968), p. 7.

(59)The Bolshevik student group at Petrograd University walked out in disgust after the Kadet faction pushed through a resolution supporting the war effort. "These tactics were common, especially when Bolshevik student groups enjoyed the support of nearby militia divisions (See Rech', 18 June 1917).

(60)During a street demonstration in September, an S.R. student was murdered by an unknown assailant. Most incidences like this were left uninvestigated. See Birzhevaia vedomosti, 26 Sept. 1917.

(61)See Izvestiia, 29 Nov. 1917.

(62)On 22 Dec. Kadet and S.R. students at Petrograd University sent a petition to the Bolshevik government expressing solidarity with several professors (members of the Constituent Assembly) who had been arrested, and nominating their own list of candidates for the assembly. Three months later, following the murder of six Kadet students, over one thousand turned out at the funeral, using it as a platform for a mass demonstration against the Bolsheviks. See Nash vek, 12 Dec. 1917; 3 Mar. 1918.

(63)See G.Kuchin-Oranskin and B. Dvinov, Ot legal'nosti K podpoliu (1921-1925 godu) (Stanford, 1968), pp. 27-28.

(64)One S.R. student recalled that seven students were shot by the Cheka in 1921 after they discovered Tsarist officers' gear in their apartment (ibid., p. 55). For a description of Social-Democrat opposition activities among students in the 1920s, see T.I.Til, "Sotsial-demokraticheskoe dvizhenie molodezhi 1920-x godov" Pamiat' Vyp. 3 (Paris, 1980), pp. 197-219. Kadet students took to the streets following the imposition of the new university statutes in 1921. For reports on student protests and arrests in 1921-22, see the Paris-based newspaper Poslednie novosti, 6. Sept. 1921; 2-3 Feb. 1922.

(65)See Severnaia kommuna, 14-19 June 1920, for a vivid description of the battle for control of the Petrograd Student Council between Bolshevik students and non-aligned factions.

(66)Sergei Zhaba, Petrogradskoe studenchestvo v bor'be za svobodnuiu vysshuiu shkolu (Paris, 1923), pp. 36-50. Another wave of arrests of Petrograd students in February followed an unsuccessful attempt by Party-member students to gain control of student councils. For an account of the arrests and deportations of the Petrograd professorate, see Sorokin, The Long Journey, pp. 187-92. For further details on student arrests (reported by anonymous correspondents),

see the opposition journal Sotsialisticheskii vestnik 4 (1921), p. 16; 11 (1921), p. 15; 4 (1922), p. 14).

(67)TsGA IPD, f. 4, op. 1, d. 91, II. 1-92

(68)Students seemed to have extremely impressionistic views about professors. Quaint evaluations of professors would often be based on their appearance or the entertainment content in their lectures. See Na shturm nauki, p. 158, p. 169, p. 203.

(69)Ibid., p. 136.

(70)A typical example was the Leningrad Polytechnical Institute in 1927, where several students were arrested for distributing Social-Democratic literature. TsGA IPD, f. 4, op. 1, d. 907, II. 42-43.

(71)For a discussion of Lenin's policy toward bourgeois specialists, see Bailes, Technology and Society, Chapter One; An important speech by Bukharin, outlining the need to encourage non-Party students to actively and loyally participate in vuz affairs, can be found in Pravada, 19 Apr. 1921.

(72)A report released by the Communist Academy in 1927 detailed some of the decadent and unruly behaviour exhibited by students following the suicide of poet Sergei Esenin in 1925. "Fatalistic" behaviour, apathy and even suicide occurred in spurts between 1925 and 1927. See Upadochnoe nastroenie sredi molodezhi: Eseninshchina (Moscow, 1927).

(73)S.L'vov, "'NEP' v Gos. Universitete" Krasnyi student 1 (1924), pp. 36-37.

(74)Aspid, "Byt', kak on est" Krasnoe studenchestvo 6 (1926), pp. 70-71. For similar complaints see N. Cheliapov, "O ditsipline v vuzakh" ibid., 2 (1927-28), p. 56.

(75)Leningradskaia pravda, 17 Oct. 1926.

(76)Izvestiia, 18 Aug. 1922. The trend of provincial student migration to Moscow continued throughout N.E.P. and the First Five-Year Plan. In 1925, 35 per cent of the students in Moscow came from the Moscow oblast' (region); by 1934, this figure had been reduced to 20 per cent. See L.D. Dergacheva, "Sotsial'nyi portret aspirantury Moskovskogo universiteta 20x - serediny 30x gg." Vestnik Moskovskogo universiteta. Seriia 8. Istoriia No. 1 (1989), p. 37.

(77)Work in the Physico-Mathematics faculty at L.G.U. between 1925 and 1927 was disrupted by a series of revolts organised by anti-Soviet professors, who demanded an end to continued programme changes, selective admissions policies favouring workers, and harassment from communist students. The L.G.U. Party organization quelled these protests by January 1927, when after a full year of campaigning they were finally able to dismiss many anti-Soviet professors. TsGA IPD, f. 984, op. 1, d. 158, ll. 63-64; d. 247, l. 1.

(78)A.Iamskii, "O khuliganstve" Krasnoe studenchestvo 8 (1926), pp. 24-25.

(79)Leningradskaia pravda, 28 Oct. 1926. This story was more prominently featured than any other on L.G.U. in 1926.

(80)See Pravda, April; 30 Apr.; 17 May 1924. In the spring of 1924, the Communist Party as a whole underwent an extensive purge of its ranks.

(81)Most Soviet historians argue support for Trotsky was significant in 1923, but that almost all students supported the Party line after 1924 (see L.S. Leonova, Iz istorii podgotovki partiinikh kadrov v sovetsko-partiinikh shkolakh i kommunisticheskikh universitetakh (1921-1925gg) (Moscow, 1972), p. 109 and p. 140). Fitzpatrick argues that approximately 70 per cent of student Party cells supported Trotsky in 1923, but most were expelled after the 1924 purge (Fitzpatrick, Education and Social Mobility, pp. 99-102). Secret reports by the Petrograd University Party committee state that 15-20 per cent of the students and Party members supported Trotsky, although it is not known how they compiled these figures (TsGA IPD, f. 984, op. 1, d. 36, 11. 51-52).

(82)See Izvestiia, 2 Oct. 1923, for details on the beginning of the proverka. In Leningrad, a similar campaign was launched by November. At L.G.U., 1,000 students (approximately 12 per cent of the student body) were expelled (see Na shturm nauki, p. 33).

(83)Sbornik materialov Leningradskogo komiteta RKP(b), Vyp. 8 (Leningrad, 1925), p. 112.

(84)Istoriia Leningradskogo Universiteta, 1819-1969 (Leningrad, 1969), p. 292; Sh. Chanbarisov, Formirovanie sovetskoi universitetskoi systemy (1917-1938gg) Second Edition (Moscow, 1988), p. 103; Izvestiia, 24 May 1924.

(85)In February 1924, a secret memorandum sent by the Leningrad Party organization to local vuzy outlined the basic aims of the proverka: i] expel many of the senior "perpetual" students who had failed several courses; ii] more involvement of Komsomol and Party students in student and vuz administration; iii] all important policy changes at vuzy to be now initiated by their Party organisation; iv] attempt to secure greater non-Party student involvement (TsGA IPD, f. k-601, op. 1, d. 556, 11. 80-83).

(86)TsGA IPD, f. 4, op. 1, d. 1118, 1. 194. Expulsion rates during the first ten days of the purge went from a low of 10 per cent to a high of 25 per cent, due to unclear instructions on how to review students' social and political backgrounds (See Izvestiia, 24 May - 3 June 1924).

(87)Izvestiia, 29 June 1924.

(88)TsGA SPb, f. 7240, op. 14, d. 144, 1. 57. The "quotas" for expulsions of students by branch of vuz were as follows: socio-economic, 30 per cent; medical, 15-20 per cent; pedagogical, 20-25 per cent; agricultural, 15-20 per cent. TsGA IPD, f. 4, op. 1, d. 117, 11. 222-23.

(89)N.S.Derzhavin, the Rector of L.G.U., bluntly stated his opposition to the proverka, arguing that it would further dilute an already weak student body. TsGA IPD, f. 984, op. 1, d. 54, 1. 77. Expulsion rates varied from 19-33 per cent across the country. See Izvestiia, October 23, 1924; Na shturm nauki, p.34; Kazanskii universitet, 1804-1979. Ocherki istorii (Kazan', 1979), p. 110.

(90)TsGA IPD, f. 436, op. 1, d. 6, 1. 36. At L.G.U., approximately 15 per cent of the expelled students were reinstated; this is a much lower figure than in some other vuzy, where over half of the expelled students were reinstated. ibid., f. 4., op. 1, d. 91, 1. 216

(91)Sotsialisticheskii vestnik 12/13 (1924), pp. 16-17; 14 (1924), p. 15. Suicides had become so common that one student, seeing a queue in the halls of one vuz, jokingly remarked: "Is this the line-up for suicides?" ibid., 15 (1924), p. 15.

(92)TsGA IPD, f. 984, op. 1, d. 54, 11. 77-78. Many of the professors at L.G.U. reportedly raised their students' marks in order to persuade Glavprobfobr that these pupils shouldbe reinstated.

(93)TsGA IPD, f. 4, op. 1, d. 112, 11. 5-6. Party organs also attacked the decision to reinstate many students: at L.G.U., it was pointed out that six students, expelled for being active "anti-Soviet" elements, were let back into the university in September; the L.G.U. Party organization regarded these reinstatements as a self-defeating policy. ibid., f. 4, op. 1, d.91, 1. 231.

(94)TsGA IPD, f. 984, op. 1, d. 90, 1. 6.

(95)TsGA IPD, f. k-601, op. 1, d. 554, 1. 109.

(96)TsGA IPD, f. 984, op. 1, d. 295, 11. 37-39; f. 80, op. 1, d. 112, 1. 2. Although the numbers of opposition members were relatively small, the potential for more widespread disaffection was noted.
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Author:Konecny, Peter
Publication:Canadian Journal of History
Date:Dec 1, 1992
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