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Progressive Educators and the Professionalization of Educational Research in the USSR, 1917-1927

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This article examines the efforts made by Soviet progressive educators to accommodate themselves to the new Soviet government and the consequences thereof. Russia’s pre-revolutionary progressive education community sought to indirectly transform state and society by encouraging the creation of “schools of citizenship” that would educate all – regardless of class, creed, and gender – for lives of “harmonious development” and active engagement. Bolshevik victory in 1917 presented progressive educators with an ironic dilemma: the party that most progressives rejected as coarse, violent, and undemocratic embraced their ideas with a passion and energy unseen from every previous government. Could progressive educators work for such a benefactor? They could and they did, in great numbers. But to distance themselves from a ruling party they disdained, progressives wrapped themselves in the language of professionalism and retreated into self-contained institutes, governmental bureaucracies, and experimental schools. These developments warped the content of Russian progressive education, distanced progressives from the schools they sought to transform, and hastened the demise of educational progressivism in the Soviet Union. This article makes extensive use of archival documents, published primary sources, and both Russian and English-language secondary sources.

Affiliations: 1: Birmingham-Southern College, Birmingham, AL, USA,


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