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By Pavel Bilichenko

Investigating the original historical pedagogical experience in the activity of the distinguished enthusiasts of the world education development in period of 19th – beginning of the 20thcenturies is of great scientific interest for us.

My research focuses on the history of my country in accordance to its status of the part of the Russian Empire at that period. In my opinion, pedagogical experience of Nikolay Neplyuevcan be of serious interest for researcher.

He was born in 1851 in a very famous noble family. His father was close to the Royal House and headed the nobility in Chernigov province. 

Nikolay Nikolaevich Neplyuev

Neplyuev was an extremely religious person since his youth. Having received an excellent educational at the university (he graduated from St. Petersburg university), he soon came to the conclusion that the Russian society was not perfect and fell short of high ideals of orthodox Christianity. His searching for the ways to creating the new and highly humane society led him to conducting the famous and successful social experiment through organizing the community “Крестовоздвиженское трудовое братство” (“Exaltation of the Cross labour brotherhood”). The activity of this community was researched by many scientists: historians, sociologists, theologians. My research seeks to present Nikolay Neplyuev’s pedagogical investigations results.

The practical result of Nikolay Neplyuev’s educational activity consisted in opening two agricultural schools (one for boys and one for girls) in 1881, and a prep school in his estate in Chernigov province. The founder considered them to be a basis for forming since childhood the future ideal society. 

Children in the Prep School

Summing up the results of Nikolay Neplyuev’s and his like-minded colleagues attempts, the fact of appraising the successful activity of these educational establishments is generally admitted. There were some peculiarities of these schools working far from big noisy cities in the silence of patriarchal village.

The first obvious condition of Neplyuev’s work efficiency was his confidence in the deep religiousness of the rural population. He easily gained respect of the rural population by his views on upbringing their children grounding on deep respect of Christian values.

According to his views, the founder of the schools could effectively connect the process of teaching children with raising them on the basis of Christian moral tradition. Neplyuev himself actively taught boys in the boys’ school while his mother and sister conducted lessons in the school for girls. One of the traditions of the boys’ school was to hold weekly classes (on Saturdays) about the real sense of Christian study.

Using understandable for children examples from the Holy Writing Neplyuev tried to make bring them understand the sense of human brotherhood and human love to close people. The founder’s experience of introducing to the school practice two circles: groups of senior and junior pupils (Rus. − “круг” (circle)) was a success. The first one united children and teachers in discussing pupil’s behaviour, and second one included only children.

The experience of moral teaching was positive, when every new pupil could choose his own mentor amongst the senior pupils. Every mentor had a copybook where he noted his ward’s behavior. Later, at the meetings, this was discussed and everybody could share his own opinions regarding the behaviour of different children and even of the mentor. 

General Meeting in Girls’ School

The activity of these schools during the whole history of their existence formed the basis for their founder’s developing his idea of forming the labour community. More than half of school leavers joined the community voluntarily after graduating from school.

During his pedagogical explorations, Nikolay Neplyuev had to overcome the most serious in his view problem of providing qualified staff for his schools. The trouble was that most teachers couldn’t grasp the essence of founder’s deep educational ideas and they often did not share his views. After some years of efforts, Neplyuev obtained the authorities’ permission to employ the graduates of his schools as teachers. Later he considered it to have significantly improved the situation.

We consider it to be a great confirmation of Neplyuev’s project success that even after his death in 1908, the community as a social institute its household and schools existed for several more decades. Their liquidation in the late 1920s was caused by Soviet authorities’ policy.

We managed to restore a lot of different pedagogical innovations of Nikolay Neplyuev both in the sphere of upbringing and teaching.

A more detailed account of our research will soon be published in History of Education Researcher.