Alexandr Podossinov, Moscow
Classical education in Russia today
Very honorable members of the Euroclassica!
Ladies and gentlements!
I remember, how sixteen years ago I was invited by Dr Anton van Hoof to visit the Netherlands. During my staying there I attended in Utrecht an All-Holland annual conference of the school teachers of classical languages and red a paper about the classical philology in Russia. My last two or three quite modest sentences were about new tendencies in Russian education – we wanted to introduce Latin and, if possible, Ancient Greek in our school programs. I told about the foundation of the Classical Gymnasium in Saint-Petersburg and of a private gymnasium in Moskau, and about our purpose to create a modern Latin school book. The reaction was absolutely unexpected and moving. The editors, who exhibited their production in a room near the conference hall, decided to the end of a conference to make a present to me and in my person to Russian classicists and to hand over all literature, that they have brought to the conference. Three or four greatest newspapers of the country interviewed me and published these interviews under the remarkable titles: “Latin in Russian schools: First fruits of Perestroika”, or “Gorbachev introduces Latin into schools”, and finally “Russia returns to Europe”. I think, this last title reflects correctly the meaning of the event. Two centuries of its history Russia belonged to Europe also thanks to the fact that it had a classical gymnasial education with Ancient Greek and Latin in a school program. And we, classicists, took the possibility to introduce after Perestrojka some other then earlier subjects in the middle school as a good opportunity to return to the classical (i.e European) traditions of education. Almost all of us, where ever we acted, plunged into schools to teach Latin and Greek.
So, beginning with 1989, school directors could introduce in the school programs new subjects. One of the first and important was Latin. Many schools and parents wanted have just Latin. It became a fashion. An all-Russian newspaper wrote an article about it under the title “A gymnasium without Latin is the same as the damsel without shame”. The result is that in two years we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of a revival of classical education in Russian middle schools.
What have we now in Russia? I start with the modern situation and perspectives in classical education in secondary schools.
In the big cities of Russia, there are some schools that are similar to the real classical (humanist) gymnasia. I know one gymnasium in Saint-Petersburg (School N 610) that has existed already for eithteen years, another one in Moscow that was founded at the same time by the Orthodox Church, and one private gymnasium in Moscow that was founded some years later by a classical philologist, Dr. Jurij Shichalin. They are real classical gymnasia with two ancient languages. As I know, there are similar schools in some other Russian cities, in Petrozavodsk, Pskov, Tverj, Nižnij Novgorod, Kazan, Samara, Saratov, Voronež, Vladimir, Ivanov, Ekaterinburg, Krasnojarsk, Novosibirsk, Tomsk, Omsk, Jakutsk, Vladivostok and some other cities. Still, I do not think that all of them have really a right to bear the name of "classical gymnasium" — that means many hours of Latin and Greek in the program. They are rather schools with preference to the humanities in their programs, and that is why Latin (but mostly only Latin) has honorable place in the program. The schools of this kind are now numerous. Only in Moscow, I know more than thirty schools where Latin is taught. To get an idea of the number of Latin students, it is worth paying attention to the fact that one of Latin manuals for schools has been edited in about 300.000 copies which are all sold out. We have no other official statistics to this matter and sometimes learn mirabiles res. So, according the last information there are in Smolensk seven schools, where Latin is taught.
Well, I do not think that in the nearest perspective the number of students will increase. The point is not to permit a reduction of this number and to make this process irreversible. Besides, it will be good if every big Russian city could have a real classical gymnasium with teaching of both ancient languages. Unfortunately we have even in Moscow no state classical gymnasium, that wuld be similar to the Saint-Petersburg one, and that is why we Moscovers look very provincial and remain poor in comparison with it. This circumstance becomes apparent by annual Competitions in Latin: the pupils from here come to us to Moscow and win almost all prizes in all levels, especially in highest levels. After their visit we in Moscow start discussing over and over again the problem of foundation in Moscow of a real classical gymnasium.
Of course, the number of the Russian schools, where Latin is taught, is not to big, if we compare it with the number of the similar schools in a small Holland: having the population as one and half of the population of only Moscow, Holland has three and half thousand schools with Latin in a program. The comparison is correct: both Holland and Russia use another language group, than Latin, and were situated on the periphery of the Roman Empire (not as Italy or Spain, where it is naturally to study the ancient predecessor of their actual language).
From point of view of western observer the situation with the choice of language may look strange: they say, Russia has a great influence of Greek culture since the times, when Russia has got Christianity from the Byzance. Moscow pretended always — as a Third Rome — to be an heir and successor of the Byzantine empire and civilization. That is why Greek language has to be more important for the Russian culture and education than Latin. Latin on the contrary was for many centuries a language of the western catholic civilization, alien to orthodox Russia and sometimes looking quite hostile against the «true faith» of the orthodoxy. Why is Latin now a more favorite ancient language in the school?
To answer this question we must take into consideration two aspects of the problem — the historical one (how was attitude to Latin and Greek in Russia in the last 3-4 centuries) and the modern sociological-psychological one (what associations has Latin nowdays, what it symbolizes for the modern Russian people etc.).
Let us begin with the first aspect. It is true, that till the second half of the 17th century Latin was a very rare language in Russia. One of the most important raisons of it was its association with the Roman Papacy and the Catholicism. But the teaching Greek — naturally in its late form — was also not so popular as assumed, because no regular school education existed in Russia. But tempora mutantur, and in 1685 the first school was opened in Moscow; it called «The Slavonic-Greek-Latin Academy». All disciplines were taught here not only in Greek as before, but also in Latin. In the beginning of the 18th century with the reforms of the Peter the Great Latin became the most important foreign language, because the entry of Russia into the family of European countries, that Peter initiated, required the acquaintance with the basic values of the West-European culture, and Latin was a perfect mediator for it. Greek language remained valid till the beginning of 19th century in the Russian ecclesiastical schools, where the future orthodox priests were educated.
The gymnasial education of the European type with the teaching the ancient languages appeared in Russia in postpetrine time. The first gymnasium, attached to the Saint-Petersburg Academy of Sciences, was opened in 1726. The second one was founded by Moscow University in 1755, the third one in Kazan in 1758. Thirty two gymnasia functioned in Russia to the beginning of the 19th century. During the reign of the liberal tsar Alexander the I progressive reforms in the educational field were carried out and the extensive net of gymnasial and real schools were established. The German classical gymnasium became a model, that the Russian schools followed. This gymnasium survived till the October revolution 1917. The basis of the educational program was Latin and in some smaller volume Ancient Greek. It is worth to mark, that Greek disappeared sometimes during the 19th century from the programs, what never happened with Latin. That is why Latin remained always the main discipline, on which the whole building of the classical gymnasial education was erected.
This historical excurse helps to understand, why just Latin, and not Greek, is in last 10 years so popular among the school directors, teachers, parents and children.
After the Perestrojka, when Sovjet values were compromised (denounced?) and rejected, the Russian society in search of new ones saw — in a very natural way — in the pre-revolutionary historical and cultural development (violently interrupted) high patterns and values, to which they must return. The classical school education with the teaching ancient languages, of what Russia was proud at the beginning of 20th century, became nowadays the status of the ideal educational institution, that must and can be restored (naturally in some extent). Only a few of modern schools can be able in our days to afford two ancient languages. The choice between both languages is always in favor of Latin, because just Latin was the basic subject in the pre-revolutionary gymnasium.
It is an interesting fact, that the modern Russia is oriented and appreciates highly not the legendary period of the first tsars, of the adoption of Christianity and of the isolation of Russian reign from the other European countries. Just the two postpetrine centuries (18th-19th) look for Russians as the «golden Age» of Russian history. Peter the Great, Catharina the II, Alexander the I in politics, Pushkin, Gogol, Tolstoj, Dostojevskij, Chehov, Blok in literature, Suvorov, Kutuzov, Ushakov, Nahimov in military, Montferrant, Rossi, Bazhenov, Shchusev, Shehtel in the architecture, Glinka, Chaikovskij, Musorgskij, Borodin, Prokofiev, Stravinsky in the music, Brullov, Levitan, Ajwazovskij, Serov, Repin, Malevich, Chagall, Kandinskij in the painting, many eminent scientists, historians, philologists form in the memory of modern Russians the glory of the country, the top achievements of their history. These two centuries of Russian history were marked by the westernization of Russia, and Latin symbolizes this situation.
It is clear that in the two above-mentioned types of schools, where Latin is taught, the volume and intensity of Latin studies are different. In the first type (classical gymnasia), pupils study Latin from the 6th to the 11th class, three to five hours a week, and Greek from the 7th class, three to four hours — so it is e.g. in Saint-Petersburg gymnasium. About this kind of schools Vsevolod Zelchenko will speak after me in detail. In the second type of schools (the so-called "humanities schools"), the teaching of Greek is rare; Latin is studied very differently, from two to four hours weekly. Up till now, we have not generally adopted programs for Latin study in different types of schools, and we don't have the common requirements for the final tests. The director and the Latinist of each school themselves decide, how it must go. I am sure we have to solve this problem, together with the educational instances, and not to leave it to the mercy of school directors.
In the narrow sense, the aim is to teach the pupils to read original Latin texts (ancient, biblical and medieval). But we think this linguistic aspect must not to be only one. The broader task is to introduce children to the values and categories common to all Europeans, to get them acquainted with linguistic, literary, historical, social, political, and other bases of European culture, to raise their educational level. That is why the lessons of Latin are never simply lessons of a language, but also, through the language, an introduction to the European values of Antiquity, including the classical heritage in Russia. In this relation modern West-European school books give very good examples of such way of looking. For example, me, while writing my own Latin school book, used extensively the experiences of English, American, German and certainly of Dutch authors of the Latin manuals (you remember the present of editors in Utrecht).
At the beginning of the revival of classical education in our country, we do not have the appropriate literature: manuals, handbooks, dictionaries, programs, methodical literature, etc. The teachers tried to teach copying pages of old Latin school books from the 19th century or from the modern universities Latin books. Both were badly appropriated for school children. That is why many educational supplies have been produced already in the first years. Some books were translated from German (e.g. "Ianua Nova” for Latin, "Propylaia” for Greek, “Grund- und Aufbauwortschatz Latein” and some others), some books have been created in Russia. Our English and Dutch colleagues made several suggestions to translate some successful Latin school books into Russian and proposed even to pay both for translation and for edition in Russia. But when we took a closer look at these books, we understood, that they are not convenient to the Russian language and Russian pupils. For example: Whereas a Dutch or English pupil needs many ours and much effort to understand, that puella (girl), if you her see, must change her form and look as puellam, and it is a special casus, and there are many different casus , that you must know, in this situation the Russian pupils know it from their own (also Indo-European) language with a very similar declination system, more similar than a German one, and do not need so much time to understand it. That is why we had to create our own school books.
Two Latin manuals for gymnasia are the most popular now — by Nina Lazarevna Kazman and Irina Leonidovna Uljanova (Moscow), and by a group of Latinists under my editorship. The Moscow classicist, professor of the Linguistic University N.L.Kazman wrote a book for the children from the second class of elementary school and many years taught herself Latin in a Moscow gymnasium from he second till the eleventh class. This book calls “Meus primus libellus Latinus” and is build as a school book for modern languages. N.L.Kazman together with her colleague I.L.Uljanova wrote the second Latin school book for gymnasia. Both books you can see here. The next edition, to be mentioned, is a complex course of Latin for gymnasia, which is called "Lingua Latina. Introduction into Latin and into Ancient Culture". This complex, written by my colleagues and me, consists of ten books. Three of them contain the Practical Course with the explanation of the grammatical material, with texts, exercises, vocabulary and stories from ancient history and culture. Three more books are the Anthology of the original Latin texts, from the most ancient authors to the neo-Latina opera of the last decades of the 20th century with a commentary. The seventh book is a short Latin grammar; the eighth and ninth books are Latin-Russian and Russian-Latin dictionaries. The last tenth book is devoted to the history, aims and methods of teaching Latin in modern Russian schools. With this complete set, the teachers anywhere in Russia can have at their disposal the material for every possible Latin course. There are some other attempts to create a Latin school books. I mean the school books of young Moscow teachers Alexey Mihailovich Belov and of Vladimir Vladimirovich Feier together with Elizaveta Sergeevna Naumova, that appeared some months ago. All these books you can see here. In the last years many others books on ancient culture (history, mythology, literature, art, philosophy, sciences) have been published.
In Russia there were a very small number of Classical Philology chairs where the professional Latinists were educated (six or seven in the whole SU). Now, with the growth of a number of universities, we have more and more such chairs (only in Moscow, there are now four of them). But the quantity of Latinists that complete their education every year is yet not sufficient ( in Moscow Lomonosov State University from 3 to 6 students finish their education every year). That is why we still have in schools (especially in the periphery) many teachers who are not professional Latinists and it is bad. In perspective, we plan to introduce special courses for the future school Latinists in some pedagogical institutes, where the students study philology and where there exist a chair for classical philology.
We are now in the situation when the State, on one side, does not put obstacles in the process of introducing Latin into school programs, and, on the other side, does not participate in this process. The Ministry of Education of Russia, various departments of Education of lower level tolerate our attempts and experiments with Latin in school, but do not support them. The usual position here is, somehow: "What you make, lies on the periphery of a general development of Russian education and serves only the interests of a small elite of the society." In the perspective, we see as important aim to consolidate school teachers, educative, cultural, scientific, political figures, and, together with the mass media, to exert influence and pressure upon the governmental educational structures to elaborate State standards of Latin study in schools, as it is usual in most countries of Europe. Our EUROCLASSICA conference, I hope, will support our efforts in this direction.
Public attitude to the introduction of Latin in our secondary school is very positive. Mass media often and positively review the situation in this sphere. It is noteworthy that the winner of the competition "The best teacher of the year" in Moscow recently was a young school Latinist, Maria Philipenko. Some publications of educational magazines were specially devoted to the problems of classical education in the secondary school.
The public attitude has a relation to the question of motivation for choosing Latin in a modern Russian school. For modern Russians (I mean mostly the parents) the learning Latin means first of all, as I said, the return to the best canons of the home pre-revolutionary education. Latin becomes a part of a good humanistic education, as in “old good times”. Secondly, the learning Latin means in eyes of Russians to be a real European. Latin was an instrument of European civilization during more than two thousand centuries, and formed a special psycho-linguistic type of an European man. To be an European means to possess this instrument. The remaining of Latin in the programs of the best western humanist schools, that are in some respect a model for the perfectioning Russian educational system, is also provocative for the modern Russians. Having learned Latin, they can have better possibility to continue their education in other European universities in those disciplines, where the acquaintance with Latin is obligatory.
These two reasons (nostalgic return to own tradition and alignment to the West-European educational standard) are perhaps the most important in social-psychological aspect, even if they are not so wide and openly proclaimed. There are of course many other arguments in favor of learning Latin in the secondary schools, which are lying on surface and are universally accepted and appreciated (e.g. benefit of the common linguistic education, helping in the learning Romanic languages, understanding of international cultural and scientific terminology, gymnastics of brains, possibility to read many sources of European cultural history in original language, etc.). All these reasons are in the foreground of public opinion about the advantages of learning Latin.
In April of this year, we had in Moscow the Eleventh annual Competition in Latin and Ancient culture for school children. As usual, there were circa 200 participants from ca. 30 schools of Moscow, Saint-Petersburg and some other towns of Russia. As you guess, the most winner origin in Saint-Petersburg. In the perspective, we hope to organize an All-Russia Latin Competition in order to take part in the international Latin competitions. Several last years our country took part in annual European competition “Pythia contest”, organized by the European Cultural Centre in the Delphi. As you understand only pupils from three-four schools could take part in this competition. Every year one winner with his teacher visited Greece to take part in celebrations.
In many schools there are Latin theaters; the pupils compose Latin verses, edit Latin newspapers and journals, collect the evidence of life of Latin in our days (as you will see in classical gymnasium in S.-Petersburg). The editions of Latin proverbs and expressions are very popular among the students. In some schools the pupils together with their teachers translate, comment and edit Latin works (two of them – the first Catilinaria of Cicero and the first book of Aeneis of Vergil you can see here).
* * *
Now I would like to say some words about the teaching the classical languages in the Russian high school.
According to the State Standards of high education the Latin and Ancient Greek as obligatory disciplines together with the Ancient Slavonic are included in a group under the title “Classical languages”. Next professions have to study the classical languages: philologists (300 hours), historians (200 hours), historians of arts (68 hours). Futhermore, 200 hours are recommended for studying in specialties “philosophy” and “history of religions”. Other humanities students, as jurists, psychologists, political scientists, theologians, museum’s scientists, orientalists and others can manage according to the State standards without Latin. Certainly, the best institutions, where the future jurists are educated, try to introduce in their plans Latin, because the obligatory course of Roman law can be very difficult to understand without knowing the Latin termini and maxims. In these cases the students have normally 30-35 hours (one semester).
Thus, the educational situation look so: future philologists and historians in frame of the time-plan, determined by standards, can learn the elementary Latin grammar (morphology and syntax) and in the best case read some fragments from the reading-book. The jurists in their short time are limited only to the first knowledge of grammar, learn some termini and maxims.
Unfortunately, the volume of the real grammatical knowledge proves to be not so good, because as usually not professional classicists teach in provincial universities. I told already how few specialists were produced in the Soviet times with ten or fifteen graduates every year. That is why the problem of teachers training remains. In this year some institutions in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg initiated the organization on the basis of three universities the permanently acting courses for classicists – teachers of Ancient Greek and Latin in Russian provincial high schools. The most active propugnator of this project is the member of Russian Academy of Sciences the classical philologist Nikolaj Nikolaevich Kazanskij. This initiative was supported by many teachers from many cities of Russia at the annual meeting in Moscow in January of this year.
So, the main part of the Russian Geisteswissenschaftler have never studied Latin, from the rest the most have never red ancient authors in original. The knowledge of the Ancient Greek is spread to a lesser degree.
It is clear, that in the best Russian universities the situation looks much better. I know from my own experience the situation only in two Moscow universities – the Moscow Lomonosov State university (MGU) and the Russian State university for humanities (RGGU).
So, in the philological faculty of MGU all students-non classicists study Latin the whole first year twice a week. In addition the Romanists learn vulgar Latin, and the Slavists learn two years Ancient Greek. Histsorians, biologists, jurists and historians of arts have also Latin courses. I must say, that MGU has the right to form its own programs, different from the state-standards-programs.
As regards the second university (RGGU), all students, studying linguistic and modern European languages, have a Latin course two years (two academic hours a week). They can choose the continuation of the Latin or the start of Greek. Students-philosophers have in the first year an obligatory course of Latin (four hours a week) and can choose continuation of Latin in the second year (two hours a week). At the same year they get possibility to study Ancient Greek and to continue it in the next year. The historians of religions, beginning with one of these languages, study it 3-4 years and are able to read enough difficult texts in the original language.
The gap between the central and provincial universities in a level and a volume of teaching classical languages seems in last years to become lesser. The evergrowing demand on classical antiquity in our society brings to the enlargement of the courses of Latin in high education institutions of many Russian cities (for example, in Petrozavodsk, Kazan, Saratov, Omsk, Tomsk, Krasnojarsk, Novosibirsk). The local teachers create their own manuals in Latin and Greek (some of them you can see here) and expect efficient support of their colleagues from two metropolis.
One of the support form is an annual meeting of classical philologists in MGU in January of every year. The chair of Classical Philology of MGU and personally Prof. Marina Nikolaevna Slavjatinskaja organize this meeting, to which many teachers from many Russian cities come to discuss during some days the problems of teaching classical languages in secondary and high schools, to represent their printing production, to share experience. Just here we can estimate our achievements and disadvantages. But the question of organizing a special society of teachers of classical languages is on the agenda of our work.
I look at the future of the teaching of classical languages (and especially of Latin) in Russia with a certain optimism. Much has been done in the last twenty years, much more has to be done in the next years. In any case, introducing Latin into Russian gymnasial education is of vital importance, if the aim of the modern educational reform is a real transition from the totalitarian spiritual misery to the own sources, to the interrupted tradition, to the common European historical and cultural roots, to the real humanism. I consider the dissemination of Latin in Russia as a part of the cultural integration of Russia into the European community and appreciate very highly the fact, that the annual EUROCLASSICA Conference is hold in Russia, in its cultural, scientific and educational metropolis – Saint-Petersburg, in this real Northern Palmyra. As a Moscover I would be happy, when one of the future conferences of EUROCLASSICA will be hold in Moscow. But we have to deserve it.
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