Until the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the education system was highly centralized. The school law adopted by Parliament in 1992 has meant that the federal states of the Russian Federation have become virtually sovereign in terms of the objectives and content of the school’s teaching. Instead of the Soviet Union’s common curricula and teaching materials, the states and the individual schools themselves must decide the form of teaching. An alternative sector has gradually been formed at the secondary stage with independent university preparatory colleges and luces with a humanistic or natural sciences orientation. Decentralization is promoted by the Russian Federation’s ethnic and linguistic diversity.
With the school reform in 1984, the school starting age was reduced from 7 to 6 years, which met strong resistance. Parents can decide the age of entry for their children. After the preschool follows the primary stage, which comprises 4 grades. The secondary stage previously included 11 first-year courses, to which the first four first-year courses were in the technical sense. In the 1992 School Act, this was reduced to 9, which was prescribed as the mandatory minimum for “basic secondary school”. A separate primary school of 4-5 years has traditionally only existed in more or less isolated villages. From 15 to 18 years, students can either take university preparatory courses or engage in pure vocational education.
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The higher education is placed at universities, so-called institutes or academies. University studies are usually conducted for 5 years. Admission takes place after entrance exam. The number of part-time students at secondary school level has decreased to about 10% of students. Significantly more, 40%, undertook evening studies at the universities or correspondence studies in 1992. There is an extensive popular education activity with so-called folk universities, study circles and lectures. Through the decentralization, the reorganized Academy of Educational Sciences has lost a lot of its influence, e.g. over the design of the curricula and standardized tests, and is mainly devoted to research.
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Expansion of the Russian Empire
In 1547 Ivan IV was inaugurated on the throne in Moscow. He was nicknamed The Cruel for his brutality and despotism. In 1552 he invaded Kazan and occupied part of the Volga area inhabited by tartars, chuvasher, maries, murder dunes and mortars. In 1556 he occupied the Astracan, while the war continued in the west against the Polish-Lithuanian state – with the aim of gaining access to the Baltic Sea. He introduced the quality of life – the peasants thus lost the right to leave without their master’s permission. Ivan the Cruel consolidated his monarchy and annihilated various clans of high nobility.
When Ivan died in 1584, his neglected and unwilling son Fjodor took the throne. In reality, power was taken over by the nobleman Boris Godunov. In 1591, Prince Dmitri died under mysterious circumstances. He was the only legitimate heir to the throne when Fjodor had no children. Godunov waged war against Sweden, entered into an alliance with Georgia becoming a Russian protectorate, and annexed the Principality of Siberia.
At the death of Fjodor in 1598, the dynasty resigned at the same time at death. The Russian Territorial Council – Zemski Sobor – instead chose Boris Godunov for czar. However, other parts of the high nobility considered themselves more worthy of taking over the throne, and so the so-called “upheaval era” began in Russia. In 1601-2, Ukraine was subject to Poland. A fraudster from there called himself “Prince Dmitri” and claimed to have escaped an assault on Boris Godunov. He gathered an army and marched towards Moscow. He succeeded in causing the city’s residents to revolt, giving him access to the throne. In 1606 the high nobility “Pseudo Dmitri” killed, but already in 1607 a new impostor, “Pseudo Dmitri II” entered the scene supported by Poland, Lithuania and Sweden. Polish troops entered Moscow, supported by treacherous parts of the nobility. However, a wide popular movement got the Poles out of Moscow, and in 1613 Zemski chose Sobor Mihail Romanov as a new czar. In 1654-67, Russia was under Tsar Alexis at war against Poland and Sweden. His greatest victory was the annexation of eastern Ukraine.
During the Romanov dynasty, Russia evolved into a monarchy, administered by an efficient bureaucracy and an oligarchy of nobles, traders and bishops that were part of the state structure. Patriarch Nikon reformed the church and compared the sacred writings in Cyrillic with the originals in Greek. Part of the traditional clergy disagreed with the Reformation, giving rise to deep division in the Russian church. Their leader Arcipreste Habacuc was burned at the stake.
Throughout the 17th century, the economy grew rapidly. Not only because of the country’s territorial expansion, but also because of the sale of wood products and processed goods to England and the Netherlands and the extraction of Siberia’s natural resources.
1694 Peter I
After the inauguration of Peter I on the throne in 1694, the Muscovite kingdom was renamed the Russian Empire. Peter turned to the West to absorb its scientific and technical progress – especially to develop the Russian navy. In alliance with Denmark and Poland, Russia intervened in the Great Nordic War against Sweden (1700-1721). In 1703 Peter founded Skt. Petersburg, to which he transferred the capital of the empire. At the same time, he organized the government according to strict guidelines.
For the majority of the population, Peter’s kingdom was very oppressive and distant with a rigid normative structure that almost made it a caste government. Among several other control agencies, he set up a spy network within the state administration. The police force played a key role in guaranteeing the viability of the autocratic system. He inevitably crushed a conspiracy among conservative nobles in Moscow, leaving his son Alexei tortured and killed when it appeared that he had been in alliance with the nobles.
At the end of the Great Nordic War in 1721, Russia, with the Nystad Treaty, gained control of the Gulf of Finland as well as the provinces on the eastern side of the Baltic Sea. After winning the war against Persia, Peter was able to extend the empire’s southern border to the Caspian Sea. The territorial, economic and trade expansion of the period made Russia one of Europe’s strongest powers, but at the same time created a rag rug of different ethnic groups and cultures that it was difficult to merge into one.
Peter died unexpectedly in 1725 and this triggered a period of instability until Catherine II in 1762 took over the throne after the Imperial Guard removed her husband from the throne. The empire now continued its expansion with military and diplomatic means. Part of Ukraine east of the Dnieper was occupied, as was Belarus. Poland was divided with Prussia. Lithaun and Crimea were annexed. The northern coast of the Black Sea was brought under control and at the same time the empire advanced on the steppes east of Ural along the Caspian Sea. Furthermore, it strengthened its influence on the Balkans.
Economically, the state and a small core of Russian noblemen enriched themselves on this expansion, while poverty among the living peasants increased. Military democracy among the Cossacks in Ukraine was abolished, and the national feeling among other oppressed people increasingly collided with imperial centralism.
Towards the end of the 18th century, the French revolution and the struggle against monarchy became very important among Russian intellectuals who revolted against the social conditions that existed in the country. Zar Pavel I (1796-1801) reacted strongly to this rebellion, instituted cultural censorship, internal exile and even banned travel abroad. In 1801, Pavel was killed by a conspiracy. With his successor Alexandr I, Russian politics took a sharp turn.