Saturday, July 27, 2019

Pedology in Russia ‘Once Damned but Not Forgotten’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 24 – Pedology, the use of metrical measures to understand children and guide their education, was banned by Stalin on July 4, 1936 for its “perversions” and those who practiced it were killed or sent to the camps, effectively ending this approach to childhood and putting the Soviet primary educational system far behind the West.

            This particular field of inquiry was important not only for the guidance it provided for teachers but also for the way it provided a place for Russian sociologists in the 1920s to go after the Soviet authorities banned that field as “a bourgeois pseudo-science,” where under the guise of explaining pedological test results, they produced impressive scholarship.

            (For background on this and citations to many of their works between 1906 and 1936, long ignored in both the Soviet Union and the West, see this author’s master’s thesis, Soviet Marxism and the Russian Experience with Intelligence Testing (University of Chicago Department of Political Science, 1972, 481 pp.).)

            Russian scholars revived sociology after the death of Stalin, but until very recently, they did little to bring back pedology. There have been occasional articles and books about its seminal figures like Pavel Blonsky and Vladimir Bekhterev; but the field itself has remained without significant developments.

            Now, as a result of the work of Inna Anitpkina, a scholar at the Moscow Institute of Education of the Higher School of Economics, that is changing. She and other scholars in the Russian Federation are now focusing on psychometric research in the West and on pedology in the USSR (

            Antipkina says that a field of research that was “banned in the USSR” is now on its way to becoming “a profession of the future.” One can only hope that this new profession will not neglect its roots in the Soviet and Russian past but will draw on the impressive works of the scholars of the 1920s and early 1930s.    

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