chapter  6
Russian Literacy Campaigns 1861–1939
ByBen Eklof
Pages 23

A campaign that began in the largely self governing peasant commune ended with the imposition of a ruthlessly centralized political order and the very destruction of that commune, the hearth of traditional Russian popular culture. The modern impulse to literacy in Russia began with the Great Reforms. All reservations aside, the Tsarist government had placed universal literacy on the agenda. Yet, critics of the Tsarist government, Soviet historians, and many Western historians as well, have concluded that a massive "educational failure" was one of the contributing factors to the collapse of the Tsarist Empire and the Russian Revolution. As Gail W. Lapidus observed, "war and civil war gave primacy to military and economic needs, and generated an atmosphere inhospitable to substantial educational benefits." Confronted with internal discontent, strikes, even rioting, the leadership introduced the New Economic Policy, abandoning centralized control and force in favor of the marketplace and material incentives.