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Breaking the Tongue

Breaking the Tongue: Language, Education, and Power in Soviet Ukraine, 1923-1934

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 480
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  • Book Info
    Breaking the Tongue
    Book Description:

    In the 1920s and early 1930s, the Communist Party embraced a policy to promote national consciousness among the Soviet Union's many national minorities as a means of Sovietizing them. In Ukraine, Ukrainian-language schooling, coupled with pedagogical innovation, was expected to serve as the lynchpin of this social transformation for the republic's children.

    The first detailed archival study of the local implications of Soviet nationalities policy,Breaking the Tongueexamines the implementation of the Ukrainization of schools and children's organizations. Matthew D. Pauly demonstrates that Ukrainization faltered because of local resistance, a lack of resources, and Communist Party anxieties about nationalism and a weakening of Soviet power - a process that culminated in mass arrests, repression, and a fundamental adjustment in policy.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-1905-0
    Subjects: Education, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. List of Terms
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. A Note on Transliteration
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  7. A Note on Administrative Divisions in Soviet Ukraine
    (pp. xix-2)
  8. Introduction
    (pp. 3-14)

    Teachers in Soviet Ukraine who read their professional newspaper regularly confronted reminders such as this that their responsibilities in the new Soviet republic were great. They were to assume a vanguard position in the “third front” of the socialist revolution, education, by transforming their teaching and the learning objectives for their young charges, while carrying socialism to their community as public educators and political activists. The young Communist state focused on the nation for conveyance of these campaigns. “National culture” would push the “living historical current” along, providing it with substance and energy. This effort would result in the consolidation...

  9. Chapter One Primary Lessons
    (pp. 15-41)

    This study presumes the intrinsic power of educational institutions. It maintains that education set the barometer for the Soviet political agenda because it was education officials, instructors, and teachers who determined campaign objectives and the bar for success in nationalities policy. This chapter outlines the place of the schoolhouse not as the object of language planning, but as the agent of language change. Drawing on existing scholarship on the relationship between education and political authority, it argues that the shift in language of education pursued by the Soviets represented a powerful dictum. Schooling in Ukrainian was meant to upturn the...

  10. Chapter Two Adapting to Place
    (pp. 42-62)

    The Ukrainian education system drew inspiration from Western pedagogical experience. Revolution in the Russian Empire meant a reconsideration of the way in which teaching was done. For long-time advocates of progressive education, the altered political environment meant freedom to act upon a faith in the liberating power of schooling. The short-lived Ukrainian national governments that formed in the intervening time between the collapse of the tsarist government and lasting Bolshevik military victory in Ukraine aspired towards the creation of a network of schools under state administration. But it was the Bolshevik embrace of progressive pedagogy that motivated a fundamental shift...

  11. Chapter Three The Conversion
    (pp. 63-84)

    Education could not be a tool for political and social transformation if children could not comprehend and quickly internalize its message. Education administrators saw conversion to Ukrainian-language instruction for the republic’s majority ethnic-Ukrainian population, as well as well as the provision of Ukrainian-language training for ethnic minorities, as absolute priorities. The Ukrainian republican government mandated the quick study of Ukrainian and conversion to work in the language by its civil servants, but Narkomos’s timeline was even more truncated. Efforts for the transfer of schools and educational administration to Ukrainian in fact preceded government-wide decrees. Narkomos occupied the leading position in...

  12. Chapter Four Treading Carefully
    (pp. 85-103)

    The Ukrainization of primary schools was supposed to be automatic. Narkomos administrators stressed it would be. They set short-term goals for a process they believed had begun with the assumption of Bolshevik power and needed only a determined push. Yet, Narkomos administrators, inspectors, and the pedagogical press reported early on (and throughout the period of this study) on obstacles that hindered the fulfillment of a process that was expected to be routine. Much of the initial concern was for the lack of Ukrainian-language literature and trained teachers. These shortages were a persistent problem in the relatively more Russian-speaking East and...

  13. Chapter Five Learning the New Language of Pedagogy
    (pp. 104-130)

    No longer bound by disciplinary strictures, members of the next Soviet generation would see how the integrative knowledge they had gained through progressive education in the schools might be applied by labourers and stakeholders in a socialist economy. If this was the vision, real teachers were overwhelmed by all the tasks of its realization. Ultimately, and perhaps most critically, a perceived contradiction emerged between the goals of the complex system and the application of Ukrainian-language instruction. This chapter explores the “mechanics of implementation”: the tension that emerged between the ideals of this new pedagogical approach, their introduction, and the demands...

  14. Chapter Six Limited Urgency
    (pp. 131-151)

    Although schools had formally converted to Ukrainian-language instruction in numbers proximate to the ethnic-Ukrainian proportion of the children’s population, the pedagogical press and local education officials expressed concern that teachers were not achieving the sort of change in schooled literacy that Ukrainizers desired. Teachers did not know Ukrainian enough, were not seeking further training (or being told to do so), and quickly lost whatever knowledge they gained in short-term courses. Some administrators suggested that teachers’ use of a “flawed” Ukrainian heavily dependent on Russian borrowings was doing more harm than good for the Soviet agenda of uniting the republic’s labouring...

  15. Chapter Seven The Question of the Working Class
    (pp. 152-173)

    Soviet nationalities policy made little sense if it harmed the interests of the political base of Soviet power: industrial workers. However, it could not advance without securing the embrace and promotion of workers. The Communist Party designed the policy to unite the labouring community, but it required leadership by urban-based workers for the policy to be politically palatable in the long term. Thus, even if direct Ukrainization was taboo, education officials and their supporters in the party believed some amount of it was necessary. The route to accomplish this was through the Ukrainization of workers’ children. A component of this...

  16. Chapter Eight Children as Salvation: The Young Pioneers and Komsomol
    (pp. 174-199)

    An institution of a new literacy necessitated the participation of the young for it to succeed. Yet, in the context of the Soviet Union, where this literacy had an explicit political objective, Communist leadership, oversight, and participation were needed. For schools and children, the party delegated this responsibility to the Communist Youth League (Komsomol) and its subsidiary organization for younger children, the Young Pioneers, and it is on their activities that this chapter focuses. It maintains that Komsomol administration over Ukrainization was a critical marker of the viability of Ukrainization. Even if shortcomings in the policy did not immediately affect...

  17. Chapter Nine Ukrainization in a Non-Ukrainian City
    (pp. 200-234)

    For Ukrainization to be successful, Soviet authorities could not shrink from any challenge. They needed to convert the general language environment of public space in the republic. Urban and rural populations alike had to approach all things Ukrainian differently and acquire fundamental skills in the use of the language. Ethnic Ukrainians, it was expected, would take up Ukrainian identity and use this identification to build a modern, national culture. The Komsomol and Young Pioneers were to regulate this effort. Place, however, mattered in the early Soviet period. Local conditions determined how a policy might succeed, if at all. Place refracted...

  18. Chapter Ten The Correction
    (pp. 235-280)

    By the end of the 1920s, Soviet authorities moved on a long-standing suspicion of non-party educators. Education officials pursued the twin policies of progressive education and Ukrainization in the context of a cultural revolution in the republic: a shakeup of non-party participation in the technical, scientific, and cultural fields. Stalin and his supporters believed this revolution was necessary in order to inspire a new Soviet generation, establish conditions for the replacement of carry-overs from the pre-revolutionary period with Soviet-trained cadres, and create a base of support for Stalin’s economic and political agenda. In Ukraine, this policy took on a particular...

  19. Chapter Eleven Children Corrupted and Exalted
    (pp. 281-300)

    The GPU, under the direction of the party, undertook the most visible action against prominent educators, including teachers, and sent a signal to the education profession and the wider public about the dangers arising from Ukrainization to the schoolhouse and children. The teachers’ union responded to this signal with a condemnation of hidden class enemies in its ranks, calls for energetic participation in Soviet economic and political campaigns, and evaluations and purges of union members. However, the Communist Party entrusted primary responsibility for daily surveillance of educational activity and children to the Komsomol and the Young Pioneers.

    For all their...

  20. Chapter Twelve The Path Ahead
    (pp. 301-339)

    In the aftermath of the SVU affair, the KP(b)U and the Ukrainian republican government remained committed to the growth of Ukrainian national culture, including the development of Ukrainian schooling. The party, however, could no longer permit “bourgeois specialists” to carry out the daily administration of the campaign. One way to make Ukrainization more Bolshevik was to link it to the Young Pioneers; another was to tie it to the lives of the working class. The latter strategy meant taking the campaign to urban centres, growing as a result of the First Five-Year Plan’s industrialization push. A central tension in this...

  21. Chapter Thirteen Conclusion
    (pp. 340-348)

    In early Soviet Ukraine, the republican and Communist Party leadership asked educators and intellectuals to use language as a tool for the radical transformation of society.¹ This study has sought to unpack what this process meant and demonstrate the union between educational and nationalities policy at the level of the classroom, and to go beyond a discussion of language transfer by decree. The KP(b)U entrusted Narkomos to apply an innovative, progressive pedagogy towards the creation of a new generation of Soviet citizens. Russian educators shared this approach, but their Ukrainian counterparts gave it greater attention because of the distinct vocational...

  22. Chapter Fourteen Biographical and Informational Sketches
    (pp. 349-358)

    Petro Buzuk (1891–1943) was a leading Ukrainian linguist and professor at the Odesa INO until 1925 and then at the Belarusian State University in Minsk. A prominent advocate of linguistic geography for the study of the Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Moldovan languages, in 1927, he wrote a major history of the Ukrainian language,Narys istoriï ukraïns’koï movy. He was arrested in 1934, and taught at the Vologda Pedagogical Institute in the Russian SFSR after his release.

    Liubov Bidnova (1882–?) was a Ukrainian educator and cultural activist of the Katerynoslav region who was arrested in 1929 as an alleged member...

  23. Notes
    (pp. 359-412)
  24. Bibliography
    (pp. 413-430)
  25. Index
    (pp. 431-456)