The Introduction and Spread of European-Style Crèches in Russia

Dorena Caroli


This article considers Russia’s turn at the end of the 18th century to European educational models, both institutionally (orphanages, schools, nurseries, and lyceums) and in terms of pedagogical methodology. The crèche is an example of one such institution that was spread widely across the Russian Empire. The aim of this research is to show the development of this institution and to define its function. The author considers how this model was adapted to Russian conditions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Immediately after the Great Reforms, the organisation of crèches was exclusively a product of private initiative: it was only from 1891 that they were developed systematically with support from the state and the ruling dynasty. On the basis of descriptions and statistics, the article evaluates how many children were accepted into these institutions, the methods of education used, the deployment of hygenic safeguards, the financial support available, and the level of education possessed by crèche teachers. The relationships that mothers from the peasantry and the working classes had with these establishments is also discussed. Finally, this piece looks at how the development of a network of creches was linked with the important demographic phenomenon of child mortality. Drawing comparisons with Western and Central Europe, the author arrives at the conclusion that although crèches followed the same scheme in Russia as they did elsewhere, their general condition was unsatisfactory. Thanks to the government’s disinterest until quite late, many plans for crèches remained unrealised on the eve of the First World War.


history of education in Russia; crèches; Department of Orphanages; Department of the Institutions of Empress Maria; defence of maternity and childhood


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