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Soviet of People’s Commissars decree “On eradication of illiteracy of population in RSFSR”

26 December 1919

«Any really democratic power in the field of enlightenment of the country,

where reign illiteracy and ignorance,

should straggle against this darkсвоей.

It must assure the general literacy as soon as possible…”

А. V. Lunacharsky (Petrograd, 1917)

December 26, 1919 the Council of People's Commissars (SNK) issued a decree "On the elimination of illiteracy among the population of the RSFSR". The decree provided for the complete eradication of illiteracy throughout the country: now the all the inhabitants of Soviet Russia at the age of 8 to 50 years, who did not know how to read or write, were obliged to learn to read and write in their native language or in Russian if desired.

After the revolutionary events of 1917 the struggle for universal literacy was one of the decisive prerequisites for radical changes in social relations, economy and culture. In December 1917 under the People's Commissariat of the RSFSR was established an out-of-school department headed by N. Krupskaya. One of its main tasks was the organization of literacy eradication in the country. In May 1919 took place the 1st All-Russian Congress of out-of-school education. On the initiative of members of the Congress, the People's Commissariat prepared of a draft “On the eradication of illiteracy among the population of the RSFSR". The eradication of illiteracy was regarded as a necessary condition for the entire population to consciously participate in the political and economic life of Russia.

In July 1920, SNK created the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for the eradication of illiteracy (Likbez), subordinate to Narcompros. The Commission took under control the organization of Likbez courses, teacher training, publication of educational materials. Financial support and assistance to the Commission in creating of textbooks were provided by Russian writers M. Gorky, L. N. Seifullina, poets V. Ya. Brusov, V. V. Mayakovsky, Demian Bedny, as well as academics N. Ya. Marr, V. M. Bekhterev. In 1920-1924 were printed two editions of the first Soviet mass primer for adults by D. Elkina, N. Bugoslavskaya, A. Kurskaya. In the same years were printed "Workers' and Peasants' primer for adults" by V. V. Smushkov and "Primer for workers' by. E. Ya. Golanth.

Implementation of the state programme for literacy eradication was taking place in difficult economic conditions. However, the recovery of national economy of Russia required the rise of the general educational and cultural level of the people. The working day of those, who learned to read and write, was shortened by two hours for the entire course, and the salary remained unchanged. National education authorities, in order to organize classes to teach illiterate people, were authorized to use people's houses, churches, clubs, private houses, suitable premises in the factories and other institutions. Narkompros and local authorities were allowed to get involved into teaching of illiterates all public organizations, as well as all the literate population of the country as a duty.

In 1925, enthusiasts struggling with illiteracy, created a voluntary society "Down with Illiteracy", which set up local branches across the country. Society set itself the task to fully encourage measures to eliminate illiteracy and ignorance among the adult population of the USSR: were create schools, groups, whose members worked individually to teach the illiterates, as well as carrying out extensive political and educational work.

All-Union census of 1939 showed that literacy among the inhabitants aged 8 years and older across the country was approaching 90%.

Lit.: Богданов И. М. Грамотность и образование в дореволюционной России и в СССР. М., 1964; Куманев В. А. Революция и просвещение масс. М., 1973; Декрет СНК о ликвидации безграмотности среди населения РСФСР. 26 декабря 1919 г. ГАРФ. Ф. Р-130. Оп. 2. Д. 1. Л. 38-40; То же [Электронный ресурс]. URL:; Пергамент Л. И. Массовый поход за ликвидацию неграмотности в Вологодской губернии (1918–1922 гг.) // Материалы по истории Европейского Севера СССР: Северный археографический сборник. Вологда, 1973. С. 73–90; То же [Электронный ресурс]. URL:; Петрова Я. И. Ликбез как социальный проект (на материалах Самарской губернии, 1920-1930-е гг.) // Журнал исследований социальной политики. 2007. Т. 5. № 4. С. 519-540; То же [Электронный ресурс]. URL:; Фрид Л. С. Очерки по истории развития политико-просветительной работы в РСФСР (1917–1929). Л., 1941; Штамм С. И. Управление народным образованием в СССР. (1917–1936). М., 1985.

From the Presidential library materials:

“The provision about the common labor school of RSFSR” published // On this day. 16 October 1918;

The law “On strengthening the relations between school and life and on popular schooling system further development” adopted // On this day. 24 December 1958;

The decree of Central Committee of the all-Union Communist Party about the general primary education adopted // On this day. 25 July 1930.