The First Museums in Russia
Tsarskoye Selo is Our True Home (part 1)

Az, Buki, Vedi … the Beginning of School in Russia

In Russia, in the 12th century, only few people could read and write. It was taught to children entering to the service of the church, and wealthy people would have tutors coming to their place.

The first schools opened under the reign of Peter the Great. They were called Tsifirny. There, children learned reading and writing, arithmetic and geography.

One school opened in the town of Serpukhov near Moscow. The teacher arrived. He walked into the school and waited for the pupils. He waited the whole day, the next one, and still another day, but no one came to class.

Then the teacher decided to go from house to house to find out what was wrong. He first went to the house of a merchant.

– And why, – he asked, – your son is not attended school?

– There is no reason for him to go, – answered the merchant. – We have lived without school, and he will live that way too.

The teacher went to the second house, where lived the shoemaker.

– School is not for ordinary people. We are here to make boots and not to learn!, – said the shoemaker.

Then the teacher went to the governor and explained the situation. But the governor only raised his hands.

– What can I do? – he said. – On one side school is needed but on the other side, it is not needed.

Looking at the Governor, the teacher soon understood that he wouldn’t get any help from him and he said angrily:

– If it is so, then I will write to the Tsar myself.

The Governor looked at the teacher and said:

– Ok, don’t be in a hurry. Go back to your school.

The teacher went back to school and waited. Suddenly, he heard some noises outside the window. Soldiers were escorting the children.

The whole week, children came to school with the soldiers. And then, they came running by themselves.

The teacher began to teach the alphabet to the children.

– Az, – said the teacher. (It means the letter “A” in old Russian) – Az, – repeated the pupils. – Buki, – said the teacher. (It is letter “B” in old Russian) – Buki, – answered the students. – Vedi …

Then they started to learn arithmetics.

– One plus one is two, – said the teacher. – One plus one is two, – repeated the children.

Soon, the children knew how to write and to count. They knew where was the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea. They had learned a lot.

One day, Peter the Great arrived in Serpukhov and decided to visit the school. He had heard that only few children were going to school, and he decided to check out by himself. The Tsar entered the school, and saw the classroom full of pupils. Peter was surprised and asked the teacher how he managed to bring so many children in.

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The teacher told him the whole story.

– Great! – said Peter laughing. – Good for the governor. Russia needs instructed people!

Ирина Антонова