Az, Buki, Vedi … the Beginning of School in Russia
Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum (part 2)

Tsarskoye Selo is Our True Home (part 1)

October 19 is a date that every Russian remembers from his school days. On that day, 200 years ago exactly, the Lyceum opened, an establishment from where A. Pushkin graduated, as well as a great number of statesmen and cultural personalities who have left a deep mark in the history of Russia. The Lyceum is not only a list of brilliant people, it is first of all a unique model of the educational system, whose study is especially important for Russia today.

The decree for the creation of the Lyceum was signed by Alexander I on August 12, 1810. The decree stated: “Учреждение лицея имеет целью образование юношества, особенно предназначенного к важным частям службы государственной” (the establishment of the lyceum aims at the formation of young people, especially dedicated to occupy important posts in the Imperial service).

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The program given to the students was similar to the one offered by the best European universities. But this was not the main thing. On the day of the official opening, the first director of the Lyceum, Alexander Petrovich Kunitsyn (1783-1840), turned to the new students and said: “Любовь к славе и отечеству должны быть вашими руководителями” (Love for glory and your country should be your leader). Later Pushkin will respond to him in one of his poems:

Куницыну дар сердца и вина: Он создал нас, он воспитал наш пламень; Поставлен им краеугольный камень, Им чистая лампада зажжена.

Kunitsyn gift of heart and wine: He created us, he raised our flame; Providing the foundation stone, Lighting a clean lamp.

The choice of the location for the Lyceum was also not accidental. The lyceum was located in the building adjacent to the Catherine Palace. According to its creators, the proximity of the royal court was to help in the education of the future government officials.

Pushkin entered the lyceum in June 1811, when he was only 12 years old. The future poet spend 6 years there. The first year 30 students were accepted in the Lyceum. According to the regulations of the school, children of old nobility could study from age 10-12.

The rules of the Lyceum were very strict: students had to get up at 6 am and study in class for 7 hours every day. The first three years, the students followed the program of high school gymnasium. The next three years were devoted to the program of three faculties: philology, moral science and politics, physic and mathematic.

The outwardly strict rules weren’t restricted the internal freedom of the students. According to the rules of the Lyceum, the students couldn’t be punished for lack of success in the disciplines in which they had no aptitudes. It was important to display their talent.

In the preserved students’ records, A. Pushkin had the lowest scores on all the natural sciences, along with the highest grades in philology and Arts. This was stated in the school charter as follow: “Основное правило доброй методы … состоит в том, чтобы не затемнять ума детей пространными изъяснениями, а возбуждать собственное его действие(the basic rule of good practices … is not to obscure the mind of children with extensive explication, but to arouse his own freedom of action).

Regardless of the orientation at the end of their training, each student should be able to write poetry in Russian, as well as French and German. Much attention was given to physical education. The program included gymnastics, outdoor games, dancing, riding, fencing, swimming. No matter the weather, students of the Lyceum had to walk around the park for several hours a everyday, to harden their organism and give them a fearless and independent character. Graduated students will remembered their years at the Lyceum as the best years of their lives.

Друзья мои, прекрасен наш союз! Он как душа неразделим и вечен – Неколебим, свободен и беспечен Срастался он под сенью дружных муз. Куда бы нас ни бросила судьбина, И счастие куда б ни повело, Все те же мы: нам целый мир чужбина; Отечество нам Царское Село. (“19 октября”. А.Пушкин)

My friends, how beautiful our union is! Eternal like the soul, it can’t be broken. It withstands all, free, careless, and outspoken: Our links were formed by friendship and the Muse. Where’er we’re cast by Fate, whate’er it’s storing, Wherever happiness might let us roam, We’re still the same: the whole world’s strange and foreign, And Tsarskoye Selo is our true home. (“October 19”. A. Pushkin)

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You can now read the second part of the history of Tsarskoye Selo.

Тамара Мелентьева