Selected Moments of the 20th Century

A work in progress edited by Daniel Schugurensky
Department of Adult Education, Community Development and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)


Tsarist government closes universities in Russia

 In 1905, after several years of clashes between the Tsarist regime and university students, the government shut down higher learning institutions. This drastic measure followed a decade characterized by students unrest, mass expulsions of students, banishments and suspension of dissident professors, compulsory military service, and even the executions of students, all in an atmosphere of state authoritarianism, popular discontent, revolutionary ferment and mass uprisings

Indeed, during the last decades of the nineteenth century, students became very active in oppositional politics and in advocating social justice, and the Tsarist regime became more resolved to repress any attempt for change. Violence was rampant on both sides, including the assassination of the Minister of Education in 1898 and a fierce crackdown on protesting students in 1899.

Thus, Russia’s twentieth century began with a highly politicized student body and an authoritarian state under challenge, a combination that led to increasing government control of universities, which in turn renewed student unrest. In 1901, for instance, the Council of Moscow University protested government intrusion in higher education affairs, and argued that students were reacting to government restrictions in their right to learn and freely assemble. During the following years, university autonomy and students rights were increasingly restricted, and student protest (and government repression) erupted in most institutions. By 1905, after a series of dramatic events such as a violent repression by palace guards of petitioners who were peacefully protesting some abuses (this killing and wounding of hundreds of protestors is remembered as ‘Bloody Sunday’), a massive strike, and a war with Japan, the government of the Tsar Nicholas closed higher learning institutions.

Although the universities were reopened soon thereafter, restrictions on student gatherings continued, and arrests increased with the passing of the years. For universities the decade that followed 1905 was politically intense, full of intellectual creativity and revolutionary organizing.  Government policies did not reduce the level of conflict. On the contrary. For instance, by 1908 all women were expelled from higher education institutions, and the access of Jewish students was severely restricted (at that time pogroms against the Jews were very much in place). In 1917, the Tsarist regime was overthrown by a revolution led by the Bolsheviks. Its leader, Lenin, began his political career as a student activist when he entered the University of Kazan in 1886, and was soon expelled for participating in a student demonstration.


Education in Russia - Informational Outline (Accessed July 14, 2001). (Accessed July 14, 2001).

Prepared by DS

July  2001

DS Home Page     Back to Index     Suggest or Submit a Moment

© 1996-2001 Daniel Schugurensky. All Rights Reserved. Design and maintenance by LMS.
Last updated on June 13, 2002.

Number of visits to the 1900s