Soviet School Uniform: Chronology (1917-91)


Figure 1.--Here we see an unidentified Soviet class, we think in the mid-1950s. Notice there are no schho uniforms. The children look to be about 13-13 years old. Several of the girls have hair bows, some on their pigtails. Most of the children wear red Young Pioneer scarves. few do not wear the scarves. We are not sure if that meant they just for got that day or if it was by choice or if they for some reason were not allowed to wear the scarves. I am guessing that the teacher here is not going to let them get away with anything. Click on the image for a detailed enlargement.

We have had trouble assessing the Soviet school uniform trends. Before the Soviet era many schools had uniforms, especially city schools. There was no national uniform, but were detemind by each shool. They varied, but were military style uniforms. With the Revolution we no longer see these uniforms. We see fewer individual studio nportraits. Most images we have found before World War II show class groups with children that are not wearing uniforms, but do have red scarves. One major shift we see in the Soviet era is the increasing education of girls, especially secondary education. There were uniforms and often illutrations show the children wearing uniforms. We believe that it was baically a matter of parents not bgeing able to afford to purchase uniforms. We suspect that uniforms were most common in special schools for the Soviet elite in the big cities. We have not been able to find much written information so are basing our assessment primarily on the photographic record. Enormous damnage occured during World War II. And the immediate aftermath was very difficult, but conditions improved in the 1950s and we see more Soviet school children weating uniforms. Boys wore military style suit jackets, we think mostly blue. Girls wore bsaic dresses, often with pinafores. As the economic coinditions improved we see more children wearing unifirms. This continued throiugh the 1970s as the economy began to stagnate. In the 1980s the ecinomic situationwirsened and we see older students by the end if the decde becoming less compliant with uniform regulstions. Older girls in particular increasingly objected to wearing pinafores.

Early Soviet Period (1920s)

We note children wearing school unifirms in 1924. Just when the school uniform regulations were issued and how prevalent they were throughout the country, we are not yet sure. Girls began attending school in large numbers after the Revolution. I'm not sure what boys wore to school in the 1920s, but by the 1930s military-styled uniforms were common. There does not seem to have been a standard uniform worn country-wide. Schools in Moscow and Lenningrad seem to have had quite strict uniform standards. Provincial and rural schools seem to have given less attention to uniforms. This may have reflected in part the parents ability to aford a formal uniform. The uniform has varied over time.

Stalinist Era (1930s-50s)

Stalin began to exert his control over the Soviet union in the mid-1920s after the death of Lenin and by the late 20s had largely defeated opponents like Trotsky as well as more moderate Bolshevicks. It was not until the early 30s, however, that he was in complete control of the country. We do not have much information about education Soviet education during the erly Stalinist era. We also note kindergartens in the 1930s. This appears to have been a Soviet innovation, of course imported from Germany. I'm not sure if Kindergartens exisited before the Revolutuion, if they did almost certainly they were for affluent families. I'm not sure how common Kindergartens were during the Soviet era. There appears to ave been formal school uniform, although we are not sure about the different styles and when they were introduced. We note a military-looking uniform after World War II consisting of a peaked cap, tunic, wide belts, and red scarf. Younger boys might wear short pants, sometimes with over-the-knee stockings. This uniform persisted even after Stalin's death in 1953.

Post-Stalinist Era (1960s-80s)

Basic education in the Soviet Union had 10 grades. Children began at 7 years and graduated at 16. Girls in grades 1-8 wore a brown dress with a black pinafore style-apron in front. Another source says a dark-blue or black dress with an Edwardian style pintafore white apron. Apparently the dress colors varied somewhat. On holidays the black apron was replaced by a dressier white pnafore which might be frilled. At the top of the dress, girls wore a white collar, often in the Peter Pan style, which could be detached and washed separately. Girls or their parents often added large white hairbows. The collar was expected to be kept spotlessly clean. In grades 9-10 the uniform changed to a navy blue jacket and skirt whicj could be combined with a blouse of the girl's own choice. Boys wore a still obligatory, but more civilian-looking uniform. It consisted of dark blue pants, short jacket with chevron (image of the book on a background of the sun), white shirt, and red scarf. The younger boys sometimes wore large white collars over their jackets, but this varied from school to school and over time. A reader tell us, "I met a russian girl studying biology at McGill University. I asked her if she wore black dress, white pinafores, and large bows on her hair as a school girl. She told me that she indeed did, but that girls no longer dress like that for school. She said, however, that each year children are encouraged to wear that costume at the end of the classes as if was a kind of national dress". A Russian reader tells us tht not all primary children wore uniforms. "Since the 1950s younger children sometimes were allowed to wear casual clothes to school -- for example, shorts. It depended on the regional weather and on the school administration opinion. In warm areas (like North Caucasus, i.e. Sochi, Crimea, Ukaraine and so on) school uniform often was used only in the colder period of the year. This wasn't common for the whole USSR territory of course." We see the girls more commomnly wearing the uniform than the boys.







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Created: 3:06 PM 11/30/2018
Last updated: 3:06 PM 11/30/2018