Soviet School Uniform: Post Stalinist Era--Special Schools

Figure 1.--This special class of Moscow fourth grade children was chosen to be trained in English. They were determined to have a special aptitude for foreign lbnguage. The photograph was taken in 1971 at the World War II Musuem. Beginning English was normally taught in the 5th grade, but an elite group of children were chosen to begin their study of English as early as the first grade. Notice that they are all decked out in their red scarves.

The Soviets were strong proponents of selective education. Soviet special schools were a common feature of education in Communist countries. They saw utilizing the talents of their children to the fullest extent as a benefvcial educational and social policy. Interesting, socialists in the West tend to boppse selective education as unfair and divisive. Socialist mayor Bill de Blasio is a good example. As mayor he has targeted New York's eight highly selective, publicly funded high schools that offer meritorious students the opportunity to receive an advanced education. Not only does he not like the basic idea of meritorious access (academic excellence), but he wants to apply his own selective test--race. He is upset that are so many Asisns who earn places in the school. In Britain, the Labour Party attacked the grammar schools (selective secondary schools).

Special Schools

The Soviets had special schools with especially good facilities. These schools were mormallu located in the major urban centers like Leningrad and Moscow. Entrance into these schools seem to be a mixture of ability and family position. There were special placement test for placement. The children of well placed Party, government, and military officials were able to place their children in these schools. I don't have full details about just how children were placed in such schools and would be interested in any information HBC readers may have. With their strong academic program, these children were most likely to gain admission to important Soviet universities. This seems oddly familiar to the advantages gained by affluent parents for their children in capitalist countries.


This is a special class of Moscow fourth grade children chosen to be trained in English. The photograph was taken in 1971 at the World War II Musuem. Beginning English was normally taught in the 5th grade, but an elite group of children were chosen to begin their study of English as early as the first grade. These children are about 10 to 11 years old, and were chosen after passing special aptitude and achievement tests. They came from all over Moscow and were not drawn from a specific neighborhood. These children are wearing the uniform of the Young Pioneers--a mark of prestige. One source suggests that not all children were inducted into the Young Pioneers--only those considered deserving by their teacher. But teachers were generally not too discriminatory because if they were too elitist, they looked bad in official Soviet and party circles. HBC's understanding is that the Young Pioneers were a mass organization and nearly all children were accepted. Note that all the children here wear their Young Pioneer scarves. Entance for older youths in the Komosol was more discrimnatory. Note that the class contains more girls than boys. I'm not sure why the girls seem to have been more talented in languages than the boys--maybe because they studied harder and had better discipline.


These boys and girls are all wearing the Young Pioneer uniform with the standard white shirts or blouses and the red neckerchief rather than their school uniform. Pehaps this was because it was a field trip to a patriotic museum. One boy at the extreme left wears long trousers, but the others all wear either skirts or shorts with tights. (The others look to be all girls. Even the child with short hair next to the boy looks to be a girl.) A HBC reader writes, "You could be right. But a few of the children seem to me to be boys. One of them, at least, seems to me to be wearing shorts rather than a skirt. But I agree it's difficult to be certain." A few children wear white tights (apparently girls only) whereas the others wear dark colored tights. Although tights had become popular as school clothes for both boys and girls in the 1970s, long stockings still were worn in some cases (because they were much cheaper), so it is not certain whether these children are all wearing tights. Notice the low-cut shoes. One girl is wearing white sandals, an odd choice since her stockings or tights appear to be black.


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Created: 5:19 AM 5/22/2005
Last updated: 1:47 AM 12/1/2018