The End of School No 2 in Moscow, October 1972 (27.11)

<<No 27 : 15 October 1972>>

By 1 September 1972, the Moscow Physico-Mathematical School No. 2, once one of the most popular of the city’s schools, had to all intents and purposes ceased to exist.

An experimental curriculum

Over a period of eight years teachers at the school had worked an experimental curriculum which gave children with an outstanding aptitude for mathematics advanced instruction in physico-mathematical disciplines. Over and above their normal classes, pupils attended lectures by University professors and special seminars directed by research students and undergraduates in their final years at Moscow University. Prominent scientists, mathematicians, physicists and psychologists, worked unpaid with the schoolchildren, simultaneously solving a number of problems related to the forced development of their pupils. It was not, however, a matter merely of experimentation or narrow specialization.

The directors of the school, in their concern for the all-round development of the children, tried to entrust the teaching of all subjects to those teachers who were most experienced in and sensitive to the children’s needs. As a result, the school became widely known. The number of applications for admittance grew from year to year until it was three or four limes in excess of the number of vacancies available. Pupils journeyed to the school from the most distant parts of Moscow, some of them from the outer suburbs. They soon began to excel in establishments of higher education, not only by virtue of their high-level grounding in physics and mathematics but also because of their love of literature, their keen interest in social problems, the nature of the questions they asked lecturers in ideological disciplines, and their habit not taking on trust anything that had not been proven. Reports about the “spirit’’ of School No, 2 gradually accumulated in the offices of persons in authority until, at the beginning of 1971, a former teacher at the school, I.Kh. Sivashinsky, submitted an application to leave for Israel and his daughter, a schoolgirl in the tenth class, resigned from the Komsomol. From that moment district and city Party authorities began to prepare practical steps.

School No 2 is investigated

For about four months, from March to the end of June [1971], the school was investigated by dozens of inspectors. Instances of negligence were sought assiduously.

When a summary of the findings of the inspection was compiled, the chief reasons for dissatisfaction with the school ideological ones were concealed. Behind a screen of the most ordinary “defects of leadership” which had occurred or allegedly occurred in School No. 2, the Head [Vladimir Ovchinnikov] and three of his assistants were dismissed. Several teachers registered their protest by leaving the school. Professorial lectures gradually dwindled to nothing. Pupils from distant areas moved to ordinary schools. But there still remained at the school some teachers who hindered the implementation of the new policy.

And in February 1972 a new stage in the purge began. Again, the school was inundated with teams of inspectors. Their attention was focused on members of the old staff  – teachers of history and literature – who had still not been driven out. As a result, all the history teachers (with the exception of one who had worked for only one year under the old administration) and all the teachers of language and literature were forced to leave the school.

Numbers of new entrants fall

By September 1972, the number of entrants to School No. 2 had dropped sharply. Vacancies appeared. Education authorities made it their concern to recruit new pupils. Candidates for vacancies on the teaching staff began to be approved by the district Party committee. Many had to be persuaded. Persuasion was frequently reinforced with promises of new apartments. There are reports that those who participated in the investigation of School No. 2 and those who compiled the records are already receiving their reward (in particular, in the form of official trips abroad).

Operations leading to the liquidation of this “elite” School were directed personally [see note 1] by: Yagodkin, a Secretary of the Moscow City Party Committee; Perova, head of the schools department of that Committee; Arkhipova, First Secretary of the October district Party committee; Tsvetkova, head of the October district education department; and Ageyeva, an instructor of the October district Party committee. During the course of the school’s liquidation many influential persons, including the USSR Minister of Education [M.A. Prokofiev], tried to intervene on its behalf (by means of private petitions), but all in vain.



[1] An applied economist, Vladimir N. Yagodkin was previously a lecturer and head of the Party committee at Moscow University. In 1971 he gained his new post, and candidate membership of the CPSU Central Committee. Tatyana P. Arkhipova had occupied her post since 1968.

[2] For a later incident at the same school involving the mathematician and dissident Valery Senderov, see the Chronicle for November 1977 (CCE 47.17).