People's Commissariat for Education

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The People's Commissariat for Education (or Narkompros; Russian: Народный комиссариат просвещения, Наркомпрос, directly translated as the "People's Commissariat for Enlightenment") was the Soviet agency charged with the administration of public education and most other issues related to culture. In 1946, it was transformed into the Ministry of Education. Its first head was Anatoly Lunacharsky. However he described Nadezhda Krupskaya as the "soul of Narkompros".[1] Mikhail Pokrovsky, Dmitry Leshchenko and Evgraf Litkens also played important roles.

Lunacharsky protected most of the avant-garde artists such as Vladimir Mayakovsky, Kazimir Malevich, Vladimir Tatlin and Vsevolod Meyerhold. Despite his efforts, the official policy after Joseph Stalin put him in disgrace.

Narkompros had seventeen sections,[2] in addition to the main ones related to general education, e.g.,

  • Likbez, a section for liquidation of illiteracy,
  • "Profobr", a section for professional education,
  • Glavlit, a section for literature and publishing (also in charge of censorship in publishing),
  • "Glavrepertkom" (Главрепертком), a commission for approval of performers' repertoires.
  • Department of the Mobilisation of Scientific Forces, to which the Russian Academy of Sciences reported after 1918.
  • TEO, the Theatre Department which published Vestnik Teatra
  • Vneshkol'nyi Otdel, the adult Education Department run by Krupskaya
  • "Glavpolitprosvet", in charge of political education out of school

Some of these evolved into separate entities, others discontinued.

Relationship with Proletkult[edit]

Pavel Lebedev-Polianskii, as chair of the Organizing Bureau for the National Proletkult argued that Narkompros, as a state organ, had responsibilities for the whole of society, whereas Proletkult asserted its autonomy as an organisation set up specifically for workers class. However, there was concern with "parallelism" - the situation which arose when similar work was carried out in parallel by different organisations. In early 1918 Narkompros gave Proletkult a budget of over 9,200,000 rubles, whereas the entire Adult Education Division received 32,500,000 rubles.[3]


The Izo-Narkompros (Изо-наркомпрос), or the section of visual arts (отдел изобразительных искусств) created on 29 January 1918.[4] It consisted of two parts: the collegium (deliberative organ) and the section proper (executive organ). The first collegium was headed by Vladimir Tatlin and included Kasimir Malevich, Ilya Mashkov, Nadezhda Udaltsova, Olga Rozanova, Alexander Rodchenko, Wassily Kandinsky. It was subdivided into a number of subsections.

Lunacharsky directed some of the great experiments in public arts after the Revolution such as the agit-trains and agit-boats, that circulated over all Russia spreading Revolution and revolutionary arts. He also gave support to Constructivism's theatrical experiments and the initiatives such as the ROSTA Windows, revolutionary posters designed and written by Mayakovsky, Rodchenko, and others.

Izo-Narkompros also published Iskusstvo kommuny (Art of the Commune) of which 19 issues appeared between 7 December 1918 and April 1919.[5]

Museum Bureau[edit]

Film industry[edit]

Lenin saw film as the most important medium for educating the masses in the ways, means and successes of communism.[6] As a consequence Lenin issued the "Directives on the Film Business" on 17 January 1922, which instructed the Narkompros to systemise the film business, registering and numbering all films shown in the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, extracting rent from all privately owned cinemas and subject them to censorship.[6]

People's Commissars[edit]

Name Took office Left office Duration
Anatoly Lunacharsky 26 October 1917 12 September 1929 11 years, 321 days
Andrei Bubnov 12 September 1929 12 October 1937 8 years, 30 days
Pyotr Tyurkin 12 October 1937 29 March 1940 2 years, 169 days
Vladimir Potemkin 29 March 1940 23 February 1946 5 years, 331 days

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Commissariat of Enlightenment
  2. ^ Mally, Lynn (1990), Culture of the Future: The Proletkult Movement in Revolutionary Russia, Berkeley: University of California Press, p. 34, retrieved 16 December 2011
  3. ^ Mally, Lynn (1990), Culture of the Future: The Proletkult Movement in Revolutionary Russia, Berkeley: University of California Press, p. 44, retrieved 16 December 2011
  4. ^ "IZO Narkompros". Monoskop. Retrieved 23 December 2018.
  5. ^ "Iskusstvo kommuny". Monoskop. Retrieved 23 December 2018.
  6. ^ a b "Lenin: Directives on the Film Business". Retrieved 15 December 2018.