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Narkompros (People’s Commissariat for Education)

The People's Commissariat for Education (Narkompros) was formed in 1918. Education in the USSR remained under the Commissariat until 1946 when it was re-positioned as the Ministry of Education. Narkompros encompassed the former Imperial Ministry of Public Education, the State Education Committee, and the former Palace Ministry, an entity that managed theaters and the Academy of Arts and the royal palaces.

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The People's Commissariat for Education (Narkompros) was formed in 1918. Education in the USSR remained under the Commissariat until 1946 when it was re-positioned as the Ministry of Education. Narkompros encompassed the former Imperial Ministry of Public Education, the State Education Committee, and the former Palace Ministry, an entity that managed theaters and the Academy of Arts and the royal palaces. Narkompros was first headed by Anatoli Lunacharskii, an art critic, author and a journalist. He supplanted Sergei Oldenburg, a noted “orientalist” and Tsarist Minister of Education. Overseeing Narkompros was the All-Russian Central Executive Committee (VTsIK) and Lunacharskii happened to be one of its elected members. Narkompros was divided into sections dedicated to: eradication of illiteracy, professional education, adult education, theatrical studies, among other divisions. There were also censorship offices (referred to as "control") to scrutinize publishing, live performances and public speeches in order to protect the government and the masses. While Narkompros was concerned with education, Proletkult (proletarskaya kultura) was supposed to be the creative overseer of the “proletarian” society. Accomplishing little more than disorganization and infighting, the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party brought Proletkult to heel by assigning its duties to Narkompros in 1920 thus strengthening the Commissariat's sphere of influence.

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Sources & Citations

Fitzpatrick, S. (2002). The commissariat of enlightenment: Soviet organization of education and the arts under Lunacharsky, October 1917-1921. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.
Leach, R. (1994). Revolutionary theatre. London: Routledge. (section on Proletkult)
Koenker, D., Rosenberg, W. G., & Suny, R. G. (1989). Party, state, and society in the Russian Civil War: Explorations in social history. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.