Second oldest teachers' paper is 80

8th October 2004 at 01:00
RUSSIA

The world's second oldest newspaper for teachers - Russia's Uchitelskaya Gazeta - turned 80 this week.

The paper, founded by Lenin's wife Nadezhda Krupskaya and first published on October 3, 1924, threw a "family party" on Sunday for staff old and new and plans a wider celebration for teachers and education officials later this month.

Peter Polozhevets, editor-in-chief since 1991 - when the weekly paper, like the rest of Russia, gained independence from the Communist party - said Teachers' Gazette, as it is known in English, had always closely mirrored society.

"The scale of problems facing teachers has changed over the decades, but if you read today's headlines you can see that all of today's challenges existed 80 years ago: the relationship between schools and religion; lack of and quality of textbooks; schools in urgent need of repairs."

The paper played a key role in promoting campaigns to improve literacy in Russia, which rose from 6 per cent in 1917 to 75 per cent in the 1930s before reaching today's rate of more than 98 per cent - one of the world's highest.

It promoted orphanages to house the vast army of homeless abandoned children after both the civil war of the 1920s and the second world war, and continues to publicise the fate of today's besprizorniki, estimated to number a million, double the official figure of 500,000.

It lost one editor to Stalin's purges - he died in prison after being convicted of "counter revolutionary propaganda". Another died from a sudden heart attack in her office in 1949 after being accused of publishing anti-Soviet material.

Sitting in the paper's bright, airy office, where it moved in January after more than 40 years in cramped quarters near Moscow's Red Square, Mr Polozhevets proudly ticks off a list of recent accomplishments.

"After losing Communist party funding we weathered the worst year of our history and made the transition to self-sufficiency based on subscriptions and advertising. Sponsorship helped us launch the nationwide 'Teacher of the Year' competition and numerous annual competitions for children."

The thousands of entries for an essay competition on human rights and presidential leadership ended up being edited and published as a book for use by members of Russia's parliament, the State Duma, he said.

The newspaper may not enjoy the mass readership it had in Soviet times - steep cover-price increases in the early 1990s deterred many subscribers - but it maintains a steady subscription base of around 100,000, equivalent to one in 20 teachers.

But there is one older teachers' paper. It was founded in 1910, seven years before the Russian revolution - and it is called The TES.

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