Volume:9, Issue: 1

May. 15, 2017

Vladimir Yakovlevich Stoyunin as a prominent educator and humanist
Boguslavsky, Mikhail V. [about]

ABSTRACT: The paper introduces the reader with the life and professional activities of Vladimir Yakovlevich Stoyunin, a prominent Russian educator, scholar, and public figure. There is a brief overview of Stoyunin’s philosophy of education and the periods of its development, together with the axiological foundations of his educational theory aimed at shaping an enlightened person and a true citizen.

KEYWORDS: Stoyunin, history of education, patriotic education, civic education.

Vladimir Yakovlevich Stoyunin (1826-1888) is a prominent educator, an outstanding public figure, the most influential methodologist of the Russian language and literature, a researcher and practitioner in the field of female education, an original essay writer, book reviewer, and theater critic [6, p. 1].

Famous Russian philosopher Nikolay Onufrievich Lossky described Vladimir Stoyunin in the following words: “Stoyunin belonged to the most prominent Russian pedagogues. He became known and immensely loved by his students as both a theoretician of education and a practicing teacher of the Russian language and literature” [cited from 5].

Stoyunin's biographer Sipovsky pointed out that “Stoyunin’s literary and educational works are a significant legacy for all enlightened pedagogues… His works stand out as independent and original… You may see rich content, diligent work, and original point of view in all Stoyunin’s works. All of this surely reflects the power of mind and talent” [7, 21].

We can differentiate four distinct and interrelated periods in Stoyunin’s life and pedagogical activities:

1. 1826-1851 – a preliminary period. It is the development of Stoyunin’s personality, liberal and democratic values and meanings of his outlook. Vladimir Stoyunin was a student of Petersburg Gymnasium #3 and later majored in Eastern literature at the History and Philosophy Department of the St. Petersburg University.

2. 1852-1874 – teaching, methodology together with public and pedagogical activities. The most significant period when Vladimir Stoyunin taught at Petersburg Gymnasium #3 (1852 -1870), Moscow Nilolayevsky Institutes for orphans (1871–1874) and other educational establishments. During that time Stoyunin became a prominent public figure and educator – he was a founder of the St. Petersburg’s Pedagogical Society, worked at the Literacy Committee, initiated the Committee to simplify the spelling of the Russian language, headed the Scientific Council of the Society aimed at promoting knowledge of technologies in Moscow, was elected an Honorary Member of the Russian Language and Literature Society, and was a member of the Russian and foreign languages board of the Pedagogical Museum [6, 437].

3. 1875-1880 – methodological research and public activities. Deprived of the opportunity to teach, Vladimir Stoyunin did a lot of research in the field of the Russian language and literature. At that time there happened a major shift in his political views towards conservatism. In his methodological books and research papers Stoyunin developed new approaches to studying literature:

  1. educational and developmental rather than informational or knowledge-based nature of teaching;
  2. shifting focus towards contemporary works and reducing the amount of historical and literature resources;
  3. emphasizing the necessity to develop student’s independent attitude to literary works rather than ready-made formulas and conclusions imposed by the teacher;
  4. using predominantly developmental methods, such as literary conversations and students’ independent analysis of literary works.

4. 1881-1888 – integration and final evaluation. Vladimir Stoyunin worked at a private female gymnasium in St. Petersburg where he implemented the values and ideas of education of an enlightened personality and citizen in the sphere of female education. He was a supervisor and a teacher of the Russian language, literature and history at the Gymnasium set up by his wife Maria Nikolaevna. It is important to note here that he was also a determined proponent of balanced female education making a great contribution to its theory and practice. Moreover, Vladimir Stoyunin was an unconventional philosopher of female education. Stoyunin’s Gymnasium, which was actively working until 1919, was considered the best among female educational institutions in the whole country and left a life-giving legacy in the history of Russian education.

A look at Vladimir Stoyunin’s social background shows that he had come from a family of self-employed plebeians. His father was an impoverished “old type” merchant, who trusted his capital to a dishonest friend. Stoyunin’s family still preserved the legend that their ancestor, a peasant from Kostroma, was the only survivor during an epidemic, so he received the nickname Stoyunin (which may be translated from Russian as “the one who stood through”), which later turned into his family name [7, 1-2]. Notably, this family name was a perfect match to Vladimir Stoyunin’s perseverance and strong personality.

His childhood took place “in a rather austere and stern environment, which reflected on the character of the child making him for the whole life somewhat reserved and restrained in words and interaction” [8, p 1]. He was not a favorite child in the family and was quick to learn to rely only on himself. People who knew Vladimir Stoyunin well would say that he was “cold and stern in appearance, reserved, and unsociable” [8, 6].

According to B.B. Glinsky, “rough reality, which surrounded Stoyunin since his early childhood, strengthened his character in the struggle against circumstances, developed his serious views on life, taught him to work hard and to accurately fulfill his responsibilities” [4, 413].

In spite of life hardships, Vladimir Stoyunin managed to receive a very good basic education in the best secondary schools of his time – in a private German vocational school of St. Anna (Annenskoye Vocational School) and then at Gymnasium #3 (starting from the 3d grade) which also provided training for future teachers for St. Petersburg schools. Studying at the Gymnasium and later on, at the St. Petersburg University, Vladimir Yakovlevich revealed an outstanding aptitude to liberal studies: literature, history, ancient and modern languages as well as a gift in literature, especially, in poetry.

At the same time his own studies developed in Stoyunin an absolute aversion to rigid authoritative style of teaching based on power and corporal punishment, on suppression of students’ and teachers’ personalities.

During his teacher’s career Vladimir Stoyunin strengthened in his active pedagogical values and selfless service to his homeland, Russian society and the Russian people.

Stoyunin’s educational outlook was finally shaped and affected by the educational reforms (unlike the formation of Konstantin D. Ushinsky and, even more so, Nikolay I. Pirogov, whose pedagogical activities took place mainly before the liberation of serfs). Speaking metaphorically, the time of a pedagogical ending for Ushinsky and Pirogov was a powerful pedagogical start for Vladimir Stoyunin. That is why Stoyunin absorbed and embodied in his educational outlook many new axiological ideas and high moral and ethical values of the post-reform period such as community self-governance, free labor, genuine science, and openness. According to his contemporaries, Stoyunin “was an integral and wholesome symbiosis of an individual and a public figure, in other words, he always practiced what he thought and preached” [8, 6].

After the spring of 1861, when the authorities managed to remove two megastars –Ushinsky and Pirogov from the educational horizon, it was Vladimir Stoyunin along with his few contemporaries – V.I. Vodovozov and D.D. Semenov – who continued to develop pedagogy as a research field and public education in the 1860s through the 1870s until the appearance of the new generation of Russian educators (V.P. Vakhterov, M.I. Demkov, P.F. Kapterov, P.F. Lesgaft, V.P. Ostrogorsky, and V.V. Rozanov), and the recognition of L.N. Tolstoy’s pedagogical works.

Stoyunin was the first in Russian education to successfully integrate two strategic paradigms of the social and pedagogical thinking from the 1860s: Pirogov’s concept, which was universal to all mankind, and Ushinsky’s Russia-oriented patriotic paradigm. Those paradigms were developed by Stoyunin in relation with his advanced community service.

Stoyunin, being a scholar and educator, could clearly see and predict the coming shift of dominants in the Russian education when in the 20th century the government-run goal and value based dominant would be gradually replaced by the community-oriented ideal of education. Stoyunin was determined to create a classless national school, and he also supported comprehensive education of the younger generation in the spirit of advanced civic ideas.

Another distinguishing feature of Stoyunin’s creative work was his ability to always look at issues of pedagogy and teaching from a very broad community- and patriotism-based point of view. Stoyunin formulated an educational concept and pedagogical methods, and placed them on a firm axiological foundation, which set him apart from other educators of his time and made his ideas and concepts timeless and prominent.

In my opinion, Stoyunin’s main achievement as a scholar and educator is his approach to the formation of an enlightened personality and citizen, who has “higher notions which exalt human life by expanding and enlightening one’s intellectual and moral horizon” [1, 194].

We may state that the humanist educator identified the following features of the enlightened personality and citizen:

  1. Harmonization of community-related and personal goals;
  2. An ethical attitude to people and society;
  3. Historicism of consciousness (Stoyunin pointed out that “we may as well look back at the past from the point of view of the people whose vital spiritual need in life is self-consciousness. This is the crucial condition of the enlightened nation’s life. Such a human being cannot live without looking back: he needs to recall his past and find out what has already been solved and what needs attention in the nearest future” [2, 242];
  4. An activity aimed towards the common good [1, 197-198].

Another Stoyunin’s achievement is that he did not limit himself to pursuing this high goal but substantiated the whole range of interrelated factors ensuring that the school shapes an enlightened personality and citizen. To achieve this, a school must be truly enlightened, modern and public, free from any political tensions, open to all people, truly national, and labor-oriented.

Stoyunin developed a linear formula to achieve the ideal of the enlightened personality and citizen. The formula includes the following points: an educated official – public figure – priest as a teacher – enlightened pedagogue – educated mother with a high esteem for science – an active personality.

Notably, to accomplish these goals Stoyunin got practical experience in every sector of Russian education – from the elite one, educating members of the royal family to free public education in Sunday schools. This explains his constructive criticism of all Ministry of Public Education projects to reform gymnasiums. Stoyunin made genuine but unsuccessful attempts to make all reformatory activities of the Ministry more menaingful. Stoyunin planned to reorient lyceums and gymnasiums towards the goals of public education.

It is important to note that the present-day educational policy refreshes Stoyunin’s pedagogical ideas and, especially, his concept of shaping an enlightened person and citizen. According to Vasilyeva, Minister of Russian Education and Science, “the afterschool time should be devoted to teaching a child become a true human being and a citizen of our country” [3].

Vladimir Yakovlevich Stoyunin died on November 4, 1888, from liver cancer. He was buried at the Volkov Orthodox Cemetery at the northern wall of the Spasskaya Church. Among many funeral wreaths there was a silver one with the words, “From teachers to our teacher”… [5, 38].

Here is an original epitaph to Vladimir Stoyunin written by B.B. Glinsky,

As a practicing pedagogue and a public figure he never made a bargain with his conscience, he always maintained his beliefs and raised his voice every time he faced a lie or a narrow self-interest. Such moral integrity, steadfast convictions, and enlightened view on life and its circumstances made his life far from easy in terms of material benefits but gained him respect of the whole educated Russian society”  [4, 414].


  1. Stoyunin, V.Ya. Zametki o russkoy shkole // Izbrannye pedagogicheskie sochineniya [Notes on the Russian school // Selected works in pedagogy]. – M.: Pedagogika, 1991, pp.148-199.
  2. Stoyunin, V.Ya. Pedagogicheskie zadachi N.I. Pirogova // Izbrannye pedagogicheskie sochineniya [N.I. Pirogov’s tasks in pedagogy // Selected works in pedagogy]. – M.: Pedagogika, 1991, pp.242-281.
  3. Vasilyeva, O.Yu. Intervyu // Vedomosti [Interview // News Bulletin]. – 2016. – Aug.24.
  4. Glinsky, B. B. Vladimir Yakovlevich Stoyunin // Istoricheskiy vestnik [Vladimir Yakovlevich Stoyunin // History newsletter]. – 1889. – Vol. 35. – № 2, pp. 413-444.
  5. Lossky, N. O. Vospominaniya [Memories]. – URL: http://litfile.net/pages/314618/367000-368000?page=16 (Access date: 12.09.2016).
  6. Savenok, G. G. Pedagogicheskie vzglyady i deyatel'nost' V. Ya. Stoyunina // Izbrannye pedagogicheskie sochineniya [V.Ya. Stoyunin’s pedagogical views and activity // Selected works in pedagogy]. – M.: Pedagogika, 1991, pp.6-31.
  7. Sipovsky, V.V. Vladimir Yakovlevich Stoyunin. Biograficheskiy ocherk // Pedagogicheskie sochineniya [Vladimir Yakovlevich Stoyunin. Biographical essay // Selected works in pedagogy]. – 3-e izd. – SPb.: M. Stasyulevicha Publishing House, 1911, pp.1-38.
  8. Vitberg, F.A. V.Ya. Stoyunin, kak pedagog i chelovek: rech' F.A. Vitberga [V.Ya. Stoyunin as an educator and personality: F.A. Vitberg’s speech]. – SPb., 1899. – 20 p.

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