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Durham University

School of Modern Languages and Cultures: Russian Studies

Staff in the Department of Russian

Publication details for Professor Andy Byford

2013 'Parent Diaries and the Child Study Movement in Late Imperial and Early Soviet Russia', The Russian Review 72, pp. 212-241

Author(s) from Durham


Parent diaries of child development and early upbringing–sometimes referred to as “mothers' diaries”–are an important source in the historiography of Russian childhood. The article situates the production of Russian parent diaries, as practice and discourse, in the history of the Russian child study movement between the 1880s and the 1930s. It traces the key socio-cultural and professional contexts in which parent diaries were initially promoted in Russia between the Great Reforms and the First World War. It discusses in greater detail two diaries published in the mid-1910s (those of A. F. Levonevskii and E. K. Krichevskaia) as examples of very different kinds of positioning of Russian parents on the boundaries of expertise in early child development, care and education (vospitanie). It then analyzes the way in which some Russian psychologists (especially N. A. Rybnikov) enrolled parental diary-keeping as an “objective” methodology in psychology in the late 1910s-early 1920s. In this context, it examines, as a counter-example, the idiosyncratic framing of the diary written by V. A. Rybnikova-Shilova (1923), in which, unusually, maternal subjectivity was explicitly built into the scientific legitimacy of a child development diary. The conclusion sketches out the fate of parent diaries, especially as a method and genre of psychology, up until and beyond the 1936 liquidation of Soviet pedology under Stalin.