Ural Federal University: During the War, the University’s Department of Journalism Was the Only Place in the Country Where Personnel for the Press Were Trained

We continue our series of publications that are dedicated to the 100th anniversary of Ural Federal University. This time, Rafail Iskhakov, Associate Professor at the Ural Federal University Journalism Department, spoke about the emergence and evolution of the Ural School of Practical Journalism and the Ural School of Journalism.

Origin and first steps

The rudiments of journalism education appeared in the Urals a century ago. In 1920, in Ekaterinburg, at the branch of the Russian Telegraph Agency (ROSTA), the Urals two-month courses for chroniclers were opened. Two years later, the State Institute of Journalism was established in Moscow to train journalistic personnel, which in the 1930s was renamed the All-Union Communist Institute of Journalism.

In 1931, a newspaper department of the V.I. Lenin Ural-Siberian Communist University briefly operated in Sverdlovsk, followed by one-year regional courses for communist journalists, which also provided theoretical training. This date refers to the origin of systematic journalistic education in the Urals. Since 1933, journalists were trained at the Sverdlovsk Regional Newspaper Party School with its own printing lab. A full-fledged system of professional journalism education, however, was not established at that time.

It began to form 85 years ago, in 1936, when the Communist Institute of Journalism was established in Sverdlovsk. The main type of media in that era were newspapers and magazines (for example, there were about 300 publications in the Sverdlovsk region). And the Communist Institute of Journalism emerged as a territorial educational and research center in the field of the press, a school of newspaper studies. In the history of journalism education in the Urals, a new page of higher education was opened.

The Sverdlovsk Communist Institute of Journalism faced fundamental problems: on the one hand, almost 70% of students had a seven-year or lower education, and on the other hand, there was an acute shortage of qualified teachers and teaching materials. But by the end of the first academic year, in addition to the departments of language and literature, the departments of Party History and Journalism appeared, new classrooms were equipped, and the university library was enlarged.

Experienced full-time teachers (including the Soviet founder of “History of State and Law,” Serafim Yushkov) began to teach the core courses. And highly qualified practitioners – journalists and editors, for example, the future author of “Malachite Casket” Pavel Bazhov – taught as part-timers. The number of teachers was growing, their emerging team was producing independent textbooks and teaching aids, and the institute’s library was perfectly stocked with textbooks, general education and special literature.

By 1940, when the Sverdlovsk Communist Institute had produced its first graduates, the institute was renamed the Mayakovsky State Institute of Journalism by order of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and switched to the Charter of Higher Education. This opened up access to journalistic education not only for Party personnel, but also for the general public.

Rise and Maturity

When the Great Patriotic War broke out in August 1941, the Communist Institute of Journalism joined the Sverdlovsk (since 1945 – Ural) State University named after A. M. Gorky as a department. During the war, the Ural Department of Journalism was the only one in the Soviet Union where specialists for the entire country were trained (the same department in Alma-Ata was training national journalists). In Sverdlovsk, students from Moscow State University and Leningrad State University, Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev, Odessa, Kharkov Communist Institutes, and the Moscow Polygraphic Institute studied.

They were taught by brilliant scientists evacuated from the western part of the country – Leonid Grossman, an outstanding expert on Pushkin and Dostoyevsky, the famous historian and researcher of the Stroganov family, Andrey Vvedensky, one of the founders of scientific sociology in the USSR, Solomon Katsenbogen, etc.

…Gradually the faculty began to develop new training courses: Russian history of the newspaper, history of the Bolshevik press, history of the Urals press, Marxist science of the press, journalistic genres such as the essay and the feuilleton, military journalism and newspaper-forming business. Boris Pavlovsky, a student of the department who was the first to defend his doctoral thesis, a pioneer of the Ural Art History, the future founder of the Ural Art History School and a corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Arts, began to develop lectures in the history of Russian art.

In 1947, the Ural State University’s Department of Journalism was transformed into the Department of History and Philology. As a consequence, since then, special attention has been paid to philological and literary training. The period of study was extended from four to five years. Simultaneously, the department’s resource base is being strengthened: the printing and newspaper equipment rooms and the photo lab are being recreated. For the first time ever, the Diploma Defense program is approved.

The birth of the scientific school

The turn of the 1950-60s, the Khrushchev Thaw, is the time when the Urals academic school of journalism emerged. The Department of Journalism regains its status as a faculty. By that time, it was once again giving priority to specialty subjects, such as newspaper technology. New courses were introduced, such as theater criticism, television and radio broadcasting, industry, agriculture, trade, international affairs, and even censorship. About 600 people were enrolled at the faculty. In the 1960s (which is hard to imagine today), only those with at least two years of work experience were accepted into the journalism department.

From being a center for newspaper studies for many years, the faculty has developed into a School of Journalism of full value.

A precondition for the establishment of a school of journalism is the existence of a leader. The Urals School of Journalism had two such leaders: Evgeny Bagreev, the head of the Department of the Theory and Practice of Party and Soviet Press, the former editor of the main regional newspaper, the Uralskiy Rabochiy, and his successor, professor Valentin Shandra, a veteran of the department, PhD in Philosophy.

The merit of Evgeny Yakovlevich is that he was able to unite the efforts of teachers in the preparation of collective collections of scientific articles. Under Valentin Andreevich, for the first time he developed a seven-year complex plan of scientific works (in many respects they were aimed at researching the history of the press in the Urals). The Department of History of Press and the Department of Stylistics and Russian Language were established. The faculty was enriched by a great number of specialists, who have been defining the face of the department in both the late Soviet and post-Soviet periods. Unique courses of lectures on the foreign working and progressive press, on practical stylistics and the language of mass media were opened, and classes in literary editing of newspapers began.

Today, the Department of Journalism at Ural Federal University is one of the most highly regarded and respected centers for training journalistic personnel in Russia. The department has a graduate school and a dissertation council. Graduates of the journalism department work all over the country, throughout the former Soviet Union, and abroad. Among them are recognized masters of the profession. In this is the irreplaceable contribution of those who devoted themselves to the creation and improvement of the Ural School of Practical Journalism and the Ural Scientific School of Journalism.