Anton Makarenko

For the Ukrainian football player, see Anton Makarenko (footballer).
Anton Semyonovich Makarenko
Born Антон Семенович Макаренко
(1888-01-13)13 January 1888
Bilopillia, Russian Empire
Died 1 April 1939(1939-04-01) (aged 51)
Golitsyno, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Occupation Educator, writer
Language Russian
Ethnicity Ukrainian
Citizenship Russian Empire, Soviet
Subject Educational theory, Pedagogy, Correctional education

Anton Semyonovich Makarenko (Russian: Анто́н Семёнович Мака́ренко, Ukrainian: Анто́н Семе́нович Макаре́нко, 13 January 1888 – 1 April 1939) was a Russian[note 1] and Soviet educator, social worker and writer, the most influential educational theorist in the Soviet Union[1] who promoted democratic ideas and principles in educational theory and practice. As one of the founders of Soviet pedagogy, he elaborated the theory and methodology of upbringing in self-governing child collectives and introduced the concept of productive labor into the educational system. Makarenko is often reckoned among the world's great educators, and his books have been published in many countries.[2]

In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution he established self-supporting orphanages for street children — including juvenile delinquents — left orphaned by the Russian Civil War. Among these establishments were the Gorky Colony and later the Dzerzhinsky labor commune in Kharkiv, where the FED camera was produced. Makarenko wrote several books, of which The Pedagogical Poem (Педагогическая поэма), a fictionalized story of the Gorky Colony, was especially popular in the USSR. In 1955 a movie with English title Road to Life was produced.[1]


Anton Semyonovich Makarenko was born in Bilopillia, Kharkov Governorate, to Semyon Grigorievich Makarenko, who worked at the Kharkov railway depot as a painter, and Tatyana Mikhaylovna (née Dergachova), daughter of a soldier from Mykolaiv.[3]

In September 1905, having graduated from a four-year college in Kremenchug, Makarenko took a one-year teachers' course and at the age of seventeen, began teaching at a railway college at Dolinskaya station near Kherson where he worked from September 1911 till October 1914. In August 1914 he enrolled into the Poltava Training College but had to interrupt his education and in September 1916 joined the Russian army which he was demobilized from in March 1917, due to poor vision.[4] The same year he graduated the college with honours and went on to work as a teacher in Poltava and later Kryukov where, in 1919, he became the local college's director.[3]

In 1920 Anton Makarenko was invited to head the Poltava Colony for Young Offenders. A year later it became the Gorky Colony and soon attracted the attention of Maxim Gorky himself. In 1923 Makarenko published two articles on the Gorky Colony (in Golos Truda newspaper and Novimy Stezhkami magazine) and two years later made a public report at the All-Ukrainian Conference for the orphanage teachers.[4]

Makarenko in the late 1920s

In 1927 Makarenko was appointed as the head of the Dzerzhinsky labour commune, an orphanage for street children near Kharkov, where the most incorrigible thieves and swindlers were known to be put into rehabilitation. Makarenko succeeded in gaining their respect, combining in his method insistence and respect, school education and productive labor.[5][6] Yet, 1928 saw the wave of criticism aimed at Makarenko started. In March 1928 his report at the Ukrainian Pedagogical institute concerning his work in the Gorky Colony received hostile treatment. In September of that year he was fired from the Gorky Colony, and had to concentrate on his work in Kharkov.[3]

Makarenko's methods were highly appreciated by Maxim Gorky who believed that his "amazingly successful educational experiment [was] of world-wide significance," as he insisted in one of his letters.[7] The correspondence between the two started in July 1925 and continued until Gorky's death. In 1928 the famous writer visited the two colonies and left much impressed; next year in an essay called "Over the Union of Soviets" he hailed Makarenko as "the new type of pedagogue."[4]

Encouraged by Gorky, whom he admired, Makarenko wrote the The Pedagogical Poem (better known in the West under its English title, Road to Life) based on the true stories of his pupils from the orphanage for street children, which he started in 1925 and published in 1933-1935. Before that, in 1932, Makarenko's first story, "The March of the 30th Year", came out. In 1934 he became a member of the Soviet Union of Writers.[4]

In 1935 Makarenko started working the NKVD in Kiev as the Chief Assistant of the Labor Colony Department. In 1936 he was appointed the head of another colony, in Brovary, and in less than a year turned an unruly bunch of pupils into a highly disciplined working collective.[3]

Accused of being critical towards Stalin and supporting of the Ukrainian opposition, Makarenko had to flee Kiev in order to avoid the arrest and settled in Moscow where he lived "under special supervision."[6] He continued writing, and in 1937 his acclaimed "The Book for Parents" came out, followed by Flags on the Battlements (translated into English as Learning to Live) in 1938, a sequel to Road to Life.[7] In February 1939 he received the Order of the Red Banner of Labour, a high-profile Soviet award.[4]

Anton Semyonovich Makarenko died of heart failure in a wagon of a suburban train at the Golitsyno railway station of the Moscow Railway's Smolensk line, aged 51. He was buried in Moscow, at the Novodevichy Cemetery.[4]


Although there was some opposition by the authorities at the early stages of Makarenko's "experiments",[8] the Soviet establishment eventually came to hail his colonies as a grand success in communist education and rehabilitation. Among his key ideas were "as much exigence towards the person as possible and as much respect for him as possible", the use of positive peer pressure on the individual by the collective, and institutionalized self-government and self-management of that collective.[8]

Makarenko was one of the first Soviet educators to urge that the activities of various educational institutions — i.e., the school, the family, clubs, public organizations, production collectives and the community existing at the place of residence — should be integrated.[2]


Criticism of Makarenko's ideas were raised by Soviet educators and Russian dissidents both before and after the fall of Soviet communism. The humanist educator Vasyl Sukhomlynsky ventured in an unpublished manuscript, “Our Good Family” (1967), against "Makarenko’s false statement that the main objective of Soviet moral and character education is found in the collective."[9] Vladimir Sirotin (Karkov 1960 - Moscow 201?) described Makarenko as "the bard of punitive pedagogy" whose ideas were contrary to democratic freedoms and human rights including the natural rights of child and parents.[10] Makarenko's system has been faulted for giving the child collective too much power over the individual child.[11]


Makarenko chess, a chess variant developed by him during the 1920s.

See also


  1. According to Makarenko's brother Vitaly Semyonovich, "despite his Ukrainian origins, Anton was 100% Russian." - «… несмотря на своё украинское происхождение Антон был 100 % русским» (Makarenko, V.S. My Brother Anton Semyonovich. // Макаренко В. С. Мой брат Антон Семёнович. Marburg, 1985, p. 79). Makarenko scholar Professor Hillig insisted that Makarenko considered himself a Russian, noting that in official documents he occasionally identified himself as ethnic Ukrainian for 'tactical reasons', so as to 'give the local officials one reason less to smash the Gorky Colony down.'


  1. 1 2 "Anton Semyonovich Makarenko". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2015-01-13.
  2. 1 2 Filonov, G. N. (1994) 'Anton Makarenko (1888–1939)', in Prospects: the quarterly review of comparative education UNESCO: International Bureau of Education, Paris. vol. XXIV, no. 1/2, 1994, p. 77-91.
  3. 1 2 3 4 "Makarenko, A. S.". Peoples' Friendship University of Russia site / Labour Psychology section. Archived from the original on 2015-02-26. Retrieved 2015-01-13.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Makarenko, Anton Semyonovich". // Anton Makarenko site. Retrieved 2015-01-13.
  5. "A.S. Makarenko". / To Bring Up a Man site (Rus). Retrieved 2015-01-13.
  6. 1 2 Kipreyeva, Alyona. "Anton Makarenko". Encyclopedia of Russia. Retrieved 2015-01-13.
  7. 1 2 "Preface to Learn to Live". Retrieved 2015-01-13.
  8. 1 2 Горкин А. П. (гл. ред.). Российская педагогическая энциклопедия. – М.: Научное издательство "Большая Российская энциклопедия", 1993. Макаренко (Russian)
  9. Boguslavsky, Mikhail V (December 15, 2009). "The Dynamics of the Goals of Vasily Sukhomlinsky's 'School Holistic System'". Russian-American Education Forum. 1 (3). ISSN 2150-3958.
  10. Sirotin, Vladimir. "2. A monster of pedagogy: my objections to Makarenko and the Soviet education system". Stephen Shenfield. Retrieved 22 August 2016. In: Research and Analytical Supplement (RAS) to Johnson’s Russia List (JRL), Special Issue No. 45. November 2009. Children and adolescents in the USSR and post-Soviet Russia
  11. Vavokhine, Youri. 2004. The (post)-soviet prison subculture faced with the use of self-management doctrines by the corrections administration. Penal field: new French journal of criminology

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