Sunday schools

Image - Khrystyna Alchevska's Kharkiv Womens Sunday School (1880s). Image - Sunday school activists in Kyiv.

Sunday schools (недільні школи; nedilni shkoly). Private educational institutions for minors and adults who, because of work, could not attend regular schools. In Ukraine the first Sunday school opened in Poltava in 1858, and another in Kyiv in October 1859. Eventually there were 5 in each of Kyiv, Poltava, and Odesa, and schools in Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Nizhyn, Yelysavethrad (now Kropyvnytskyi), and some larger villages; in 1859–60 there were 68 altogether. Eventually some 111 Sunday schools operated in Ukraine.

Members of the intelligentsia acted as instructors in the schools. The language of instruction was Ukrainian, a measure agreed to in Kyiv by the warden of the Kyiv school district, Nikolai Pirogov, although in some schools, because of the lack of proper instructional materials, both Ukrainian and Russian were used. Teaching material included Taras Shevchenko's primer Bukvar' iuzhnorusskii (South Russian [Ukrainian] Primer, 1861) and Panteleimon Kulish's Hramatka (Grammar, 1857). Several well-known personalities took an active part in the school movement—Khrystyna Alchevska (see Kharkiv Women's Sunday School), Volodymyr Antonovych, Mykhailo Drahomanov, Oleksander Konysky, Viktor Loboda, Yelysaveta Myloradovych, Dmytro Pylchykov, Anatolii Svydnytsky, and Pavlo Chubynsky, all of whom taught in the schools. Mykola Kostomarov and P. Pavlov were also active participants, although they did not teach. Classes lasted from one to three hours every Sunday, and the instructors usually divided their time between those with some education and those without. The subjects of study, according to the 1861 laws, were religion, reading and writing, arithmetic, and drawing. In 1862 the tsarist authorities closed the schools. They were reopened in 1864, but with heavy restrictions. Sunday school activists in Poltava experienced repression and even exile over their participation in the schools. Among the exiled were Konysky, Loboda, V. Shevych, and Oleksander Stronin. Sunday schools were founded for a second time in the 1870s, but these schools were supported by the local zemstvos and by the church, which in 1891 gained complete control over all Sunday schools.

Ostap Skrypnyk

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 5 (1993).]

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