If one believes Vladimir Dahl’s dictionary of Russian language, the word smolyanka means a pitch barrel, a fir-wood tub or a vat containing pitch. On May 5 (Julian date) 1764, the word gained a new meaning: smolyanka now referred to a female student of the Smolny Institute. That was the day when the institute emerged. And it did not appear by itself but thanks to Ivan Ivanovich Betsky’s initiative. He went abroad, interviewed Voltaire, Diderot and Rousseau there, and presented a paper to Empress Catherine II on the upbringing of youth of both sexes. The enlightened state ruler agreed with her adviser and signed a decree establishing the first educational institution for girls in Russia. Buildings at Smolny Convent were repurposed for teaching – and the curriculum was not limited to dancing and handicraft. It had subjects as diverse as heraldry, architecture and geometry, to say nothing about arithmetic, history and geography.
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Information provided by the Scientific Russia News Agency. Media outlet’s registration certificate: IA No. FS77-62580 issued by the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media on July 31, 2015.
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