Child Care in Russia: In Transition. Jean Ispa. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. 1994. 230 pp. Hardcover ISBN 0-89789-390-5. $55 cloth.
Jean Ispa first observed and studied Soviet child care centers in 1993-94 as part of her doctoral research on toddler social behavior. In 1991, just before demise of the Soviet Union, she returned to Russia for an intensive 3 months of research on current practices. Growing up in a household of Russian immigrants, she is fluent in the Russian language. Her knowledge of Russian language and culture, coupled with the long time horizon of her experience with American and Russian systems of education, render this new book a particularly enlightening, thoughtful, and balanced description of a system of child care outside our country.
Probably all Americans who lived through the Cold War possess many feelings and judgments, and facts and misfacts, about Soviet and Russian history and education. It is fascinating, therefore, to read the chapter titled "Some History" about the forces that have shaped Russian child care over the past two centuries and gain a picture of how changing societal priorities have shaped educational goals. The period from the Revolution of 1917 through the 1920s is portrayed as a time of experimentation and innovation, involving influx of certain North American and Western European progressive educational ideals. This time was followed by a more rigid and dogmatic period of Soviet control, with emphasis on socialization for collectivism, lasting until the 1960s. The most recent period, from the 1970s to the present, has en a resurgence of questioning, reform, and change, as part of the massive political and economic shifts sweeping the country. No doubt conditions have continued to change even since this book was written, as the breakup of the Soviet Union has meant many fewer central state resources for such services as health and education.
After establishing historical perspective, the author offers a few notes about the language and translation. The Russian teacher is called vospitanel'nitsa, one who brings up children or "upbringer," and teachers often show their fondness for children by using the diminutive form for nouns when speaking with children. …