From the time of the Bolshevik revolution until the German invasion of the USSR in June 1941, immense changes took place in the socialist higher-education system. If one were to draw up a balance sheet of accomplishments and failures, it would look something like the following. From difficult beginnings, the higher-education system grew and diversified, in fits and starts, to the point where it compared favourably with higher education in the world's leading industrialized countries. The state expanded enrolment considerably and produced an impressive number of graduates in a variety of fields. Situated within the industrial heartland of the country, Leningrad took on an extremely important role in this expanding professional training system. Russia's second capital became a leading centre for scientific and technical work, as well as a home to prestigious institutions for the social sciences and humanities. Across the Soviet Union, a remarkable social revolution accompanied the growth and diversification of institutes of higher education. Hundreds of thousands of working-class and peasant youth completed their professional training and became part of a new cohort of Red specialists. After the war they assumed leading roles in a country that set out to challenge the United States as a military and economic superpower.
Subjected to social engineering strategies and close supervision by the state, students in the Soviet Union inhabited a community defined by rigorous obligations, rules, and regulations during the interwar period, but the ambitious blueprint set forth by the state did not always produce the results as planned. The Communist Party structured part of its social engineering scheme on a division of students by social class, ideology, and political status. The Soviet higher-education system in this way produced a bifurcated community demarcated by opportunity and deprivation. For graduates, the higher-education system was a