This homepage is dedicated to the life of Lev Semenovich Vygotsky (1896-1934), the father of Russian psychology. Vygotsky was a genius and an extremely humble person at the same time. His ideas bring psychology, philosophy, and aesthetics into a new way to view the world. His focus is one of unity (not identity) and synthesis, without the common pitfalls of reductionism. It is interesting that in Russia , psychology is wholistic by nature, maintaining a dynamic approach to the whole personality of each individual. Vygotskian thought is understood as height psychology, sometimes being compared with Freudian depth psychology, which views most problems within the subconscious level. There are many different interpretations of Vygotsky within Russia , and many directions internationally, some of which have different names. Vygotsky's approach is known as cultural-historical theory. It is interesting that internationally, Vygotsky's ideas have been used in education, perhaps more than in traditional psychology. One of Vygotsky's closest and most faithful colleagues was A. R. Luria (1902-1977), a world-renowned neuropsychologist, who was also a physician. Luria continued to develop Vygotsky's theories of language, and he extended many other areas of thought. A. N. Leontiev (1903-1979) was another close collaborator with Vygotsky. Leontiev is famous for his approach to activity theory, and he was very influential in Russian psychology for over 50 years. There is controversy as to whether Leontiev broke off with Vygotsky's idea to establish his own direction. The famous letter that Leontiev wrote to Vygotsky on February 5, 1932 will be included in the texts you can read to form your own opinion. It should be remembered that Vygotsky's works were banned in Russia until 1956, and even then few books could be found to read. It was not until the early 1980s that the Collected Works of Vygotsky were actually published in Russian, and copies of these works were difficult to obtain. Clearly, the situation has changed, and Vygotsky is known all over the world today within various disciplines. His ideas were written well ahead of his time, and they are relevant to the problems and questions we are facing today.
I was very lucky to receive a senior level Fulbright Fellowship during the spring semester of 1999, and I went to Moscow , and became acquainted with many of the well known psychologists at Moscow State Universities, interviewing them. I also became close to the Vygotsky family. Gita L'vovna Vygodskaya is the daughter of Vygotsky. In 2005 she will be celebrating her 80 th birthday. Her daughter is Elena Kravtsova, who is the director of the Vygotsky Institute of Psychology at the Russian State University for the Humanities. She is also the head of the team of the Golden Key school curriculum, which is an innovative educational program with approximately 30 schools across Russia . I have been lucky to visit some of these schools with Elena, such as in Krasnayarsk ( Siberia ), Rostov-on-Don, Balashika (Moscow), Belaya Kaltya ( Rostov region), and Azov. Each summer there is a two week seminar at a Golden Key school, and Elena takes students, faculty, and staff from the Vygotsky Institute of Psychology to interact and have all day seminars with the teachers in the respective Golden Key schools. Elena's husband is Gennadi Kravtsov, who is a professor and also works at the Vygotsky Institute of Psychology and the Golden Key schools. He is interested in the theories of Vygotsky. Elena and Gennadi have three grown sons. The first is Lev Kravtsov, who is now a professor of psychology. The second son, Alexei, studies at the Music Conservatory in Moscow , and is an accomplished composer. The third son, Oleg, is a student of psychology. During the 2003-2004 academic year, I was privileged to be on sabbatical, and I spent the year in Moscow . It was a remarkable time, and I am extremely grateful to many people there who made the year a success. It is a much different feeling to have spent so much time working, publishing, planning conferences, listening to lectures, etc. in Moscow . I feel that I can now understand how psychology is actually practiced there.
Please take the picture tour to see some of the names of the people I have discussing with you. Also, please look at the section of Russian orphanages. My work in Russia is also devoted to a group of orphans in a town called Vyschgorod, 120 kilometers west of Moscow . Thank you for viewing this site, and I hope that you will enjoy the contents. For additional information on my work and research, please check the following links (also in the menu to the left):