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Knowledge Day: Back-to-School in Russia

The 1st September is always a special day in the Russian annual calendar, why? Because it's Knowledge Day of course!

It’s coming up to that time of year when all parents and kids start getting ready to go back to school. With this in mind, we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to share one of our own ‘back-to-school' stories through the eyes of one of our team.

Back to School in Russia

In Russia, the first day of school is called ‘Knowledge Day’ (День Знаний) and may simply be known as 1 September as that’s the day all kids in Russia, Soviet republics and former Eastern countries excluding Romania go back to school (even if this is a weekend!).

Knowledge Day Student Assembly

How did Knowledge Day come about?

Knowledge day was established by the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR in June 15, 1984.  The 1st September also marks the end of summer and the beginning of autumn.   

It has special significance for the incoming first graders who are starting school for the first time and the kids in their final school year, which is known as year 11 in Russia. 

Knowledge Day: An experience of a Real Russia team member

From what I can remember, 1st September was the time where all the children would come to school and get specially dressed up in their school uniform and then present gifts to teachers, such as cards and a bouquet of flowers. That day everyone would come to school including parents and have an outside morning assembly where all students are stood in groups in their form year and class. The headmistress or master would give a speech which would be followed by the First Bell (Первый Звонок ).

In Russia, the First bell is symbolic and signifies the beginning of the school year. Russian schools have a particular way of ringing the First Bell which is still continued today. One of the boys from year 11 lifts a schoolgirl from the first year onto his shoulders, the girl from the first year will then get given a big hand bell which they can either just ring or ring as they walk past the other students. After this assembly all the students go back to their classrooms where they start their new class in some cases with new teachers. 

It’s difficult to say whether kids are exited for this celebration or apprehensive, since it’s the first day when they have a chance to meet up with their friends or make new friends and meet teachers after a 3-month summer holiday (we always want more holiday!).

Kids across Russia get the chance to hear the first bell at the beginning of September but there is also another event called "Last School-Bell Day”.

Knowledge Day in Russia

Share your experience!

Do you have fond memories of your first day of school? We would love to hear about them in the comments below.

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