Little Bits of History

September 1

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 1, 2017

1763: The Foundling Home is endorsed by Catherine II. Today known as the Moscow Orphanage, it was proposed by Ivan Betskoy. He believed Russia should build a spacious, state-of-the-art institution where orphaned or abandoned children could receive an education and all the training each child’s interests and abilities would allow. Betskoy was part of the Russian Enlightenment and a school reformer as well as an adviser on education under Catherine II. He served as President of the Imperial Academy of the Arts for thirty years and unified Russia’s system of public education. His goal, with this proposal, was to take these children and train them in craftsmanship, fine arts, or prepare them for university classes.

The new building was to be built on Solyanka Street between the Moskva and Yauza Rivers. Construction costs were covered by public subscription. The Empress pledged 100,000 rubles and Prokofy Demidov pledged twice that amount. Betskoy himself donated 162,995 rubles. The orphanage was to be a series of three square buildings with the eastern building for girls, the western one for boys, and the central square was for administration. The opening ceremonies were on April 21, 1764 and Catherine attended the festivities even though the entire complex was incomplete. Only part of the west wing was finished in 1764 and it wasn’t until three years later that it was complete. The central building was put up between 1771 and 1781. The orphanage expanded several times and was noted as a city within a city. Most of the orphanage survived the Fire of 1812. The East Wing was finally built using the original plans created by Karl Blank.

On opening day, 19 newborn babies were brought to the orphanage and two were baptized in front of the approving crowd. They both died soon after. This was typical of the stay there. During Catherine’s reign about 40,996 children were admitted to the orphanage. Of those, 35,309 or 87% died. The vast complex housed and educated just a small number of children. Many attempts were made to decrease infant mortality but they were unsuccessful. As time went on, the institution was notorious for fraud and child abuse.

In 1797, Empress Maria took over the running of the orphanage and instituted many new policies which decreased morality and by 1826 the rate was reduced to 15% per year. She also improved the educational programs offered. She also separated children from adults and helped to upgrade several of the programs offered. When the Bolsheviks came to power, they disbanded the Orphanage and used the building for Soviet trade unions and other state institutions. Only some of the buildings remain today, the buildings have been suggested for use for the Russian Parliament Center.

When you lose your parents as a child, you are indoctrinated into a club, you re taken into life’s severest confidence. You are undeceived. – Hilary Thayer Hamann

Orphans are the only ones who get to choose their fathers, and they love them twice as much. – Adam Johnson

Orphanages are the only places that ever left me feeling empty and full at the same time. – John M. Simmons

It is very sad to see children live like orphans while their parents are still alive. After all, children need the constant love of parents. – Gugu Mona