THE OTHER PART OF THE SOVIET STORY
by Ruth Sanford
[with additions by Irina Kuzmicheva ]
increasing frequency, I have been hearing comments from both
was one evening in July of 1985 that I met with Fran Macy and Tom Greening in
Fran Macy’s room at the Moskva Hotel in
leaving for the
But it was the interest and the prestige and the courage of Alexey Matushkin, Director of the Psychological Institute in Moscow and President of the Psychological Association in the Soviet Union, that attracted professional people from all over the Soviet Union to our meetings in Moscow and in Tbilisi which made the impact on the psychological community of the Soviet Union possible. Alexey Matushkin, a man of vision, had the courage to follow that vision and was in a position of power to make it all possible.
was during that first meeting in Alexey’s office that
Carl said, “You understand. Dr. Matushkin, that what
you have asked us to do here is dangerous.”
The response was, “How is it dangerous?”
And Carl said, “Dangerous because if people learn to empower themselves,
they may not do what you want them to do.
It may not fit in this culture.” Alexey
thought for a long moment and then he said, “Yes, but it would be more
dangerous not to.” That, I think, is the
measure of Matushkin’s part in what happened during
the next weeks, both in
As our work progressed, we learned that he had also stimulated the professional psychology community and the services associated with it to meet together over that period of approximately a year, to become familiar with Carl’s work in preparation. It was only in the Soviet Onion that we found so many professionals and students at the University of Moscow acquainted with the work of Carl in advance to the extent that when Carl asked at the University of Moscow during our one day there how many in the audience, largely students, were familiar with or had heard of his work, and, surprisingly enough, well over 85 percent raised their hands.
dedicated person who needs to be (included here is Irina
Kuzmicheva who was Assistant Director for
International Research of the
Through all of this, Fran Macy was our advisor, our guide and also one of our interpreters. He also made it possible for me to return in 1988 after Carl’s death to have follow-up workshops. The roster of the 1986 group was used to select the persons who became part of the 1987 new groups.
a recent telephone conversation, Irina Kuzmicheva related the formal steps and the prolonged
negotiations through which she went in the name of Alexey
Matushkin in order to obtain approval for a formal
invitation to Carl and me for our visit in 1986. She emphasized the courage and
the foresight of Alexey Matushkin
in proposing such a visit. It was Irina who finally
wrote an extensive paper on the visit of humanistic psychologists, the title
that she gave us, to the
said, “Of course my name never appeared and my role was to present a written
review of Humanistic Psychology and estimate how the Soviet
educational system might benefit from bringing Carl Rogers and Ruth Sanford and
Fran Macy in close contact with educators and psychologists. I was the
presenter and did the direct negotiations.” Her first visit was to the Foreign
Department of the
Macy and Irina managed to visit the Minister for
Education of the
In that paper* which was 50 typed pages long and was a review of humanistic psychology in the US and activities of the Association the characteristic of the proposed plan which Carl and I had considered for our visit was reemphasized and reinterpreted to mean that we would be sharing with teachers methods that would be helpful in teaching children and young people in the schools. That initially had been the invitation to work with teachers and educators on nurturing creativity in the Soviet classroom which was difficult for us to understand. Now it becomes clear. I wish Carl might have known.
They seemed to be hesitant when they understood that we were to meet with large groups of professionals over a long period of time because that would have been suspicious and probably would have defeated the whole project.
The story which I have just told re-emphasizes my earlier observation of the very active and courageous part that Alexey Matushkin played in arranging for our visit and the very active part that Irina played in bringing it about.
*The paper emphasized that Carl Rogers and Ruth Sanford will help teachers to identify gifted children and offer new methods, practical tools to “manage” children at school. That paper presented Carl and Ruth as clever psychologists who know certain western secrets of how to deal with creative children. In a way they were presented as having a practical tool of indirectly manipulating children. The paper emphasized the power of their approach. The natural curiosity of Soviet officials was stirred, and – the doors opened. If anything was most wanted in those last years of Soviet power it was practical methods and tools of monitoring the development of creative people, a most relevant part of the population to comply with Soviet power.