CHildhood and Education Vygotsky was born on November 17th, 1896 in Orsha, a small town in Belorussia.4 He family soon moved to Gomel, where his father became department chief of the United Bank of Gomel. His mother, though trained as a teacher, stayed home to raise her children for most of her life. The family was middle class and provided a stimulating and enriching environment for the eight children.2
After receiving his early education in private schools, Vygotsky went on to a Jewish Gymnasium to earn his secondary school degree. He was always a good student and was often referred to as "the little professor" because he would lead student discussions on topics such as philosophy or history.4
He had interests in many areas, including Jewish history and culture, philosophy, theatre, literature, and poetry.2 These varied interests are evidence of his strong abilities in several of Gardner's multiple intelligences.
Although Vygotsky graduated from gymnasium with a gold medal in 1913, there was some doubt as to whether he would be able to attend university. In Russia at that time, there were quotas for the percentage of Jewish students allowed to be admitted to the universities. While his gold medal would surely have earned him a place in the incoming class, for his year, the government changed the manner in which Jewish students were admitted, making it a lottery instead of a merit-based acceptance. Luckily, Vygotsky's name was chosen in the lottery and he entered Moscow University to study medicine.4
He was actually more interested in studying philosophy or philology, however, there were restrictions on the professions that Jewish people were allowed to enter, disqualifying him from pursuing these areas.2 Despite that his parents had encouraged him to study medicine, he soon switched to a study of law.4 He was concurrently attending Shanyavskii People’s University, an unofficial school started by Jews who had been kicked out of Moscow University. There he studied psychology, philosophy, literature. After earning his law degree from Moscow University in 1917, he returned to Gomel to teach literature and philosophy.
Figure 2: Moscow University, present day Previous: Introduction - Next: Early Career Menu