A boys’ gymnasium that changed Irbit schools

Education for a better life

Education was not a strong point for Irbit before it became a city. Few people there knew how to read and write, since there were no schools and you could hardly find a teacher

With city status came money, new opportunities and new people. A vibrant town, Irbit learned from its neighbors, trying to replicate their innovations. With the educational reform launched around the mid-19th century by Emperor Alexander II, the entire educational landscape changed, paving the way for the emergence of schools and gymnasiums of a new kind. The country wanted to have experts and professionals, and this mindset found its way into Irbit, even if a little later than elsewhere, with the creation of specialized education institutions. The Irbit Gymnasium for Boys was one of them. Not only did the school teach a new generation of excellent students, but it changed the very approach to education.


40,000-ruble price tag

The building’s cornerstone has a copper plate with the inscription “25th day of 1893” and silver rubles minted in 1891, when the decision to build the school was made.

From the outset, this institution was different when compared to other schools

Sponsored by merchant Konstantin Stepanov, this private school split into a seminary and a school with three grades.

стоимость здания 
— 40 тысяч рублей

В краеугольный камень фундамента вмурована медная доска с надписью  «1893 года мая 25 дня»  и положены серебряные рубли чеканки 1891 года (год решения о постройке здания).
The project did not receive any funding from the state and relied exclusively on private contributions. Still, the school succeeded in forming a team of experienced faculty members who served the institution for a long time:
Semyon Fedoseyev – nature sciences, geography, physics and chemistry
Ivan Zamatrinsky (graduated from a seminary with a degree in teaching) – arithmetic, geometry and algebra
Fyodor Fyodorov, a seminary student – Russian and Church Slavic languages, history
Grigory Khapalov – calligraphy, painting and sketching
Priest Ivan Oshchapkov – the Scripture and singing
S. Obukhov – physical education.

Irbit Gymnasium as identity

The uniform students wore at the school included caps with the letters “IG” on them, which stood for the Irbit Gymnasium.
In a matter of just a few years, this team transformed the school, making it one of the best in Irbit. The governor and the local bishop regularly visited the institution and praised it for the high quality of education.

Ирбитская гимназия
 — модный бренд

На форменных фуражках гимназистов красовалась кокарда с буквами 
«ИГ» – Ирбитская гимназия.
The school became an integral part of the local cultural landscape. During the fair, merchants held charity drives for students, along with masquerades and prize draws for the needy. In winter, there was a skating rink and snow slides in the school’s courtyard. In the summer of 1896, students planted a garden along the building’s southern wall with numerous bushes and trees. 

The Yekaterinburgskaya Nedelya newspaper wrote about the school’s importance: “The school’s construction will go down in history as a major milestone for Irbit and a bright spot in its public life.”

Research Excellence Center

Konstantin Alexandrovich Belavin

Local officials could not fail to take notice of the school’s robust academic track record. Fifteen years after its founding, the school became entitled to government funding

The first boys’ gymnasium opened there as a result.
The city’s best teachers, all experienced educators with higher education degrees, started teaching there, headed by Konstantin Belavin, who made a major contribution to promoting education in the city and oversaw the boys’ and girls’ gymnasiums.

Konstantin Alexandrovich Belavin

Belavin helped create a rich library in the gymnasium, with most of its books – 72 volumes – donated by the Moscow City Council. The school also bought 161 educational props, including a three-dimensional globe, imported geographical and historical maps, as well as historical paintings illustrating ancient and Russian literature.
In 1910, Belavin succeeded in securing an 8,000-ruble grant to equip the gymnasium’s physics classroom. The funds went toward buying French and German equipment, including a dynamo and a Leybold electrical station. It had a kerosine-powered engine, a DC dynamo, an electric panel and fuel tanks. The school used the generated electricity “for educational purposes, as well as for powering a big slide and film projector.”

Interestingly, many of these materials remain to this day: the books are still in the library, while the equipment is on display in the museum of education

The gymnasium’s courtyard also had a meteorological station, a hydrometer and a snow meter. The school relayed its weather observations to St. Petersburg. 

Open doors


History, calligraphy, the Russian language, the Old Slavic language, Greek and Latin.All students 16 years and older had to take military training.

As modern and forward-looking as it was, the school remained inclusive and affordable so that anyone could enroll there

It charged a modest annual tuition fee of 25 rubles, while students from low-income families did not have to pay anything and could even receive Stikhin’s scholarship for the needy.
At the same time, studying there provided ample opportunities, including mathematics, science, literature, languages, vocational training and physical education, which enabled students to uncover their talents.
Senior students got to choose between a general curriculum or specialized courses, which allowed graduates to work in public service or mining.


История, чистописание, русский, старославянский, греческий и латинский языки. Военную подготовку были обязаны проходить все ученики старше 16 лет.
The local authorities praised the gymnasium for its approaches: “While making available general secondary education just as any other school, the gymnasium fulfilled one of the region’s main needs, which was to promote the deeper knowledge of mining.”

in the minds

Belavin’s efforts enabled the school to survive World War I and the revolution

The principal ordered that the door to the physics classroom be blocked in order to protect the devices and books from looting. During WWI, he allowed a military headquarters to be created there, replaced by a hospital after the revolution. Belavin was praised for his approach before, as well as after the revolution. He even received the Hero of Labor order during the first years after the revolution.


The traditions established by the boys’ gymnasium live on. The teachers make sure to pass on the school’s legacy from one generation to the next. There is an immense archive covering 115 years. In 2006, the school opened a museum of education showing equipment, which still works today, and textbooks bought by Belavin.

Importantly, the school is still where it has always been, educating future artists, teachers, doctors and scholars. Full of resolve, it strives to change the world for the better.