Orphanage for Morally Defective Girls (of the second degree)

Address: 3 Tatishcheva Street, Moscow

House No. 3A, contemporary view. Photograph: Mikhail Konchits, the Archive of International Memorial

House No. 3A, contemporary view. Photograph: Mikhail Konchits, the Archive of International Memorial

"Morally Defective" Children

The Orphanage for Morally Defective Girls was designed for 15-17 year-old girls, who were considered defective for various reasons.

The concept of “morally defective” children was introduced for the first time at the beginning of the 20th century by the psychiatrist Vsevolod Kashchenko. He divided children into “physically defective” and “morally defective" groups. The latter term referred to socially neglected and maladjusted children.

However, many psychologists refused to adopt this term. For example L. Vygotskii insisted on replacing the term with “difficult” or “demanding” children. Also, A. Makarenko and N. Krupskaya argued against Kashchenko’s view.

Nevertheless, from the 1920s until the early 1930s, orphans as well as undisciplined and poor pupils, children with mental disorders, neurological and psychological disorders, epilepsy and speech defects, were all labeled as “morally defective.”

Struggle against Homelessness

By 1930, the number of labor colonies within the OGPU increased significantly due to collectivization. As a result, the All-Russian Congress of Children’s Welfare became concerned about children’s conditions in so-called penal institutions. As a result, the authorities tried to label offenders in some cases as “defective” and transfer them to institutes for defective children instead of labor colonies.

Institutions for morally defective children were usually gender segregated. In orphanages for girls, there were usually minor pilferers and prostitutes of different ages. They usually ended up becoming prostitutes due to despair and poor prospects for survival otherwise.  

House No. 3A, contemporary view. Photograph: Mikhail Konchits, the Archive of International Memorial

House No. 3A, contemporary view. Photograph: Mikhail Konchits, the Archive of International Memorial

Dariya Durneva, Anna Margolis