The Absent Educator: Following the Development of Deaf-Blind Children in Talking Hands

A. Battalova, I. Kashcheev, N. Kravchenko, N. Layali, S. Matveeva & A. Stepanov
Pages 199–205| Published online: 31 March 2024

Battalova, Alsu, Ivan Kashcheev, Nikolai Kravchenko, Najma Layali, Sofya Matveeva and Anatolii Stepanov. 2024. “The Absent Educator: Following the Development of Deaf-Blind Children in Talking Hands.” Marxism & Sciences 3 (1): 199–205.


The paper focuses on Emanuel Almborg’s movie Talking Hands (2016)—the documentary that presents a perspective on the Zagorsk experiment, an educational project directed by Meshcheryakov in the Soviet Union that challenged the notions of disability, thinking, and education by teaching deaf-blind children to become independent and intellectually capable individuals. The text deals with the experiment’s legacy along with the voice of Alexander Suvorov, one of the participants of the Zagorsk experiment, and raises questions about humanness, education, and the bond between a teacher and student. The relationships, as well as the origin of humanness, are revealed in the analysis of the educator’s role in their deaf-blind students’ mental development, where at first there is a constant and necessary presence of the educator, which is then followed by their disappearance. The poignant impact of Ilyenkov’s absence on Suvorov sheds light on the importance of an educator as a guide not only to understand the objects which surround us, but also to comprehend the self as an independent subject.

KEYWORDS: Zagorsk Experiment, Education, Ilyenkov, Meshcheryakov, Vygotsky, deaf-blind children, cognitive development, humanness.


Almborg, Emanuel, director. 2016. Talking Hands. 48 min. 

Ilyenkov, Evald V. 1971. Marxist Internet Archive. 

Ilyenkov, Evald V. 1975. “A Contribution to a Conversation about Meshcheriakov.” Journal of Russian and East European Psychology 45, no. 4: 85–94.

Ilyenkov, Evald V. 2007. “Our Schools Must Teach How to Think!” Journal of Russian & East European Psychology 45 (4): 9–49.

Meshcheryakov, Alexander I. 1979. “Forming the Behaviour of the Deaf-Blind and Developing Their Minds.” In Awakening to Life. Moscow: Progress Publishers.

Vygotsky, Lev S. 1978. Mind in Society: Development of Higher Psychological Processes. London, England: Harvard University Press.