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Founded in 1912 and opened in 1914 by the professor of Moscow State University Georgy Chelpanov, the Psychological Institute had become the first research and educational psychological institute in Russia (and by that time the third in the world). Funds for the establishment of the institute were donated by well-known Russian patron Sergei  Shchukin. According to the wishes of the benefactor, the Psychological Institute was named after his late wife - Lydia Schukina.

For those times, the Institute was equipped with first-class facilities for psychological experiments. The spacious 3-storey building included comfortable experimental rooms, workshops, multiple auditoria, an assembly hall and a library.

During its long history the institution has changed several names: Moscow State Institute of Experimental Psychology of Russian Social Sciences Research Institutes Association (1924-1930), National Institute of Psychology, Pedology and Psychotechnique of Russian Marxist pedagogy Association (1930-1934), Psychological Research Institute of RSFSR Pedagogical Science Academy (1945-1970), General and Educational Psychology Research Institute of the USSR Pedagogical Science Academy (1970-1992). In the system of Russian Academy of Education, the institute has been returned to its original name in 1992 –  " L.G. Schukina’s Psychological Institute".

The Institute is now associated with the names of prominent representatives of Russian culture and science - psychologists, historians, and philologists. Among them were N. Berdyaev, S. Bulgakov, V. Zenkovsky, K. Locks, L. Lopatin, A. Losev, B. Pasternak, P. Popov, L. Shestov, G. Shpeth.

Most important, the majority of founders of the national psychology worked in the institute: G. Chelpanov, P. Blonsky, L. Vygotsky, A. Luria, S. Kravkov, K. Kornilov, S. Rubinstein, N. Zhinkin, N. Rybnikov, A. Leontiev, A. Smirnov, N. Bernstein, B. Teplov, V. Nebylitsyn, F. Gorbov, M. Lisina, L. Bozhovich, E. Boyko, N. Menchinskaya, P. Shevarev, P. Jacobson, A. Zaporozhets, D. Oshanin, D. Elkonin, V. Davidov et al.

Nowadays, RAE Psychological Institute is the largest research institute in Russia and its academic units conduct large-scale psychological research - from the investigation of fundamental problems of psychological theory and history, the laws governing the development and regulation of the mind, to the elaboration of practice-oriented problems of human development in specific types of its activities (communication, role-playing, educational and professional activities, etc.). The Institute’s priority areas are determined by the social demand for psychological support of education, children’s and adults’ development and education in the difficult conditions of the changing society, in the creation and support of effective student-centered educational systems for distinct contingents of students. These areas are also determined by the needs of the social sphere development and management.

It is important to note the role of the Psychological Institute in the creation of the largest psychological schools of thought in Russia. Above all, there must be concerned two outstanding schools of thought: first, G.Chelpanov’s, and second, Vygotsky - Luria - Leontiev.

The first institute’s school of thought was established by its founder G. Chelpanov, who at that time along with the philosophical understanding of psychology brought an experimental approach to the study of the mind and consciousness into the Russian classic psychology. Chelpanov’s first pupils were well-known in the future members of the Institute such as A.Smirnov, B.Teplov, P. Shevarev, S. Kravkov, A. Leontiev, N. Zhinkin, N. Rybnikov, P. Yakobson and others. Later on, Chelpanov’s pupils went their own separate ways, and their achievements have decorated the national and world science.

Methodological bases of the other school of thought, which arose within the walls of the RAE Psychological Institute and was widely recognized as a "cultural-historical approach to psychology", were developed by L. Vygotsky with the participation of A. Leontiev and A. Luria, each of whom later became the leader of his own perspective.

These two schools of thought, one of which focused its attention on the experimental paradigm of the study of consciousness and other mental phenomena, and the other – on the cultural-historical (socio-environmental, including activity-based) dependency of human mental development, in fact, marked the beginning of the subsequent research areas arising and are still developing at the RAE Psychological Institute.

Developing the ideas of these two fundamental psychological schools of thought,  a number of major research areas was formed:

  1. The theory of cognitive action ontogeny (A. Zaporozhets).
  2. The theory of communication as a communicative activity (M. Lisina).
  3. The concept of differential psychophysiology ("general and special properties" of the nervous system). Based on the concepts of Pavlov, it was created by B. Teplov and V. Nebylitsyn and it seeks to examine individual typological differences in mental functions and abilities.
  4. The concept of voluntary and involuntary memory (A. Smirnov)
  5. The concept of mental functions development in the course of training (N.A.Menchinskaya).
  6. The theory of developmental education. It was developed by such reputable researchers as D. Elkonin and V. Davydov. This theory is based on the following concepts - periodization of mental development, leading activity, game, educational activity, meaningful generalizations.
  7. The theory of activity mediation of personality development and interpersonal relationships (A. Petrovsky).
  8. The concept of giftedness (N. Leytes, A. Matyushkin).
  9. The concept of social-normative periodization of identity formation (D. Feldshteyn).
  10. The theory of socio-developmental psychology (V. Rubtsov).
  11. Fundamentals of children applied psychology (I. Dubrovina)

To date, the Institute develops the following research priorities: