Victor Ivanovitch Fleri, outstanding Russian sign language educator

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Fleri Victor Ivanovitch (1800-1856) – Russian educator of sign language. First he was an educator (from 1817) then inspector and principal (from 1837) of St. Petersburg Institute for Deaf-Mute. It is important to note, that Fleri started working in this field when being 17 years old (of course quality education, knowledge of French, Latin and Greek languages helped him significantly; strictly speaking, Fleri was invited to the Institute by the initiative of J. B. Joffre, initially, for a French teacher position, apart from that up until 1838 he had also taught French at the Gymnasium at Saint-Petesrburg University). He developed significant innovations in the field of sign language. Author of first works in sing language in Russia (book: “Deaf-Mute investigated in relation to their state and the ways of their education, characteristic to their nature”, 1835; and other), in which he proved the possibility and effectiveness of early education of Deaf people with the use of signs and various forms of speech (spoken, oral, written); made a first attempt at counting Deaf-Mute people in Russia. Essentially – one of the founders of Russian sign language, author of one of the first vocabularies of signs in Russia. Put together “Rules of morality of Deaf-Mute” (1847) and “Rules of teaching artificial word for Deaf-Mute”. For many years he worked alone, without help, not finding willing people to dedicate themselves to a hard job of educating the Deaf-Mute. Due to the sympathy of the honorary trustee of the institute, count Vielgorsky, with permission of their Majesty, Fleri started preparing teachers for Deaf-Mute people in the institute. In 1837 he took young learners from Gatchina institute, who grew and were bought up together with Deaf-Mute, later they would apply to 2nd Saint-Petersburg Gymnasium and then to the university. After finishing their course of education they would become mentors in Deaf-Mute institute, where they studied under the supervision of Fleri and following his system. It was after his death, in 1859 his book “About teaching oral word to Deaf-Mute” was published. By the initiative of V.I. Fleri a charter provision was added to the institute for organization of a special department for children with weak hearing (even thought its actually opening took place after the death of the scientist). V.I. Fleri was set to prove, that deaf-muteness does not take away from intellectual capabilities of a person and does not stand in the way of their moral development and that such instances can take place due to incorrect education, or its lack. And this is considering that at that time the society was wary, even hostile towards Deaf and Mute. V.I. Fleri persuasively proved that a Deaf-Mute person is capable of development. Victor Ivanovitch Fleri died on the 6th of June in 1856 from inflammation and lung paralysis and was buried in Viborgsy catholic cemetery in Saint-Petersburg on the 9th of June in 1856 – among the first Catholics buried here.  

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