Simon L'vovich Soloveichik died at the age of 66 on October 18, 1996, following a brief hospitalization for chronic health problems. At the time of his death, he was Editor-in-Chief of Pervoe sentiabria (September First), a newspaper for teachers which he founded in 1992 and which had recently published its 500th issue. Soloveichik always described himself as a journalist and publicist, rather than an educator. His style of writing was always confrontational to the status quo, although he criticized directly only those whom he viewed as "enemies of the people," a class which for him contained many of those in influential positions in the pedagogical establishment. Some of this mutual antipathy stemmed from his many books, most of which championed the values of the radical "Communard Movement" (e.g., Vospitanie po Ivanovu [Upbringing According to Ivanov]), the value of approaching children's upbringing from a non-ideological viewpoint, and the natural wisdom of parents in working with their offspring (e.g., Pedagogika dlia vsekh [Pedagogy for Everyone]).
Soloveichik's journalistic career included stints at such central publications as Komsomol'skaia pravda and Novoe vremia, as well as his best-known writing on education when working as Vladimir Matveev's right-hand man at Uchitel'skaia gazeta in the 1980s. There, Soloveichik brought to national prominence several members of the group of "teacher- innovators," including Vladimir Shatalov and Sofiia Lysenkova. He also worked together with Matveev and Alexander Adamskii to organize a meeting of the innovators in 1986, and from the resulting dialogue and discussion wrote a document, "Pedagogika sotrudnichestva" ("The Pedagogy of Cooperation") that became a kind of manifesto for those seeking radical reform in Soviet schools, and was also one of the founders of the "Creative Union of Teachers," a grass-roots response to the ideas the innovators put forward. After he left Uchitel'skaia gazeta at the beginning of 1989 (following the replacement of Matveev as editor by act of the CPSU Central Committee), Soloveichik briefly edited the Creative Union's newspaper, Peremena (Change), and eventually scrapped together enough to launch Pervoe sentiabria late in 1992. The paper had a difficult time establishing itself in the chaotic conditions of post- Soviet Russia, but eventually found its audience and now appears in a combined edition of more than 250,000, including some fifteen weekly supplements on the full range of school-related topics.
Soloveichik lived simply, spending several years as a guest at the Peredelkino dacha of contemporary Russian writer Anatolii Rybakov, or living elsewhere in that writers' colony in a tiny cabin without running water. He loved ideas, and seemed to take special delight in thumbing his nose at the pedagogical establishment. Criticized severely during Soviet times for his "unscientific" views about education and for presuming any individual authority to speak about matters of pedagogical theory, he greeted his nomination to the reorganized Russian Academy of Education in 1992 with a characteristic remark remindful of Groucho Marx: "I'd die of shame if they elected me!" (He needn't have worried; they didn't.)
Soloveichik was a classic member of the Russian intelligentsia, focused on underlying ideas and their significance, rather than on what was practical or expedient. He wrote always in defense of teachers and their work, and featured as a slogan on the masthead of Pervoe sentiabria from its first issue, "You're an outstanding teacher -- You have wonderful pupils!" Perhaps the organizing idea of Soloveichik's work was expressed in a remark he recently made to a visiting American educator who wanted Soloveichik's reaction to some new psychological theory. "You know," said Simon L'vovich, "everyone thinks that the essence of pedagogy is in psychology, but it's not. The essence of pedagogy is in ethics." It would be a fitting epitaph for this courageous writer and intellectual.