Vygotsky was born in Orsha, in November 1896, the same year Piaget was born. He spent his childhood in the city of Gomel, which was razed by Nazi troops during the Second World War. Despite the restrictions, Vygotsky managed to go to university through a process known as The Jewish Lottery. His studies at the University of Moscow didn’t satisfy his intellectual aspirations, so he decided to attend a private university where he studied history and philosophy. He gained experience as a teacher, when he started working as a teacher trainer in the local state school. By the time he turned 18, he was a real intellectual. He was very interested in theater and literature – even wrote an essay about Hamlet – but his main interest was psychology. At the second congress of Leningrad, he presented his paper “The methods of reflexologic and psychological investigation”, in which he contradicted the points of view of the most famous Soviet scientists and behaviorists.
Among his favorite authors, he named poets and writers like Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, and philosophers James and Spinoza. He was familiar with the works of Hegel, Marx, Freud, Pavlov and even with the writings of Piaget. He had friends among artists and intellectuals, and collaborated with Lunacharski, the first Soviet People’s Commissar of Education and Culture. However, from the early ‘30s, the Stalinist regime inhibited all cultural or scientific initiatives that didn’t support its agenda; writers, painters, musicians and scientists found all their activities blocked, and some of them were even persecuted or sent to prison. Vygotsky experienced the same treatment in the Soviet Union. During his last ten years of life, although suffering from tuberculosis, and in spite of the repression, he didn’t stop writing; he completed almost 162 scientific works, essays, conferences and prefaces.