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August 02, 2003
Historic battle in Russia

I missed this the first time around but found it today, via Chris Bertram. It's a Guardian report on arguments about the history syllabus in Russia. A fraught matter as you can surely guess. The people who lost the Cold War were never de-commified, so even if they lost the big one, they can still win little actually not so little of course battles like this one:

A row has broken out between the Russian government and a group of the country's top writers over removing literary classics about the repression of the Soviet era from the school syllabus.

Thirteen distinguished writers have sent an open letter to the Minister for Education protesting at plans for several seminal Russian works, including Boris Pasternak's classic Dr Zhivago, to be dropped from the essential reading lists for 12- to 18-year-olds.

The protesters allege that bureaucrats are trying to keep literature dealing with the purges of the Soviet era away from schoolchildren, presenting an anodyne version of the nation's former imperial glory. The books will instead become "recommended reading", taught at the teacher's discretion, on a new list due to come into effect in 2005.

The row goes right to the quick of Russia's struggle to come to terms with the brutalities of its past. While during the Yeltsin era the Kremlin kept the media brimmed with reminders of the horror and hard graft of life under Communism, the Putin administration's focus on nationalistic pride often results in a warm nostalgia for the glories of the Soviet era.

You probably all know what I think about school syllabuses. Let the schools decide them. But I doubt that's going to happen any time soon in Russia.

It's not going to happen any time soon in Britain, either.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 07:02 PM
Category: The curriculum

Attempts to control the national historic narrative are common in all societies, not just in those with a recent, unfortunate past.

Of the latter, perhaps the closest to the example you cite is in Japan where school books leave out the World War II horrors perpetrated by the Imperial Army.

But examples of official deceipt and attempted mind control of the young abound here also and centre, of course, on the progressive agenda of the liberal left. These are not issues of historical omission, I confess. They are probably moe important than that.

Comment by: Guessedworker on August 3, 2003 11:06 AM

If the school education curriculum was left to the school, what would prevent a Taliban school for fanatics?

Not that I disagree with getting rid of state control, I just need to see how to get round this problem (+ the fact that it is stated that most teachers have a left-wing bias).

Comment by: A on August 10, 2003 01:32 AM
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