December 05, 2003
Textbook wars in Russia

A Russian high school textbook has had its official government seal of approval removed. State high schools can no longer use it. The latest edition offered the following contrasting interpretations, and invited students to form their own opinions about them:

Prague, 5 December 2003 (RFE/RL) -- President Vladimir Putin is an authoritarian ruler bent on establishing a new dictatorship in Russia. President Vladimir Putin is a democrat at heart whose structural reforms are paving the way for Russia to emerge as a liberal democracy. Present your evidence and discuss.

That, in essence, is the assignment which Igor Dolutskii's textbook poses to Russian students about to graduate from high school. It is an assignment considered so objectionable that the Russian Ministry of Education's council of experts last week recommended the book's removal from the classroom. This week, the ministry confirmed the decision and formally withdrew its stamp of approval from the text. Unless the decision is reversed, Igor Dolutskii's "National History, 20th Century," which has served as a textbook for half-a-million students across Russia over the past 10 years, will be permanently shelved.

This Radio Free Europe story concludes thus:

The Russian Education Ministry says there are plenty of other historians up to the task of presenting Russia's history in a manner that is at once inspiring and patriotic without being unbalanced. It is a task that has faced Russian historians in the past. As an old joke has it: "The future is assured, it's the past that keeps changing."

Yes, the inspiring, patriotic and balanced tendency must now be falling over themselves.

Rather mischievously, I've classified this posting under "Sovietisation". I hope I'm wrong.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:45 PM
Category: Sovietisation