The students of Russia already have a manual of the official history of their country, tailored to the nationalist policy of Vladimir Putin. Mandatory and unique for students in the last year of secondary education, the textbook, which will be used in Russian schools starting next September, rewrites a good part of history from 1945 to today.
Putin, who usually gives his own interpretation of history to justify his politics of the present, had repeatedly expressed the desire to introduce into the school system a single history manual “with a single conception” and based on the “official assessment” to end diversity. “Dispersion leads to negative consequences, in that young people do not understand in which country they live and do not feel their connections with the heroes of the past,” he said in 2013.
The manual turns the presidential wish into a reality and is already circulating in full on the Internet. In it, as the backbone of the entire period, “the West” appears as a malevolent and envious milieu that wished, perpetrated, and rejoiced in the misfortunes of the USSR, including its collapse. “The state flag of the Soviet Union was lowered over the Kremlin. The main countries of the West reacted with undisguised approval to the self-liquidation of the USSR”, indicates the account of the last minutes of the USSR, on December 25, 1991.
This assessment of hostility on the part of the West is repeated even when positive rapprochements between Moscow and the West are recognized, such as the détente of the 1970s and the final act of Helsinki in 1975, the process of disarmament and reduction of regional tensions between the US and the USSR in the 1980s. The West would have followed his policy in the 1990s, in the Boris Yeltsin era, and would have continued it to the present day (from support for separatism to calculated financial investments to gain access to Russian technology, according to the text).
Official authors of this propaganda work are Vladimir Medinski, former Minister of Culture and Putin adviser, and Anatoli Torkunov, rector of the Moscow Institute of International Relations (MGIMO). In its 448 pages, pride alternates over events valued as successes (access to nuclear weapons, increased military potential, industrial development) and victimization due to the Western attitude.
The text includes the war unleashed by Putin in Ukraine, which is designated by its official name “Special Military Operation”. “The most important event in contemporary history is the incorporation, or more precisely, the return, of our historical lands to the Russian Federation,” he notes.
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In search of arguments to prove that Ukraine is part of Russia, the manual goes into past centuries and foreign territories. Among his illustrations is the official map of Russia of 2023, which has capriciously extended its borders to all Ukrainian lands annexed since 2014, including those it does not even control on the ground. At the end of the text, a gallery of sobering examples, namely a dozen heroes and those awarded during the war, starting with the first combatant to receive this award (posthumously) and four women participating in the war.
“Russia is a country of heroes (…).”Courage and willingness to give one’s life for the homeland, were and are inherent throughout the centuries” to the Russian soldier, says the text that also gives current advice to the students. “These unique times don’t happen often in history. After the departure of foreign companies before you there are many open markets (…) and open are the fantastic possibilities of making a career in business and in the start-ups themselves. Do not let this opportunity pass. Russia today is truly the country of possibilities, ”he recommends.
Already from the very prologue, the manual confirms the animosity that the authors of the book feel for Mikhail Gorbachev, the first and last president of the USSR. “The perestroika policy, started under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev (1985-1991) and hasty reforms led to increasing chaos in the economy and in the social field and to the destruction of the state. The “architect of perestroika” had “no clear plan of action”, “he was poorly oriented on the problems of industry, the army, the military-industrial complex and had little understanding of foreign policy issues. (Gorbachev) never worked in production: he did not direct a play, he was not the director of a large factory, and he did not have the experience of ministerial work either, ”the text states. “From the Cold War, only one superpower emerged, the USA, the other, the USSR, was destroyed”, he concludes.
Respect towards Stalin
Unlike Gorbachev, Stalin is treated with respect. The repression that he carried out is compensated by the greatness of the tasks undertaken in this work that deals with the great tragedies caused by the regime with a thick line. The book does not go into Stalin’s specific relationship with the repression, but it considers it important enough to mention that in 1949 the celebrations on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of that leader “many foreign leaders participated, including the leader of China Mao Tse Tung.” Some words attributed to Stalin in relation to the Korean War serve to justify the rejection of the Americans. “All American soldiers are speculators and are dedicated to buying and selling” and in the case of the Korean War, “they don’t know how to fight” affirms the chosen quote.
Not included in this book are the sufferings of the peoples of the North Caucasus (which are not even listed) and the Crimean Tatars, who during World War II were accused of collaborating with the German occupiers and deported to Central Asia in train wagons. livestock and extreme conditions. Her life, she simply states, “was very hard, although the local authorities did their best to facilitate her diet and daily life.” Among the successes of socialism, the manual notes the development of refrigerator production during the 1950s and 1960s.
“It’s good to have a list of topics to know, but you have to show the different points of view on them,” says a history teacher at a Moscow school. “Now schools are required to buy this book, which will be the only one allowed,” she says.
Historians and intellectuals argue about the effect that this ideologized vision of history will have on Russian adults of the future. Some think that they are going to be victims of the current indoctrination and others that it will be forgotten, as were the ideological teachings of the Soviet school, where there was also a single history manual “but much more professionalism”, according to the historian Vladimir Dolin. “The works of real historians will reach children and students if they have real teachers. And the fake ones will fill the children’s heads with dust and straw with any textbook, ”he adds. “The misfortune is that this manual is the only one and this would not be so serious if there were not today a total control of the teachers in the current school”, concludes Dolin. News comes from different parts of Russia of teachers who are forced to leave their jobs or are expelled for reckless anti-war and peace demonstrations in Ukraine. Sometimes these teachers are denounced by their students or by their parents.
The greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century
In the space dedicated to the disintegration of the USSR, “the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century”, it is avoided to mention that the Soviet constitution gave the federated republics the right to leave the Soviet Union and the meeting of the Slavic leaders that ended the Soviet Union in a Byelorussian hunting lodge on December 8, 1991 is dispatched with six lines, in which it is not mentioned that they proceeded to annul the constitutive treaty of the USSR nor is it said that the new States formally committed themselves ( and more than once) to recognize the borders they had when they were federated republics within the same country. Instead, he claims that the Slavic leaders met to “reinforce their success in the struggle for power,” he says.
The work undergoes the inversion of the relationships between cause and effect. Thus, it justifies the sending of Soviet troops to Afghanistan as a result of the Islamist presence and the interventionist intentions of NATO. The Atlantic Alliance had nothing to do with Afghanistan and the stated reason for the Soviet aid was to help the local pro-Soviet leaders in conflict with each other.
The transparency of information fostered by Gorbachev is also considered a failure because, when all the limitations of censorship had been eliminated and the State was practically inhibited from controlling the media, an avalanche of destructive information pounced on the citizens of the USSR. and hostile and this was presented as “free speech” to a society that relied on the written word and lacked immunity
The withdrawal of Soviet troops from Europe from 1989 is judged as “a very thoughtless decision” that undermined Soviet influence and “promoted the appearance of nationalist and anti-Soviet moods.” The manual refers to the so-called “velvet revolutions” that took place in Eastern Europe between 1989 and 1990 and also to the “annexation of the German Democratic Republic by the Federal Republic of Germany”. The issue of German reunification is dispatched with the phrase “the GDR was swallowed up by the FRG” and the leaders of the Western countries did not keep their “verbal promises not to expand NATO to the East”
None of the tasks set by perestroika were accomplished, except for the destruction of the state, notes the new Russian students’ history textbook.
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