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Critics say history book whitewashes Soviet era - Gulag system and repression aren't mentioned
Houston Chronicle ^ | Aug. 21, 2004 | MARIA DANILOVA

Posted on 08/22/2004 1:54:31 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe

MOSCOW - If you can judge a book by its cover, then the History of Russia and the World in the 20th Century tells students the Soviet past was all pride and glory — three of four cover photos invoke Soviet propaganda images.

That goes for what's inside, too: The textbook for Russian high school seniors touts the Soviet system's achievements — but treads lightly, if at all, on its failures and abuses.

It is virtually mute on the deportation of ethnic groups under Josef Stalin that left hundreds of thousands dead and sowed the resentment that exploded in Chechnya a half-century later. The Gulag labor camp system gets scant attention and anti-Semitism the barest of mentions.

President Vladimir Putin — a former KGB officer who has resurrected such Soviet symbols as the anthem and the military's red star — is a strong proponent of instilling Russia's young people with national pride.

But critics warn that sanitizing Russia's tormented history will leave students unprepared to cope with the challenges they face in the post-Soviet era.

"The Gulag is given minimal coverage in textbooks. Yet without the Gulag, they cannot understand the history of the Soviet Union and Russia. Without these pages, their education will not be complete," said Semyon Vilensky, a 76-year-old survivor of the Gulag labor camp system who heads an association that documents the horrors of the Stalin era.

Three of four photos on the cover of History of Russia and the World in the 20th Century carry Soviet propaganda images: Moscow's soaring "Worker and Collective Farm Girl" statue, a poster reading "The Motherland is Calling" and the Soyuz-Apollo space docking. The fourth is a shot of the United Nations headquarters.

The textbook, by Nikita Zagladin, is not the only one rife with such gaps, critics say.

Most 20th-century Russian history school textbooks fail to emphasize the mammoth human rights violations committed by the totalitarian Soviet state, a survey commissioned by the Andrei Sakharov Museum found.

"In the majority of textbooks, this period and the aspect of violence as the main method of implementing Soviet ideals is either addressed extremely briefly, or even if in greater detail — it is completely void of any historical, political, and ethical judgment," said Yuri Samodurov, the director of the museum named after Sakharov, the late Soviet dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner.

One textbook that did highlight crimes committed by the Soviet state was pulled from Russian schools late last year.

The seventh edition of Igor Dolutsky's National History: 20th Century — which invited students to discuss whether Putin could be considered an authoritarian leader — was stripped of its Education Ministry license just days before the December parliamentary elections.

Unlike many other books, Dolutsky's emphasizes crimes the Soviet state committed against millions of its own citizens and insists on the importance of the Allied participation in World War II.

The book earned mixed reviews from educators and historians, but it offended a group of war veterans who complained to Putin that it was unpatriotic.

The complaint was in line with Putin's directive to historians last year: "Textbooks should provide historical facts, and they must cultivate a sense of pride among youth in their history and country."

Soon after, the government decided to subject textbooks to additional scrutiny and to vet the flood of books published after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Some historians say many of the textbooks that appeared in the past decade have been of questionable quality or too opinionated — but critics of the government fear that culling books will leave only books that whitewash the Soviet era.

Some also say the textbooks are reluctant to address anti-Semitism. A series of seminars for school history instructors held by the Holocaust Foundation showed that many schools resist telling students about the killing or imprisonment of Jews by the Nazis and the Soviets, said Alla Gerber, the head of the foundation.

But Zagladin said it would be unfair to give children "an entirely negative view — of the Soviet era as the time of a reign of terror and darkness."

"Approximately 18 million people suffered during the wave of mass repressions. ... No doubt, this is a great tragedy," the textbook author told The Associated Press. "But at the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that during the same time period the lives of a great number of people drastically changed for the better."

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; News/Current Events; Russia
KEYWORDS: books; brainwashing; communismkills; communists; dictator; dictatorship; gulag; history; josephstalin; millionsmurder; propaganda; redstar; reeducationcenter; revisionisthistory; russia; schools; socialism; socialists; sovietunion; stalin; textbook; textbooks; unclejoe; ussr

1 posted on 08/22/2004 1:54:31 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
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To: Tailgunner Joe

Anyone interested can get the book First Circle by Alexander Solshenitzen.

2 posted on 08/22/2004 1:58:02 PM PDT by OldFriend (WAR IS THE REMEDY OUR ENEMIES HAVE CHOSEN)
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To: Tailgunner Joe

John Kerry - I promise, if I am President, to rewrite history. I've done it before, I'll do it again, and I have friends in other countries who have had success at doing it themselves.

3 posted on 08/22/2004 2:00:01 PM PDT by coconutt2000
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To: Tailgunner Joe

They must be writing for the History Channel. If you watch it, have you noticed that they concentrate on the nazis, but have rarely mentioned the many crimes of not only the Soviets but the many other communist "people`s utopias".

4 posted on 08/22/2004 2:10:35 PM PDT by nomad
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To: Tailgunner Joe
They don't sound that much different than the Russian history books used in American schools.
5 posted on 08/22/2004 2:23:24 PM PDT by RightWingAtheist (<A HREF=>stupid blob</A>)
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To: nomad; Tailgunner Joe
I've noticed the History Channel generally takes a liberal stance on the Cold War, at least in the shows I've watched (which isn't much anymore, as I've come to regard the History Channel as sensationalist rather than serious history). They're affiliated with the A&E network group, which is a joint venture of Hearst, ABC, and NBC:

A&E Networks

235 East 45th Street
New York, NY 10017
Telephone: (212) 210-1400
(212) 210-1340 (Viewer Relations)

President & CEO, A&E Television Networks: Nickolas Davatzes
Executive Vice President, A&E Television Networks: Whitney Goit II
Executive Vice President/General Manager, A&E Nework: Abbe Raven
Executive Vice President/General Manger, The History Channel: Dan Davids

(A joint venture of The Hearst Corporation, ABC, Inc. and NBC)
An award-winning, international media company offering consumers a diverse communications environment ranging from television programming, magazine publishing, Web sites, books, and music CDs to home videos, as well as supporting nationwide educational initiatives. A&E Television Networks comprises the following:

Winner of six Emmy Awards in 2002, A&E offers viewers a unique blend of original programming, including the highly acclaimed BIOGRAPHY© series, original movies, drama series, intriguing mysteries, and engaging documentaries. The A&E web site is located at

Now reaching over 64 million Nielsen subscribers, The History Channel reveals the power and passion of history as an inviting place where people experience history personally and connect their own lives to the great lives and events of the past. The History Channel is the only place "Where the Past Comes Alive." The History Channel received the prestigious Governor's Award from the Television Academy of Arts & Sciences for the network's "Save Our History" campaign dedicated to historic preservation. The HISTORY CHANNEL web site is located at

Featuring the programming of the Emmy Award-winning BIOGRAPHY series, The Biography Channel takes viewers into the world of exceptional people, 24 hours a day. Here viewers will find a "total entertainment experience," where BIOGRAPHYs, documentaries and original short features are woven together into rich themes and tapestries, creating a unique, multi-dimensional view of the people who fascinate us. The Biography Channel is a brand extension of A&E Network. The BIOGRAPHY web site is located at

History Channel International is where the world tells its stories, providing viewers with a window into non-U.S. perspectives that is unique on television. Here viewers can broaden their horizons with a mix of historical documentaries, original short features, interviews with historians, and, a companion Web site that provides real-time programming, more information on demand, and linkage to chat boards. History Channel International is a brand extension of The History Channel.

AETN Enterprises comprises Home Video, Consumer Products, Catalog and Biography Magazine.
--A&E and The History Channel Home Video bring the best in critically acclaimed entertainment presented in award-winning packaging, with more than 1000 titles;
--Consumer Products has extended the BIOGRAPHY brand into a line of children's and adult books, and a line of Anthology music CDs. The History Channel brand has been extended into a series of books and a line of CD-Roms;
--Biography Magazine, which tells the life stories from the worlds of entertainment, sports, politics, business, science and the arts, now has a readership of 2.5 million; and
--Catalog, which features The World of A&E catalog, brings consumers exceptional home video programming and products to enhance the viewing experience

Launched in November 1995, AETN International markets the quality programming and proven success of A&E Network and The History Channel overseas. The History Channel is now available in 58 countries worldwide through partners and affiliates in Latin America (including Brazil), the UK, France and French-speaking territories, the Scandinavian region, Japan, Spain, Portugal, Australia, the Middle East and Israel.

Marking an expansion of the company's presence in the interactive marketplace, AETN Interactive was launched in early 2000, building upon the network's six wholly-owned Web sites:,,,,, and

6 posted on 08/22/2004 2:28:01 PM PDT by Fedora
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To: Tailgunner Joe

Not suprised at all.

7 posted on 08/22/2004 4:07:27 PM PDT by vpintheak (Our Liberties we prize, and our rights we will maintain!)
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To: Fedora

I've noticed the liberal bent as well and have sent emails over the years.

It's the media in general controlled today by the leftists 60s generation.

8 posted on 08/22/2004 6:20:35 PM PDT by eleni121 (Thank God for John Ashcroft: Four more years!)
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To: eleni121

I agree that seems to be the problem. What I've noticed with the press and news networks is that old anti-Vietnam editors, newscasters, etc. have risen to positions of prominence since the late 60s. I think there's a parallel problem in the history field with the increasing influence of historians of the Michel Foucault/Howard Zinn variety. I suspect both these trends have combined to contribute to the problems with the History Channel.

9 posted on 08/22/2004 6:37:51 PM PDT by Fedora
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To: Tailgunner Joe; Howlin; Timesink; Mr. Silverback; Utah Girl; Happy2BMe; 68-69TonkinGulfYachtClub; ..


10 posted on 08/22/2004 8:57:39 PM PDT by ATOMIC_PUNK (Want to know why I don't vote Democrat?"
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Thanks for the ping!

11 posted on 08/22/2004 9:25:42 PM PDT by Alamo-Girl
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To: Alamo-Girl; ATOMIC_PUNK; Fedora; OldFriend; vpintheak; eleni121; RightWingAtheist; coconutt2000; ...

12 posted on 08/22/2004 9:39:16 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
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To: Fedora

I used to be an avid watcher, I love history, but I have reduced my viewing lately as well.

13 posted on 08/23/2004 2:41:17 PM PDT by nomad
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