Skip to comments.Critics say history book whitewashes Soviet era - Gulag system and repression aren't mentioned
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."
Anyone interested can get the book First Circle by Alexander Solshenitzen.
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.
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".
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Not suprised at all.
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.
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.
Thanks for the ping!
I used to be an avid watcher, I love history, but I have reduced my viewing lately as well.
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