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The Kremlin’s new history textbook
A new Russian history textbook for 11th graders announced earlier this summer, “The History of Russia, 1945 to the Start of the 21st Century,” has almost 30 pages devoted directly to explaining and especially to justifying the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. The whole textbook is 448 pages: There are 264 pages covering the post-war Soviet period, 48 pages about Russia in the 1990s, and 94 pages about the Putin era. Vladimir Putin’s name appears on about 40 different pages (sometimes more than once), while Stalin and Stalinism show up on nearly 60 pages.
The Special Military Operation chapter concludes with this whopper of a paragraph:
“But one this is clear: That Russia has always had, has, and will have the valor, dignity, honor, and loyalty to oath of our soldiers and volunteer fighters, doctors, teachers, builders, and aid workers. They are the true, not invented, heroes of our time. They’re around us and among us. They are an example of honor, courage, and faith in the righteousness of our cause. Their names and their daily feats join the thousand-year annals of Russian history with the deeds of millions of their heroic forebearers. It has always been so in the history of our Motherland. And so it will be. Always.”
To learn about why this textbook was written, what it says about contemporary events, and how the Putin regime intends to use it, Meduza spoke to three experts: historian Artem Efimov, who serves the editor-in-chief of Meduza’s Signal newsletter, College of West Anglia historian James Pearce (author of “The Use of History in Putin’s Russia”), and University of Oxford Professor Polly Jones, who’s currently completing a book titled “Gulag Fiction.”
Timestamps for this episode:
- (5:45) The textbook’s authors: Vladimir Medinsky, Anatoly Torkunov, and Alexander Chubaryan
- (11:40) Long-standing trends in how Russian history is taught in grade schools
- (15:19) Guessing at Putin’s thought process on a unified history textbook
- (23:00) Whitewashing Stalinism?
- (25:50) The Suez Crisis, the Berlin Crisis, the Hungarian Revolution, the Prague Spring
- (31:57) Teaching history to teenagers
Production and mixing by Ania Kovalenko. Sound editing by Kevin Rothrock.
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