Russia Gives Its History A ‘Makeover.’
What do you do if you’ve put on a little weight or your skin is bad? Of course, in the modern times, you go for a ‘makeover’ to find appropriate clothes or make-up to try and disguise those blemishes.
This is precisely what Russia has done with more ‘troublesome’ aspects of its history. The ruling political elite have grouped together friendly academics to produce a school text book that will present one “unified” version of Russian history, with the atrocities of the Stalin era minimised, that can be taught safely and without argument in Russian schools.
Russia is trying to manipulate all the strands of its complex history into one smooth, ideologically-useful, version of events. The bravery of the nation during the Second World War is good for this purpose; Stalin’s massacres are not.
A Russian academic spokesman said: “this book should not be a dreary look at Russia or an apology for what was. A book full of mistakes and victims would be the wrong sort of book.”
Russian President Dmity Medvedev has, in a gesture to the West, described Joseph Stalin as having “committed mass crimes against the Soviet people.” However, he has to balance that with his avowed intention to make the Government Patriotic Club, using youth parties like the Young Guard and Nashi, to generate and foster a new love for their country among the Russian people.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, behind Andrei Loginov – as appointee to the Duma – has let it be known through his spokesman that he feels the need for history to be taught like sciences such as physics and mathematics, in a single way that is not confusing.
“There is a single text for science and maths, why not one for history?… Otherwise you get too varied a version and people can’t sit down and have a conversation together.”
Russian officials are trying to make it clear that, in their opinion, this does not represent censorship as students are free, if they like and in their own time, to consult other sources on the internet. However, Moscow-watchers say that Russia is increasingly interested in China’s ability to limit access to information on the internet and would like to adapt some of the Chinese government’s methods.
Natalya Lebedeva, a serious Russian historian, is shocked at the government’s belief in the need for a single history textbook. He said, of the measures designed to produce this book: “A totalitarian society is not one ruled by despotic leaders, but a society which has a single ideology, a single set of ideas and feelings.”
“If we don’t know the mistakes or the crimes of the past, we’ll face these crimes again in the future. The next rulers will be harsher, more totalitarian. And then Stalinism will be repeated.”