(TOL) As new textbooks on Russian history, close to the Kremlin playbook, are rolled out in the country’s high schools, some teachers make clear that they are not so easily fooled.
“The state, any state, will always try to put history at its service,” says Konstantin Chekmenev, a history teacher in Yaroslavl, 250 kilometers (160 miles) north of Moscow.
Two months ago, Vladimir Putin secured his fourth term as president of Russia. The current constitution obliges him to finally step down in 2024, having ruled Russia by that time for almost a quarter of a century. How will this man go down in history? Well, some say, he has already taken care of that.
The subsequent Putin governments have been actively trying to instill a “useful” kind of historical awareness in the Russian people. A conspicuous example of this is the creation of new, state-endorsed textbooks on Russian history for high schools. These books received government accreditation in 2015 and are now gradually being integrated into high school curricula. […]
The Kremlin’s “control on the textbook narratives” is a matter of great concern for Russia’s Free Historical Society (VIO), Ivan Kurilla, one of its founding members, told TOL via email.
The VIO’s Kurilla labeled some of that storytelling as propaganda. “The Crimean annexation, the Ukrainian revolution, and recent Russian-U.S. relations are told the same way that state TV describes them,” he said. However, Kurilla referred to the Historical Cultural Standard as “not very bad.” It is “not an ideology itself,” he said.
Yet another objective of the textbooks seems to be to badmouth the very idea of “revolution.” The scientific debate about the Kremlin’s historical politics has focused on the essentially statist approach to history the Kremlin favors. In a 2010 article, Kurilla said this has been the new modus operandi for the Kremlin ever since the color revolutions that toppled Russia-friendly regimes in Ukraine and Georgia with the support of Western powers in the early 2000s. These revolutions “delegitimized the notions of revolution and popular sovereignty” in the eyes of post-Soviet political elites and led to the historical policy tactics of ascribing “everything progressive in Russian history to the efforts of the state,” said Kurilla.
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