Putin’s take on Russian history

September 1, 2016
The “Single History of Russia” textbook series

Starting on 1 September, Russian schoolchildren will be learning history from textbooks which have been adapted to meet the requirements of the new historical and cultural standards. In 2013, Vladimir Putin insisted that the new textbooks should have no “internal contradictions and double standards,” or any “ideological rubbish.”

The new textbooks contain, for instance, virtually no references to Kievan Rus because this term has been replaced by the “Old Russian state.”  Nikolay Artemenko, a history teacher (and candidate in the upcoming St Petersburg Legislative Assembly election) is absolutely convinced that the teaching of history will be dictated not by the education minister, but by orders from above.

“They’ll tell us to love Stalin and/or Gorbachov and we will,” said Artemenko in an interview with Present Time.

He thinks that the teacher’s job in this situation is to teach the child to think, to ask the right questions and to criticise.

“Truth is never one-sided, but you can’t reflect all the complexities in a school textbook. I sympathise with the authors of the Single History of Russia textbook series [the only ones allowed …] because they have had to try and make everything beautiful – to please the current government – but also to see that it’s true as well. It doesn’t work like that, though. History is not socialist realism – it can’t be beautiful and true at the same time, so history today is not what really happened, but what the government’s ill-starred academics have said.”

“In actual fact, it’s not that important what textbook the children study. Much more important is who will be teaching them from this book, and how. The role of the school history teacher is, to my mind, almost the keystone in the formation of a child’s view of the world. There’s no need to drill children in dates and names, so they roll pat off their tongues, because this information is superfluous and they will forget it as soon as they leave the school. It’s much more important to teach children to think, to ask the right questions, to analyse and to criticise.”