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Friday, January 11, 2008

Annals of Russian "Education"

The eXile reports (we paraphrase):

This Thursday, the Ministry of Education will approve a new series of updated, pro-Putin textbooks to be used in the next school year. This story first made headlines this summer when Kommersant found out that it had been specifically ordered by someone in the presidential administration. Here's a few lessons from a textbook called Russian History from 1945—2007:

Book1. The abolition of directly elected regional governors was a good thing because Russians cannot govern themselves.

2. The nationalization of the Yukos oil company, sending its CEO Mikhail Khodorkovksy to prison for ten years in Siberia instead of allowing him to run for president, means Russia no longer has corrupt oligarchs.

3. Georgia gave up its independence in 2004 with its presidential elections and is now illegitimate.

4. Stalin was an "effective manager," taking Russia from the plow to the atomic bomb in just a few years. His repressions were necessary to mobilize for war and industrialize Russia so quickly. Same goes for Brezhnev. Krushchev, Yeltsin and Gorbachev on the other hand were bad because they were weak.

For more scary stories on how neo-Soviet Russia has perverted its educational system, click "education" at the bottom of this post.


Anonymous said...

Not surprising. That's the case with school textbooks all around the world. The "official" history taught to kids is usually used to downplay or spin any state crimes that history can't ignore. Look for it anywhere, not just countries where the state controls these publications. "Lies My Teacher Told Me" is a great book about this.

Anonymous said...

Oh really? I learned about slavery, segregation, the suppression of labor unions, and the Indian Wars amongst other things in the U.S. schools. I'm sure there were places where such things may have been skipped over, but my school wasn't one of them.

Anonymous said...

Great book called "Lies My Teacher Told Me" a must-read for anyone who has ever doubted the veracity of text books.

Artfldgr said...

"That's the case with school textbooks all around the world. "

that may be true now... but it wasnt true when i was a kid... we learned the good and the bad the US did... but we didnt get all the spin people get on it now, we got more information and context, and understood projecting now to then just didnt work. (like complaining that ancients didnt have cell phones).

There was a time when histories were more sacrosanct and facts very important.

at some point deweys pragmatism finally took a hard hold, and that stuff went out the window... (dewey the father of modern american education was a spy)

Yes there are historical myths, but my teachers and such told me. i think very few here would say that i dont know historical facts and such. i nail things out to the obscure.

but again, thats before they stopped teaching all this as if it was a whole, with a flow, and connected... rather than discreet parts that float unconnected.

there is also the fact that histories facts change as more information is found out. so custers last stand is a bit different today thanks to gps, metal detectors, and so forth.

Stalins history just changed from yesterday to today as the archive records have been found that show that beria poisoned him.

when the unamerican activities stuff was going on, there were lists of subversives in schools and there was strong evidence, but the law required proof of membership, and since 49 no one joined any more just to not have that proof. but they knew all the fronts they were a part of.

you can read and the texts even excuse dewey and deweys pragmatism as not a soviet philosophy, but perfect for communists to hide behind. finding out 20 years later that dewey was a spy, kind of changed my view of that little bit.

so a person not only has to learn the history that they learn in the time that they learn, but they have to update it, and fight against incorporating revision.

after you read a lot of it, this becomes easier as the propagandic stuff tends not to jive with alternative sources in outher states and stuff, while the other things do jive and tend to connect the dots.

however, the comments of the first anonymous seems to assume that the US is like russia, where at no time has the students ever had a valid history taught!!!

russia is a state in which the end justifies the means and there are no limits to state action.

its impossible to have good history, good governance, freedom, etc in such a thing...

it would be like trying to walk a straight line in a hall of mirrors.

Anonymous said...

If Germany approved textbooks praising Hitler as a "great manager," the world outcry would be deafening. Where is the worldwide condemnation for Russia?

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to point out:
That book is titled, appropriately enough, "The Newest History of Russia". You, know, not to be confused with all those old, wrong histories. Try to imagine a textbook in an American school with that title. We're not just talking propaganda here, but the ubiquitous and absolute assumption on the part of everyone concerned that propaganda is the entire point of history books to begin with.

Anonymous said...

"The Newest History" means "the history of XX c.", if nobody understands it.
"Where is the worldwide condemnation for Russia?"
By the way, there's only told that Stalin had to search the ways of effective state management', that's natural for every crysis leader. And Hitler's government indeed found effective measures to fight unemployment, recreate military industry, etc. Who can say it wasn't effective in such aspects? Moreover, Stalin's government showed itself as far more effective manager on fundamental science than Hitler's one. Such thesis also can exist.

Liz said...

While I personally don't agree with ALL of that, some of them certainly do have legitimate political arguments (whether they are popular or not).

1) Eh. Not arguing with that one because personally I think it's a crap argument. Although I did read one argument that stated that direct election of governors is actually very unusual around the world and the US is the only country that had success with it (honestly, I don't know how true this is since my only experience is with Russia and the US - but I thought I would throw it out there).

2) There has been a relative decrease in oligarchs. And for some reason there do seem to be Russians who are ok with business people not being allowed in politics (as in internationally known political science professors I've worked with).

3) Georgia is scary. Honestly, the Rose Revolution was a coup by a nicer name. They have been doing fine since then, but anyone who thinks that it was legal is fooling themselves. The government has been able to stay in power mostly because of US support.

4) Technically, Stalin did bring Russia out of a peasant society. He was fairly evil, but Russia certainly developed incredibly quickly under him. That being said, he did it on the basis of an Imperial policy and 19th century radicals who went into the countryside to educate the peasants. He may have been an effective manager, but he was also crazy.

Anonymous said...


"fairly evil" == "killed around 10 million* of his own people"

Since George Bush is completely, thoroughly evil, how many millions of his own people has he killed? How many thousands have been killed in America's gulag, Guantanamo? How many million Iraqis have been starved to death so that American culture might predominate?

Joe Stalin is in the top five murderers of all time. That's more than "fairly evil".

* If you don't buy the 10 million number, I invite you to go a read old Joe's Wiki page. That's a somewhat conservative number.

Anonymous said...

'That's a somewhat conservative number.'
It's a suffucient number. I don't think it makes him better, if he killed less people, as it is sometimes proclaimed. It's high time to dig him out and send him back to Gori, Georgia.

Anonymous said...

Whoever wins the war, writes the history books...

Anonymous said...

That is certainly the case when you lose a war to Russia. I'm sure Estonia, Poland and Ukraine, to name but a few, did not get to write their own textbooks until the USSR was dissolved.

On the other hand, West Germany, Japan and Italy got to start writing their own history books almost immediately after WW-II. And the the ones Japan writes at least are full of all kinds of self-pitying b.s. -- just ask the Chinese, Koreans and Americans. But no one forces them to correct it, we just bring it up whenever they start wondering why their international influence is so small compared to their economic power. (I think Russia is going to start getting the same treatment pretty soon.)

Also, technically, all the governments of the Warsaw Pact were on the losing end of the Cold War, but no one forced any new history text books on those countries after they folded. I guess it just goes to show, once again: If you have to lose a war, better to lose it to the Americans... and definitely not the Russkies! :))

Anonymous said...

Hey, LR - Kind of funny that this came from The eXile, no? Like they say, when the ship starts sinking, the rats start jumping...