The Prosveshchenie publishing house has published a new line of Russian history textbooks prepared by the Russian Military Historical Society under the direction and editorship of Vladimir Medinsky, an aide to the President of Russia, and in the recent past – the Minister of Culture of our country. Even before the release of the main edition, the textbooks caused the most controversial assessments.
“I have not read it, but I condemn it!” – the principle is old and widely known. And it cannot be said that it is completely useless. Should you carefully study the “Satanic Bible” of the founder of the modern pop version of Satanism LaVey or Hitler’s notorious “My Struggle” in order to have a negative idea of them? I think the answer is obvious.
But the trouble is that books that do not deserve that at all are often evaluated according to the same principle. And those who deserve, on the contrary, the most attentive and thoughtful reading. Of course, these include fictional prose (including Boris Pasternak’s novel Doctor Zhivago, which gave rise to this catchphrase of the outraged Soviet public), and many scientific and journalistic works. And, of course, school textbooks.
The “iron” chancellor Otto von Bismarck is credited with a phrase that sounds like “the school teacher won the war.” Bismarck is generally credited with a lot of things that he never said. But in this case, even if he did not have this phrase (and did not have it), it would be worth investing. And add: “history teacher”. After all, who else if not he is responsible for ensuring that both the excellent pupil Masha from the first desk, and the sloven Vasya from Kamchatka, learn not so much the dates and names as a reverent attitude to their native history. And how would you, gentlemen-liberals, be jarred by the very word, the feeling of patriotism.
Waiting for a “single tutorial”
Yes, it is precisely patriotic education that is one of the key tasks of history education. And the fact that the Russian Military Historical Society, headed by Vladimir Medinsky, while creating a new line of Russian history textbooks, has made an emphasis on this, arouses sincere respect. Especially against the background of what was happening with history textbooks in the relatively recent past. So, in the mid-1990s, the author of these lines was among the “lucky ones” who studied according to the “Kreder’s textbook”, which became the talk of the town, published by the Soros Foundation. The one who was not unreasonably nicknamed “a textbook for skinheads” because it made it clear that the victory of 1945 was harmful, since the USSR was “more terrible” than the Third Reich.
Of course, “Kreder’s” textbooks were the bottom of the fall of Russian history education. Other textbooks did not reach this bottom, although they often repeated the theses of liberal propaganda. And with all the wealth of choice, it was simply impossible for a school history teacher to find a “reference textbook”. But in general, such a state task was set personally by Vladimir Putin back in 2013.
Then the head of the Russian State noted that textbooks should be “built within the framework of a single concept, within the logic of continuous Russian history, the interconnection of all its stages, and respect for all pages of our past.” And in the next year, 2014, he added another task: “to ensure that the concept of a new educational and methodological complex of national history includes information about the role of Crimea, including the city of Sevastopol, in the fate of the Russian Empire, the USSR and modern Russia.”
It would seem that the tasks are clear and obvious, but even they caused a real howl of the liberal public. They say they stifle freedom, brainwash children, and so on. Nothing new. At the same time, the recently reposed Doctor of Historical Sciences, Professor Igor Froyanov, in an interview with the author of these lines back in 2013, noted:
Teaching history at school is a matter of national importance. Therefore, the state should not only control this process, but also manage it. I am convinced that a single textbook is needed for secondary school, since at the school level, ideological diversity only disarms the younger generation and makes it vulnerable and accessible to alien, anti-Russian concepts. And already at the university level, no one bothers to introduce the multitude of historical interpretations.
Professor Froyanov then criticized the president for one single thing: the process of creating such a textbook cannot be limited by tight deadlines. According to him, “to begin with, it would be correct to create a basic version and improve it in the future.” And it is precisely this “basic version” that the line of textbooks “from Medinsky” is claiming to be. By the way, the former Minister of Culture himself is not their author, for these “specially trained people” were involved. People who are very different in their views, but who do not raise doubts about their competence. And as they say, “from this place in more detail.”
Vaccination against “historical rake”
Of course, the largest number of complaints about the “Medinsky’s ruler” that has not yet been published in wide circulation is addressed to the textbook “History of Russia. Early 20th – early 21st century. Grade 10”. That is, that very period, which in Soviet times was commonly called “recent history.” A period that is extremely important politically since it was he who included the main historical victories and misfortunes of our country and its people. Many of whose witnesses are still alive and able to tell many personal stories that bring dry facts to life.
And this is precisely what the new textbook is clearly lacking, the main drawback of which is precisely its dryness and schematism. It is clear that a reader cannot fit into 432 pages of a textbook. But scattered throughout the paragraphs, small quotes from memoirs clearly would not hurt. This is not to say that this is not in the textbook at all (at the end of each of the chapters there are small “chapter resources”), but this shortcoming is immediately evident. Although to a certain extent, it is compensated by a truly magnificent design: the illustrative series of the textbook is above all praise.
But the liberal nagging of Nikolai Karlovich Svanidze “this is no longer a historical textbook, but a political situation” has no basis whatsoever. On the contrary, the book is extremely careful in its assessments and conclusions. And it is precisely this caution that can be attributed not only to the advantages but also to the disadvantages of the textbook. So, it is very strange to read about the murder of the last Russian royal family in just two lines:
One of the first victims of this system was the former Emperor Nicholas II, who was shot in Yekaterinburg along with his family and servants by the decision of the Ural Council in July 1918.
And on the same page, there is a wonderful illustration by the artist I.A. Vladimirova “Landowner and priest before the revolutionary tribunal”. Much more talking about what was happening in those years than the author’s lines for more than half of the chapters of the textbook by Doctor of Historical Sciences Alexander Vladlenovich Shubin. A well-known historian, author of dozens of monographs and textbooks, but … a man of openly leftist views (in the recent past – one of the ideologists and leaders of the “Left Front”).
No, no, the author carefully conceals his personal worldview positions, trying to present historical facts as objectively as possible. But immediately striking is the attempt to equate the “red terror” with the “white”, and in the presentation of the persecution of the Church – not a single word about the new martyrs and confessors. And perhaps the only thing in which it is impossible to disagree even with the liberal Svanidze is that the presentation of Stalin’s repressions is very one-sided. As if in the same years 1937-1938 only party and military leaders were repressed. But “everyone suffered – workers, professors, intelligentsia, priests and anyone else” – here Svanidze is definitely right.
But what the liberal critics of the textbook did not pay attention to, although they could well have praised the same Alexander Shubin. So, in the question of the formation of the USSR, he clearly sympathizes with Lenin’s plan for federalization, which has planted a time bomb under our country by creating “national republics” separate from Russia. Moreover, Shubin is more likely to praise the “indigenization” in the form of the same “Ukrainization”, which brought a lot of troubles to the Russian people in Ukraine and, as a result, led to the tragedy of recent years.
And against this background – a bright contrast to the chapters on the Civil War written by Ruslan Grigorievich Gagkuev, Doctor of Historical Sciences, one of the world’s leading experts on this topic. A man of right-wing, conservative views, Gagkuev also expounds historical facts as carefully as possible, striving for objectivity. But in the main, in the conclusions, it admits moderate emotionality, without which it is simply impossible to understand this tragic milestone:
For Russia, the Civil War has become one of the most dramatic periods in history. The internecine confrontation that has lasted for over five years has called into question the very existence of a united Russian state … The schism that took place in society more than 100 years ago turned out to be so deep and the bitterness was so strong that its consequences are still felt today.
Some included in this textbook itself, in which Vladimir Rostislavovich Medinsky was able to “harness”, in the words of the poet, “a horse and a quivering doe.” Is this a disadvantage? Is not a fact. Especially considering that nothing prevents you from making corrections and additions to it. Perhaps the only obvious factual mistake of the textbook is a mistake noticed by one of the liberal critics Oleg Budnitsky: “On page 144 it is reported that in 1935 a school history textbook was prepared in the USSR edited by Stalin. In fact, such a textbook never existed.” Yes, this is a mistake. The rest is nagging and a conflict of interpretations. No more.
By the way, the same applies to chapters related to the history of the Great Patriotic War, written by the executive secretary of the Association of World War II Historians, Professor of the Academy of Military Sciences Yuri Nikiforov. Written so flawlessly that even liberal critics tried to find fault only with the feat of the Panfilov heroes. Here the same Svanidze was able to squeeze out of himself only the emotional: “patriotic pathos is passed off as historical truth.” No specific claims to “unhistorical falsehood”. Since it is not in the textbook. However, what else can we expect from our liberals?
And we can expect the main thing from them: the total defeat of the chapters of the textbook devoted to the post-Soviet period of our history. Chapters are written by renowned historian and political publicist Armen Sumbatovich Gasparyan. A person who does not hide his dislike for liberals and who feels complete reciprocity in this feeling. By the way, these chapters in the textbook are perhaps the most emotional. Let’s not “spoil”, but the fact that, according to Nikolai Karlovich Svanidze, “nothing positive is said in the textbook about the reforms of First Deputy Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar” already speaks in favor of this publication.
In a word, the “textbook from Medinsky” turned out to be informative, high-quality, but somewhat uneven. It clearly lacks information on the history of the Church and the Russian Diaspora. The leftist views of one of the authors, the aforementioned Alexander Shubin, are too obvious (a number of paragraphs written by him, especially those devoted to the first decades of Soviet history, should be substantially revised). But in general, at the moment, this is the best textbook that the author of these words (formerly a school history teacher) has ever had in his hands.
As for the criticism of the textbook, it should be meaningful, not emotional. And certainly not liberal. Therefore, I ask you to consider this text as its “prolegomena”. In the future, the Tsargrad Society and our TV channel could well join in a more detailed examination of the line of textbooks of the Russian Military Historical Society and make proposals for its improvement. After all, the main tasks – education in the younger generation of love for the Fatherland and its history, as well as “inoculation” from the “historical rake” – we have in common.
The original Russian version of the article can be found here.
Mikhail Tyurenkov is the Editor-in-chief, columnist, and head of the religious editorial office of “Tsargrad” TV.
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