Saturday, July 07, 2007

Rewriting history

In one of her latest newsletters, Estonian politician Mari-Ann Kelam comments on the West's failure to understand the processes that are currently taking place in Russia, and observes:

By coincidence, I have been reading another book about how Reagan brought down the Soviet Union. The way the West is going now, we seem to be helping Putin to rebuild it! Actually Putin is building something worse -this time, thanks to the clever use of modern media technology playing on nationalism and xenophobia combined with strong central control, the subjugated are supporting what he is doing. The West has been and continues to do almost all the wrong things.

One of the texts referred to by MAK in her letter is a new manual for Russia's history teachers, discussed by Andrew Osborn in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. Among other things, Osborn writes:
Backed by support from the president himself, the book, which rails against U.S. hegemony, is raising fears among some historians that the Kremlin is -- quite literally -- trying to rewrite history in a way that risks breeding ultranationalism and whitewashing the darkest chapters of Russia's past.

Mr. Putin gave the manual a presidential boost last month, inviting its author along with a number of historians and teachers to his residence totalk history. Though he said students should be allowed to draw their ownconclusions, he made clear that events should be portrayed in a way that fuels national pride.

The manual's publication comes as the Kremlin is trying to restore Russians' sense of pride after the anarchic 1990s. In recent years, celebrations marking the Red Army's victory over Nazi Germany have been cranked up, the authority of the Czarist-era Orthodox Church has been boosted and patriotic youth groups have become increasingly vocal about Russia's resurgence.

The moves have complemented an increasingly assertive Kremlin foreign policyand a flat rejection of Western criticism that Moscow is moving to undermine democratic institutions. The new teachers' manual is the clearest sign yet that the drive to inculcate the Kremlin's view of the world is reaching Russia's millions of schoolchildren. "We are forming...the worldview of a nation, of how Russians see themselves and the outside world," Leonid Polyakov, editor of the new manual, told Mr.Putin at last month's meeting, according to a transcript released by the Kremlin.
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