07MOSCOW3601, PUTIN CONTINUES DRIVE TO MORE PALATABLE HISTORY

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW3601 2007-07-23 14:08 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO9923
RR RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #3601/01 2041408
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 231408Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2309
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHLN/AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG 4320
RUEHYG/AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG 2585
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 2270

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 003601 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PINR SOCI RS
SUBJECT: PUTIN CONTINUES DRIVE TO MORE PALATABLE HISTORY 
TEXTBOOKS 
 
MOSCOW 00003601  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
 1. (SBU) Summary:  President Putin's effort to inculcate 
Russia's children with "national pride" via appropriately 
written history textbooks could bear fruit at the start of 
the 2008 school year.  The campaign, which began in 2003 with 
the ban of a popular history textbook and a Kremlin call for 
a report on the "patriotic content" of history texts, is 
approaching implementation with two teachers manuals, on 
which textbooks will be based, due to be published soon. 
Dismay over the proposed treatment of the Soviet Union's 
darker chapters and continued disagreement about the legacy 
of the Yeltsin years is unlikely to derail the project.  Even 
so, some contacts are skeptical that the Kremlin project can 
succeed in its aims.  The debate demonstrates that, in 
academic circles at least, lively discussion and disagreement 
with the Kremlin are possible.  End summary. 
 
------------------------- 
Creating "Proud" Russians 
------------------------- 
 
2. (U) The introduction of history and social science 
textbooks intended to foster a sense of patriotism in Russian 
students looks set to take place during the 2008 school year. 
 The most recent effort to re-write Russia's history began in 
November 2003, when President Putin told a meeting of 
historians that textbooks were not the place for 
"ideological" struggle.  The reference was to a popular 
history book written by historian and teacher Igor Dolutskiy, 
which challenged students to argue for and against 
propositions advanced in each chapter.  One such proposition 
questioned whether contemporary Russia was a democracy.  The 
Ministry of Education subsequently withdrew its approval of 
the Dolutskiy textbook.  A report on the "patriotic content" 
of Russia's history textbooks was submitted in early 2004, 
which sparked a Kremlin call for new textbooks that would 
make Russian students proud and patriotic. 
 
-------------------- 
The First Contenders 
-------------------- 
 
3. (U) The initial results of the Kremlin's call were 
introduced at a conference for historians and teachers hosted 
by Putin on June 21 (the day before Moscow's first official 
commemoration of the start of the Great Patriotic War).  At 
the conference, two new teachers manuals, still in the pilot 
stage, were presented: "The Newest History of Russia: 
1945-2006" and "Social Sciences: The Global World of the 21st 
Century."  The first, which is quite controversial among 
history teachers, offers a new spin on recent events and 
promotes "sovereign democracy."  More disturbing to many, it 
praises Stalin's leadership, especially his role in Russia's 
victory in the Great Patriotic War and his success in 
centralizing power.  The author of the first is Aleksandr 
Filippov, a political scientist at the National Laboratory of 
Foreign Policy, a think tank associated with the Kremlin. 
Leonid Polyakov, a political science professor at the Higher 
School of Economics, edited the social science manual, about 
which there has been less discussion. 
 
4. (SBU) (NOTE: Post has seen excerpts from the draft history 
manual.  While acknowledging that Stalin is one of the more 
"contradictory" figures in Russian/Soviet history, Filippov 
argues that Stalin accomplished what the Soviet Union needed 
by fulfilling the Russian need for a tsar, by ensuring the 
economic buildup necessary to fend off Hitler's Germany, and 
by instituting a meritocracy.  The manual argues that 
Stalin's pre-war purges rid the USSR of the Lenin-era 
generation of leaders, allowing "more competent" people to 
modernize the Soviet Union.  The manual glosses over the 
Great Terror and the famine.) 
 
------------------------------------ 
Negative Response from Professionals 
------------------------------------ 
 
5. (SBU) In a July 17 conversation, Memorial's Irina 
Shcherbakova condemned the books, telling us that such 
interpretations bred cynicism, not patriotism.  She thought 
that most Russians knew what happened under Stalin and that 
freedom of information in Russia was too great to allow the 
Kremlin a monopoly over interpreting history.  She feared, 
however, that with the recent imposition of a unified state 
exam, "teaching to the test" would result in greater 
attention to the interpretations espoused in the texts. 
Shcherbakova said that she would continue to work with 
schools and teachers to see if changes could be made. 
 
MOSCOW 00003601  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
 
6. (U) Academics have disagreed with many of the history 
manual's assertions.  One contact observed, however, that it 
is not clear how large a role jealousy is playing in the 
outrage.  As in other nations, textbook publication is a 
lucrative business. 
 
7. (SBU)  Some contacts were skeptical about the likely 
success of the Kremlin's strategy.  Director of Moscow

English School 1509 Tatyana Gumennik told us that, "with 
history constantly being re-written, teaching history has 
become a nightmare."  She pointed out that teachers still 
govern their classrooms and that even if they are using 
recommended texts, much depends on how they present the 
material.  Teachers, Gumennik said, were becoming tired of 
pilot projects and "innovative," but low-quality textbooks. 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
8. (SBU)  Russia's desire to improve history teaching is 
longstanding, as is the debate about the best way to teach 
its more painful chapters.  Education Minister Andrey 
Fursenko, whose father is a renowned historian, has suggested 
that the topic be addressed at a 200th anniversary 
celebration of Russian-American diplomatic relations 
conference in November, which the Embassy is hosting with the 
Academy of Science's World History Institute and the Kennan 
Institute.  Russia's search for a unifying ideology since the 
fall of the Soviet Union has been a perennial theme in 
politics, as seen most recently in Presidential 
Administration Deputy Head Vladislav Surkov's promotion of 
"sovereign democracy."  Whatever version is adopted, the 
argument over Russia's Soviet-era and recent history will 
continue. 
BURNS

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