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"...What I tell you three times is true" (Lewis Carroll, "Hunting of the Snark" ).

Political process against historians?

Not long ago an information appeared in press, that a textbook on Russian history, 20th century, written by Moscow State University professors Vdovin and Barsenkov for students as additional manual, contains extremist materials, spreading racial hatred. It was journalist Nikolai Svanidze, member of Public Chamber and Moscow State University graduate, who has noticed extremism in a manual, which has been re-edited several times without any scandals. Svanidze believes that information of that many people, who ruled Soviet Union weren't Russians, that 63% of Chechen recruits were deserters in the World War II and that the authors have indicated the quantity of Jews in the Soviet government and party top. Others have noticed that it looks like processes against the soviet scientists in 1930, they were blamed in something like that. Some people have even remembered George Orwell's 1984. It is ridiculous that Svanidze is a person with very liberal views. But the both historians face jail, in the best traditions of totalitarianism.

First of all, Lenin's, Stalin's, Khrushchev and Brezhnev's nationality is a fact, which does not have any ideological and moral shadow. There is no extremism in being Georgian, Ukrainian, Jew or Russian, and there is nothing in announcing this fact. One of the authors, Vdovin, studies problems, tied with nations during the Soviet period, especially the Russian one. Or being interested in the title nation is not politically correct?

Secondly, 63% deserters were taken from a document, so the scientists are blamed for using written sources? Maybe there are some others, but they are classified, for historians as well.

What about Jews in the Communist party, it is not very clear, why information that the Jews in the Tsarist Russia had to live in special regions and did not have a right for military service and higher education is politically correct, but information, that there were many Jews in the Soviet government, science and culture is extremist. It depends on conclusion you make from these facts. To my mind, the main conclusion is that the situation with Jewish nation has improved. Other interpretations are also possible, for example: the author doesn't like Jews and shows jealousy of other their successes, but such interpretation looks like getting personal.

The problem is not the information, but its interpretation. Maybe it has with history and science nothing to do, but with politics. If point of view customary for liberals becomes obligatory for everybody, liberalism finishes. The authors have a right to have their own point of view and the students have their one to get acquainted with as much points of view as it is possible. They are intelligent enough to make conclusions and to have their own opinion. The ideology, liberal one or not (every country has it) can be suitable for the school manuals, where the pupils learn to respect their history. The students historians don not need ideology, it is their material. We can read Malleus maleficarum (standard handbook on witchcraft) and Mein Kampf when study Early New Time and modern European history. We read written sources and articles about them. Nobody has yet written about these extremist material in the Moscow University. By the way, Malleus maleficarum contains signs for identification of witches and ways of killing them. I hope, you know, what is Mein Kampf about and who is the author.

The problem is that people like Svanidze, if they aren't carrying out a political action (some journalists suppose he does), think the people, studying at the University are so stupid that they cannot can not acquire information critically and have their own opinion after having read any text. If the students of historical faculty are being taught contemplating facts and making conclusion. As a student, I have read it and some others for my exam. The manual has many little defects, but there are no ideal manuals, moreover, the subject is very difficult: the new history of your own country. It is not a reason for such blames. Well, the book is boring enough, the writing is not notable for atticism, by but it is something habitual for the University manuals.

Yulia Buzykina, Moscow State University PhD student.

September 20, 2010 14:16

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