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Russia-Imposed History Textbooks Teach Lies to Students in Occupied Ukraine

Kremlin aide Vladimir Medinsky attends a press conference to present a new schoolbook for high school students on general world history and Russian history in Moscow on August 7, 2023. (Photo by Yuri KADOBNOV / AFP)
Kremlin aide Vladimir Medinsky attends a press conference to present a new schoolbook for high school students on general world history and Russian history in Moscow on August 7, 2023. (Photo by Yuri KADOBNOV / AFP)

Rossiyskaya Gazeta reports the new textbooks are to be distributed across Russia, including in Ukraine’s Donbas, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions, which are currently under Russian occupation

Russia’s Education Ministry has introduced two new textbooks for contemporary Russian history and world history courses.

Presenting the textbooks in Moscow on August 7, Kremlin aide Vladimir Medinsky said high school students would begin using them on September 1, the start of the academic year in Russia.

The textbooks include rewritten chapters starting from 2014 (when Russia’s clandestine invasion of Ukraine began) to the latest developments in the Russo-Ukrainian war.

Similar history textbooks would be introduced for middle schools by the beginning of the 2024 academic year, Medinsky said.

The Russian government’s official paper Rossiyskaya Gazeta reported last week the new textbooks would be distributed across Russia, including in Ukraine’s Donbas, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions, which are currently under Russian occupation.

After launching its full-scale invasion in February 2022, Russia forced occupied regions of Ukraine to “adopt a Kremlin-curated curriculum” designed to “demonize Ukraine while convincing kids to welcome the takeover of their country and embrace a Russian national identity,” Oleksandr Pankieiev of the Atlantic Council, a Washington D.C.-based research institute, wrote in September 2022.

Russia’s new history textbooks are an embodiment of what the Atlantic Council described as the Kremlin’s “weaponization of education.” reviewed chapters from the new Russian textbooks that include false claims about Russia’s war in Ukraine. Here are some examples.

"The confrontation between Russia and the West escalated even more in the early 2020s... The shelling of Donbas became more frequent."

That regurgitates the Kremlin’s frequently made false claim that Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 to stop ever-increasing hostilities by Ukrainian government forces in the Donbas. Russian President Vladimir Putin used that same false claim in announcing the invasion on February 24, 2022.

In fact, as the United Nations Human Rights Commission’s monitoring mission noted in a report published on January 27, 2022 – less than a month before Moscow’s full-fledged military invasion of Ukraine – war-related civilian casualties in Donbas had steadily declined, from 128 in 2018 to 85 in 2019, 61 in 2020 and 36 in 2021.

While Putin has repeatedly claimed the invasion of Ukraine was a “humanitarian” mission to stop hostilities there, war crimes and genocide scholars worldwide say the invasion is in fact a war of genocide against the Ukrainian people.

The New Lines Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based policy firm, wrote in July that Russia had “engaged in direct and public incitement to commit genocide” in Ukraine, “through the use of language including ‘de-nazification,’ ‘de-Satanization,’ and the construction of Ukrainians as an existential threat in attempts to warrant their destruction as a recognized, national group.”

The report concluded it was “beyond reasonable doubt” that “the Russian Federation has not only continued but escalated its efforts to commit Genocide.”

"The United States has become the main beneficiary of the Ukrainian conflict. They managed to impose their expensive gas and other resources on Europe.”

That repeats Russia’s frequently made false claim that the United States started the war in Ukraine to boost sales of U.S. liquified natural gas (LNG) to Europe.

Contrary to that claim, Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, reported in July that U.S. gas sales to Europe had been declining since Russia launched the war in Ukraine.

“As for liquefied natural gas, Russia [18.1%] was the EU's second-largest supplier, behind the United States [48.6%], in the first quarter of 2022," Eurostat reported. "Fast-forward to the first quarter of 2023, the share of Russia dropped by 4.9 pp. At the same time, the shares of Norway [+6.5 pp], Qatar, and Algeria [both +2.4 pp] all increased while the share of the United States dropped by 8.4 pp.”

European leaders decided to reduce their countries’ dependence on Russian gas long before Russian tanks surrounded Kyiv, after decades of dealing with what they described as Russia’s constant “energy blackmailing.”

That is when the United States ramped up its supplies of LNG to Europe. According to the European Council, in December 2021, the U.S. exported 2.53 billion cubic meters of LNG to the EU and about 8.60 billion cubic meters in January-February 2022.

In a classic “blackmail” move to prevent the EU from imposing new sanctions on Russia, Moscow begun cutting gas supplies to Europe in June 2022, causing a price jump to a record 345 euros per megawatt-hour (MWh).

After baselessly blaming Canadian and German companies for “equipment issues,” Russia halted supplying gas to Europe through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline in August 2022.

By February 2023, a year into the war in Ukraine, gas prices in Europe had dropped to their lowest level in 18 months (since September 2021), to $52 per MWh.

As of August 10, 2023, the price of Dutch natural gas, the European benchmark, was $44 per MWh.

“The United States is determined to fight to the last Ukrainian.”

That quote directly echoes Putin, who said in a July 7, 2022, speech that “the West is willing to fight us to the last Ukrainian.”

It was the Ukrainian people and leadership, not an outside power, which chose to resist Russian aggression. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy rejected evacuation offers immediately after Russia invaded, saying: “I need ammo, not a ride.”

“Rating”, an independent Ukrainian research organization, reported in December 2022 that the number of people surveyed in Ukraine who believed that “victory” for the country meant “the liberation of all its territories, including Crimea and occupied Donbas” had increased from 74% in March 2022 to 85% in November 2022.

Likewise, a poll by the Ukrainian Ilko Kucheriv Foundation "Democratic Initiatives" conducted in June 2023 found that 70% of those surveyed said they defined victory as the complete withdrawal of all Russian troops from Ukraine.

In that same survey, 77% of Ukrainians said were confident in Ukraine’s victory and another 16% believed in its victory – a result that was virtually unchanged from August 2022.

The survey attributed the respondents’ confidence in victory to "citizens' awareness of the high threat of extermination of the entire nation in the event of a military defeat."

“Ukraine is an ultranationalist state.”

The Kremlin, along with its political allies and supporters in the state media, have frequently falsely stated that Ukraine is a Nazi state.

Ultranationalist organizations exist in every country and society in the world, including in democracies like the United States and European countries. That does not make those nations “ultranationalist states.”

As in most other democracies, radical nationalist movements in Ukraine do not have broad popular support, and their representatives do not hold key government positions.

The most successful Ukrainian ultra-nationalist party, Svoboda (Freedom), rose to prominence during the pro-Russian presidency of Viktor Yanukovych. In the 2012 elections, it received 10.45% of the popular vote and won 37 out of 450 seats in the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament.

In the 2019 parliamentary elections, which took place under Zelenskyy’s pro-Western presidency, Svoboda merged with two other ultranationalist organizations - Right Sector and the National Corps. Still, these ultranationalist organizations garnered only 2.15% of the popular vote and won only a single seat out of the parliament’s 450.

In Russia, ultranationalists are reportedly embedded in the state and the military, and often directly influence the Kremlin’s domestic and foreign policies.