Pro-Stalin history textbook sparks controversy in Russia
A new university textbook written by academics at Russia's top university has sparked controversy with what critics call a pro-Stalinist and anti-Semitic view of Soviet and Russian history.
Teaching students using the book would be a "sabotage of Russia's civilised, democratic and legal development," two historians from the Russian Institute of History, Vladimir Lavrov and Igor Kurlyandsky, wrote Wednesday in Novaya Gazeta newspaper.
The textbook, "A History of Russia, 1917-2009," written by two Moscow State University academics, Alexander Barsenkov and Alexander Vdovin, attempts to justify Stalin-era repressions, including the Gulag camp system, the deportation of entire ethnic groups and forced collectivisation.
Describing the mass arrests and executions of the 1930s, the authors write that the authorities had a justified fear of enemies within the Soviet Union:
"All those millions of people offended by the policies of the Soviet authorities formed a potential for a 'fifth column' that was far from imaginary."
The textbook also attempts to rationalize the Stalin-ordered deportations of whole peoples including the Crimean Tatars, Chechens, Ingushs and Kalmyks to Siberia and Central Asia.
"The reason that some were deported was their heightened readiness to collaborate with the occupiers and suspicions of this," it claims, a theory that is rejected by Western historians and many Russian experts.
The textbook places strong emphasis on the number of Jewish people who held positions of power in Soviet culture and media.
It alleges that the Soviet authorities blocked Jewish people from occupying top posts after World War II because of "the growing pro-Western sympathies of citizens of Jewish origin, which increased the possibility of their being used in the interests of American strategy".
The public chamber, a state-run government oversight body, last week published a critical report on the book, but no concrete measures have been taken against the textbook or its authors.
© 2010 AFP