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Communists against teaching of Russian gulag book

Published on 18/10/2009

Saint Petersburg — Russian communists have called on teachers to reject a decision to teach "The Gulag Archipelago" by Soviet-era dissident writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn in schools.

Readings from the once-banned book were added to the school curriculum this year, the education ministry says on its website.

Solzhenitsyn’s three-volume work on the country’s forced labour camps in which millions died became a symbol of Soviet-era repression. His other works were equally critical of the old communist regime.

"The literary qualities of this work are questionable while its tendentious character is clear," said Sergei Malinkovich, communist leader in Saint Petersburg on the communists’ website.

"We are calling on all patriotic teachers… to challenge the study of this controversial book by explaining to children that Solzhenitsyn interpreted an historic and dramatic period of the Soviet Union in an erroneous way," he said.

In an open letter, also published on the website, teachers called on their colleagues to "transform lessons on the Gulag by unveiling the lie of a writer who has transferred his personal affront onto a great country,"

Solzhenitsyn, who died last year aged 89, won the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature in 1970. He was expelled from the USSR in 1974 after authorities discovered manuscripts for "The Gulag Archipelago."

He lived in exile for 20 years in Germany, Switzerland and later the United States before returning in 1994 after the fall of communism.