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Moscow Times
August 31, 2009
Medvedev Says Books Turn Minds to Kasha
By Kristina Mikulova / Special to The Moscow Times

As a presidential commission to counter attempts to falsify Russian history met for the first time, President Dmitry Medvedev called for the introduction of a single history textbook to prevent schoolchildren’s minds from being turned into kasha.

“There are many textbooks nowadays, and they give completely different views of history that can cause the head to spin,” Medvedev said in an interview aired Sunday on Rossia television.

“This is bad because the result will be that schoolchildren’s heads will turn to kasha,” he said. “I believe that we need to straighten out this matter.”

Medvedev said he backed the availability of multiple history textbooks, but some books were better than others and the government had decided to move toward a single textbook.

The president’s remarks could cause alarm among historians and human rights activists, who have accused the Kremlin of trying to whitewash Stalin-era history in textbooks in the past.

Meanwhile, Medvedev’s commission “for counteracting attempts to falsify history to the detriment of Russia’s interests” met in the Kremlin on Friday to announce the start of a campaign against what Moscow believes is thinly disguised revanchism among some of its neighbors.

“Given the immense flow of information in today’s world, we are increasingly liable to biased and cynical interpretations of our history, European history and world history,” said the commission’s head, Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Naryshkin, RIA-Novosti reported.

Russia recently received a very public rap on the knuckles from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which grouped together Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union by pronouncing them to be equally responsible for the outbreak of World War II.

“Excuse me. This is a cynical lie,” Medvedev said of the OSCE decision during the Rossia interview.

The commission met a week after the 70th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, a non-aggression pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed on Aug. 23, 1939. Some historians say the war might have never happened had the pact not been signed.

Moscow is prickly about the role it played in World War II. It insists that the Soviet Union should be seen as a liberator, especially in Eastern Europe, which became a part of the Soviet bloc for nearly half a century after communist takeovers from 1945 to 1948.

A planned visit by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in the Polish city of Gdansk on Tuesday might have contributed to the vigor of the Kremlin’s latest self-defense. The authorities seem keen on settling old grievances surrounding common history and recognize Sept. 1, the day when Gdansk was invaded by Nazi Germany, as the start of the World War II.

But Russia’s commitment to restore its image in Eastern Europe is debatable. A new history book to be released on Sept. 1, which is based on the archives of the Foreign Intelligence Service, argues that Poland made a secret deal with Nazi Germany to carve up Lithuania and Czechoslovakia.

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