#1 - JRL 7257
Russian schools excluding Soviet-era dissident writers: protest letter
July 19, 2003
Soviet-era dissident writers are being dropped from mandatory reading lists for Russian high schools in a disturbing trend threatening democracy in the country, a group of Russian novelists, musicians and poets warned Saturday.
"Soviet canon continues to push out the historical truth that has been acquired over the past 10 years on the totalitarian, repressive regime and its difficult consequences on the people, country and culture," they said in an open letter to Education Minister Vladimir Filippov published in Izvestia daily.
Mandatory reading lists have begun excluding dissidents such as novelists Boris Pasternak and Andrei Platonov and poets Anna Akhmatova and Osip Mandelstam, the letter said.
Their works, including Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago, are now merely on "recommended" lists or excluded altogether, it said.
"Recently, oeuvres important to the comprehension of Russia's tragic history in the 20th century have been transferred from the mandatory, as well as the recommended, reading lists," the letter said.
Soviet-era writers had to receive state approval to publish their works, with many dissident writers opposed to the communist regime resorting to suicide or exile if not subject to the harsh repressions of the Soviet state.
Mandelstam died in a Gulag work camp in 1938. Pasternak's novel Doctor Zhivago was published in Russia only in 1988 -- 30 years after it was first published in the West. Pasternak won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1958.
"We are worried by the dangers posed to the formation of a democratic and socially responsible spirit for the new generations," the protest letter read.
The letter was signed by 13 Russian cultural figures, including poet Andrei Voznosensky, novelist Fazil Iskander and musician Andrei Makharevich.
"We think the main goal of school is forming a personality with a critical and freedom-loving spirit which loves and knows its country and not just the 'chosen parts' of its difficult history," they wrote.