war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

Russia plans extra propaganda classes in occupied Ukraine to “correct flawed understanding of history”

Halya Coynash
Even with draconian legislation enabling Russia to imprison people for telling the truth about its crimes, the aggressor state is clearly finding it harder than anticipated to inculcate its rewritten version of 'history'
The Russian soldiers without insignia whose seizure of control on 27 February 2014 is omitted in Russian textbooks, a selection of the Medinsky-edited textbooks (from the RMHS site)
The Russian soldiers without insignia whose seizure of control on 27 February 2014 is omitted in Russian textbooks, a selection of the Medinsky-edited textbooks (from the RMHS site)

Russia is planning to introduce additional ‘history lessons’ in schools on currently occupied Ukrainian territory with the aim clearly to inculcate Moscow’s highly distorted version of Ukrainian and Russian history and justification for its invasion and occupation of Ukraine.  Although ‘Russian world’ ideologists phrase it differently, the extra lessons may well indicate that the process of brainwashing Ukrainian children into thanking the aggressor state and considering themselves ‘Russian’ is not going to plan.

The methods are the same as those seen in all areas that have fallen under occupation.  The invaders invariably begin removing all Ukrainian books, especially from schools, with these burned or otherwise disposed of.  Documents which came to light soon after Ukraine’s Armed Forces liberated Balakliya (Kharkiv oblast) included lists of books of Ukrainian language and literature which were to be removed from schools, as well as all Ukrainian symbols, etc. 

Radio Svoboda’s Ukrainian Service spoke with Tetiana Kozyrska from the Kherson Regional Military Administration.  She confirmed that during the long months until Kherson was liberated, the Russians tried to install their ‘educational’ process, with Ukrainian textbooks also either burned or thrown away.  History books are a particular target, with the Russians having removed not only textbooks on Ukrainian history, but also on world history, Ukrainian literature and geography.

The situation in places which remain under Russian occupation is no different, except that Russia has had much longer to both destroy Ukrainian books and to impose its own.. Inna Lokusa, Head of Melitopol Lyceum No. 23, told Radio Svoboda that Ukrainian textbooks have been removed from her school, and notes that Russia is allocating millions of roubles on purchasing Russian-produced ‘textbooks’.

It is simply not possible for anybody presently in occupied parts of Ukraine to openly report on the situation, and Lokusa’s sources, like those who are clearly providing information to Ukraine’s National Resistance Centre. cannot be named.  There is, however, overwhelming evidence of such efforts to destroy all that is Ukraine, with some of it coming from the occupying powers themselves.  In Luhansk oblast, for example, a list came to light of all the Ukrainian and international works that the invaders had banned, claiming them to be ‘extremist’.   The list included major historians like Serhiy Plokhiy and Yaroslav Hrytsak, founding member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group, Soviet political prisoner and internationally respected writer and thinker Myroslav Marynovych, and many Ukrainian writers.

Indeed, the Russian ‘school textbooks’ which top Russian officials have very publicly presented make it entirely clear why Russia should be removing Ukrainian and world history books.  In the Russian books, Russia did not invade Crimea, and its soldiers (without insignia, though this is not mentioned) were there only to ‘protect Crimeans’ who had, purportedly, decided themselves to hold a ‘referendum’ on joining Russia.  Like those earlier ‘textbooks’ the new 11th Grade history textbooks, which are to be used from September 2024, have eliminated the internationally used term Kyivan Rus, writing instead only of ‘Rus’.  The attempt to remove all mention of Kyiv, and other total historical anachronisms have previously been seen in occupied Crimea, with Moscow essentially appropriating Ukrainian history and claiming it as ‘Russian’.  The new work speaks of the ‘inevitability’ of what is called the ‘special military operation’, i.e. Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, and presents a glaringly false account of the war.  This is safe enough in Russia and occupied Crimea, given the draconian legislation being used to sentence to long terms of imprisonment those who speak or write about Russian atrocities and war crimes.

Kherson historian Artem Petryk points out that history is one of Russia’s particularly important weapons for achieving its imperialist objectives.  He calls the new 11th grade ‘history textbook’ “a textbook of hatred” and notes that the book mentions the West around 230 times, each time with negative connotations. Ukraine in that sense is in second place, being mentioned in negative tones around 60 times, with the Baltic Republics in third place in this ranking of Russian targets, with around 25 mentions.  Russia tries to claim it is ‘defending itself’, with the image it promotes of a ‘besieged fortress’, according to Petryk, typical also of the Soviet Union and of the Russian empire.

Russia’s chief aim is to ‘russify’ the population of occupied Ukraine, and to try to brainwash them into believing themselves part of the so-called ‘Russian world’.

The methods of indoctrination began ten years ago in occupied Crimea and parts of Donbas, with this meaning that a huge number of children have essentially known nothing but the distorted version.  In parts of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts, which came under Russian occupation after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the situation is rather different.  Many parents have tried to avoid sending their children to school because of both the propaganda and the militarization.  Although Russia’s increasingly menacing threats to send the children to children’s homes and/ or to Russia will have forced most parents to either leave occupied territory altogether, or to send their children to school, there is, hopefully, more chance that the lies told at school will be countered elsewhere.  cautiously counter the propaganda lies that the children are fed.

It is noteworthy that Russia does appear to be behaving slightly differently in occupied parts of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson oblasts.  In the Russian proxy ‘Luhansk and Donetsk people’s republics’, the Ukrainian language had been removed from schools and public life long before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.  Kozyrska reports that in occupied parts of Kherson oblast, Ukrainian has not, at least officially, been withdrawn, however only Russian-produced ‘textbooks of Ukrainian’ are used. 

In reporting the planned increase in the number of lessons covering Russia’s heavily distorted and largely rewritten version of history, Radio Svoboda notes that occupation media cite Artem Lagoisky, head of Russia’s so-called Kherson branch of the ‘Assembly of peoples of Russia’. He asserted that (in Russian-occupied Kherson oblast) “several generations have grown up with a flawed understanding of history.”  For more about the version of ‘history’ that Moscow is claiming to be ‘correct’, and is imprisoning those who reject, see:  New textbook for occupied territory tells children that Ukraine burns all Russian books and serves ‘Blood of a russky’ cocktails

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