MOSCOW, August 9 (RIA Novosti) – Amid a politicized battle over Kremlin-proposed “unified” textbooks on Russia’s turbulent history, a state-run pollster said Friday that almost three-quarters of Russians generally liked history lessons at school, according to a new poll.
Seventy-four percent of Russians told the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) that they “mostly liked” their history teachers and the way they taught the subject. Russians aged 18-24 constituted 78 percent of that figure, the poll said – an age group that would have studied history in the post-Soviet era.
Only 17 percent of those polled said they “mostly didn’t like” their history lessons in high school.
The poll comes a few months after President Vladimir Putin ordered the creation of a unified series of school history textbooks. Last month, he said the number of history textbooks available in Russia – 65 – is “absolutely unacceptable” for teaching high school students, and said that a “canonical version" was needed.
Some experts and critics fear that the unified approach may attempt to whitewash the country’s history, especially such thorny issues as the rule of Josef Stalin and Moscow’s military actions.
In late June, the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, said it would consider a bill that would outlaw criticism of the Red Army’s actions during World War II with fines or a prison term of up to five years. The proposed bill is an apparent step to counter politicians and activists in former Soviet republics and Communist bloc nations who have criticized what they claim are war crimes by the Red Army, such as executions and mistreatment of prisoners of war and civilians, mass deportations and rapes in Eastern Europe, Finland and Germany.
Asked whether there are specific events in Russia’s history that should be given more attention than others in textbooks, 58 percent of the new poll’s respondents said that all events “should be covered equally.” Only 10 percent said that the Great Patriotic War – as the Soviet Union’s participation in World War II from 1941-45 is known in Russia – is worth extra attention.
The poll was conducted on July 20-21 using a nationwide sample of 1,600 adults across 130 residential areas in 42 Russian regions. The statistical margin of error did not exceed 3.4 percent.
Updated with new lead, recasts throughout.