News / Europe

    On Crimea, Russian Teachers Forced to Tout Official Line

    FILE - A teacher leads a history lesson for seventh graders in the Russian village of Bolshie Khutora, about 440 km west of Moscow.
    FILE - A teacher leads a history lesson for seventh graders in the Russian village of Bolshie Khutora, about 440 km west of Moscow.
    It will take some time to revise Russia's history textbooks to reflect the annexation of Crimea. But that's not preventing the authorities from moving quickly to assure the country's school curriculum sticks to a politically - and patriotically - correct line on the issue.
     
    In recent weeks, a new course titled "We Are Together" has been introduced in high schools throughout the country. The course presents the annexation as a "reunification of Crimea with Russia" - the exact phrase used by Russian authorities.
     
    Officials from the ruling United Russia party, which is spearheading the educational campaign, have joined teachers to give lectures on patriotism as part of the course.
     
    "As a former teacher, I understand that the events in Ukraine, Crimea, and Russia need to be clarified for students," Nikolai Bulayev, a State Duma deputy from the United Russia party, said in remarks reported by Russian media. 
     
    "We need to explain the position taken by our president to them," Bulayev added.
     
    'I am proud of my president'
     
    During a lecture at School No. 28 in the city of Ulyanovsk, on the Volga River some 900 kilometers from Moscow, history instructor Lyubov Moskalyova is busy clarifying and explaining.
     
    "Of course, not all states want to see a strong Russia that carries out its foreign policy according to its national interests," Moskalyova tells students as an official from the local mayor's office looks on.
     
    "I am happy for Russia, I am proud of my president," she adds, her voice cracking with emotion.
     
    The students appear bored and listlessly repeat memorized information about Crimea's economy, geography and history.
     
    At another school, Ulyanovsk's Gymnasium No. 1, the class discussion is much livelier. 
     
    One student, Yegor Tsvetkov says the annexation - which he obediently calls a "reunification" - is just a first step toward a Russian takeover of eastern Ukraine.
     
    "A referendum should be conducted in [eastern Ukraine] to see what percentage of the population supports unification with Russia," Tsvetkov says. "I'm sure, an absolute majority would vote in favor."
     
    Tsvetkov adds that he favors the use of military force and says he would be willing to fight to unify eastern Ukraine with Russia.
     
    Another student, Arseniy, who gave only his first name, disagrees, adding that he has "increasingly negative" attitudes about the Crimean annexation.
     
    "I support my country but I think the confrontation with the West is stupid," he says. "I hope there will be some kind of peaceful solution [for the crisis]."
     
    Fears of brainwashing
     

    Not all teachers, however, are enthusiastic about the new course. 
     
    "This is outrageous. It's an outright brainwashing of children," says Tamara Eidelman, who teaches history at School No. 567 in Moscow.
     
    Eidelman says important facts, like the mass deportation of the Crimean Tatars during World War II, have been left out of the course.
     
    Eidelman says she "would teach the patriotism classes with great pleasure," but only if she could do it her way.
     
    "I would tell the class what I really think," she says. "Possibly, that's why the [school administration] wouldn't ask me to teach patriotism," she says.
     
    But amid today's patriotic frenzy, such opinions can be dangerous.
     
    Mikhail Kopitsa, a history teacher in the northwestern city of Arkhangelsk, says he was reprimanded and required to write an official letter of explanation after criticizing Russia's military presence in Crimea.
     
    "I see my role is to - at least slightly - counter the flood of propaganda coming from the media," Kopitsa says, adding that he is disturbed by what he describes as the "mindless" and "one-sided" patriotism prevalent in Russia today.
     
    Written by Farangis Najibullah in Prague based on reporting by RFE/RL's Russian Service correspondent Lyubov Chizhova in Moscow. Sergei Gogin also contributed to this report from Ulyanovsk. The piece is republished here under a revised headline.

    You May Like

    Candidates' Comments Fly Like New Hampshire Snowflakes

    Four days ahead of the country's first-in-the-nation Republican and Democratic party primary elections, surveys show the parties' contests tightening

    South Korea Says North Korea Moving Closer to Rocket Launch

    In phone call, US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agree that Pyongyang's move would be 'provocative'

    Australian Commander: IS Changing Tactics

    Head of Australian forces in Middle East talks with VOA about training Iraqi troops, countering evolving Islamic State efforts and defeating extremism

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.