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

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora