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Rewriting History: Russian Government Releases Controversial Schoolbook Justifying Ukraine Invasion as Western Invention


A new textbook published by the Russian government says that the West is attempting to destroy Russia.

Excerpts from Russian media, reports that students would now be taught that if president Vladimir Putin hadn’t launched his “special military operation” against Ukraine, human civilization may have ended.

Vladimir Medinsky, a presidential adviser and once the minister of culture for Russia, co-wrote the textbook titled “Russian History, 1945-early 21st century.”

This is the first history textbook that has been formally approved for use in Russian classrooms, and it discusses contemporary events like the full-scale invasion of Ukraine that began in February 2022.

From September, it will be studied in the last year of secondary education in Russia – the 11th year – which is attended by pupils aged 17-18.

The textbook claims that “the West is fixated on destabilising the situation within Russia” and to achieve this aim, Western powers spread “undisguised Russophobia”.

The book goes on to say that western countries started “dragging” Russia into various conflicts, saying that the West’s ultimate objective is to destroy Russia and take control of its mineral wealth.

It the book serves up numerous statements from Kremlin propaganda, portraying Ukraine as an aggressive state run by nationalist extremists and manipulated by the West, which allegedly uses the country as a “battering ram” against Russia.

According to the book, Ukraine is a Western invention created to spite Russia, and even Ukraine’s blue-and-yellow flag was supposedly invented by the Austrians keen to convince Ukrainians that they are different from Russians.

The history book then describes Russia’s initial attack on Ukraine in 2014 as a popular uprising of eastern Donbas residents who “wanted to stay Russian” and who were joined by “volunteers” from Russia. It makes no mention of the military hardware and personnel Russia sent to Donbas at the time or over the next eight years.

The book reportedly argues that one key reason for the full-scale invasion in 2022 was the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO. If Ukraine had joined the military alliance and then “provoked a conflict in Crimea or Donbas”, the textbook says, Russia would have been forced to wage war against the whole of the NATO alliance.

“This would have possibly been the end of civilisation. This could not be allowed to happen,” the schoolbook says. However, Ukraine’s accession to NATO was, back then and remains now – a distant prospect.

The textbook also claims that before Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, Ukraine had plans to turn Sevastopol – the seat of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet – into a NATO base and that later Kyiv said it wanted to acquire nuclear weapons.

Another claim in the textbook is that until 2014, 80% of Ukraine’s population considered Russian as their mother tongue. However, according to a poll published by Razumkov Centre in 2006, only 30% of residents of Ukraine named Russian as their mother tongue, while 52% said Ukrainian was their native language.

In an apparent reference to the abundance of online material implicating Russian forces in atrocities committed in Ukraine, the textbook warns schoolchildren to be mindful of “a global industry manufacturing staged clips and fake photos and videos”.

“Western social networks and media all too enthusiastically spread fake information,” the textbook says in a chapter about the “special military operation”.

The textbook is critical of Western sanctions imposed on Russia in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine saying these sanctions “violate all the norms of international law which the West is so fond of quoting”.

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