Russia approves school textbook authored by flag-waving former culture minister who railed against ‘tolerance & multiculturalism’

Russia’s Ministry of Education has the go-ahead for schools to use a new history textbook edited by a controversial aide to President Vladimir Putin known for supporting a conservative and ‘patriotic’ education.

The Russian Historical Society announced that officials had given the green light to the volume on Saturday. In a statement published on its website, the group confirmed that “our textbook was approved by the Ministry of Education, received all the necessary permits, and in the near future it will be published and made available… We hope that schools, not just in Moscow, but across the country, will receive this textbook, which will help both teachers and students.”

Vladimir Medinsky, who compiled the guide, was appointed Russia’s Minister of Culture in 2012 by then-president Dmitry Medvedev. However, he was relieved of the role in January last year, before being appointed as an aide to Putin charged with history and humanities policy.

Medinsky had previously called the series of textbooks produced by the Russian Historical Society “a fairly innovative approach to learning history in school.”

“There is a big cultural component, and a big historical component,” he said.

The former minister had previously argued that learning resources should take into account the country’s overarching social and political goals. They should, he claimed, be “based on facts, taking into account our state interests.”

When in office, Medinsky frequently warned against a decline in traditional values in Russian society. In 2013, he gave a speech focussing on “the failure of the theory of multiculturalism.” In comments to journalists, he also slammed religious and ethnic pluralism, saying that “already in Europe, it is being refused, but our liberal intelligentsia still will not let go of this decrepit idea from their heads.”

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In the place of multiculturalism, he argued, “there is something better in [Russian] tradition: centuries of coexistence and collaboration of different cultures and traditions, built on the commonality that unites them, and not on the suppressed irritated patience of each other. Incidentally, this is the most valuable experience in world history. It was ignored by those who colonized America, India and Africa.”

Medinsky was embroiled in a row over accusations of plagiarism of his doctoral thesis on the interpretation of Russian history. A number of academics had called for him to be stripped of the title. However, in 2017 the former Minister won the case after a national commission ruled in his favor, arguing that the dissertation had been completed satisfactorily.

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