As one official explained, "we understand that school is a unique social institution that forms all citizens"; which means it is essential they should be taught history, especially the right kind of history. "We need a united society," the apparatchik goes on, and to achieve that end, "we need a united textbook".
in 1934, it was Stalin himself who convened an earlier meeting of historians to discuss the very same issue, namely the teaching of history in Russian schools. He disapproved of the conventional class-based accounts then available, which were strongly influenced by Marxist doctrines, and which traced the development of Russia from feudalism to capitalism and beyond.Not even Stalin's hometown wanted to be associated with him anymore...
"These textbooks," Stalin thundered, "aren't good for anything. It's all epochs and no facts, no events, no people, no concrete information."
History, he concluded somewhat enigmatically, "must be history" - by which, in this case, he meant a cavalcade of national heroes, whose doings might appeal more broadly to the Russian people than the arid abstractions of class analysis and social structure.
Who, for example, should decide what history is taught in schools: should it be the government, or academic experts, or examination boards, or the schools themselves, or even the parents?
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for the last 18 months, I've been leading a project, based at the Institute of Historical Research, which is looking into the history of the teaching of history in schools in England since it first became a serious activity early in the 20th Century.
And one of our most important discoveries so far has been the extent to which similar questions have been asked across the decades and generations, and often in complete ignorance of how they've been answered before.