By Anatol Shmelev
Since its inception, the Hoover Institution has collected materials on education from around the world, from the Russian Mass Education pamphlet collection focused on early Soviet educational and propaganda efforts through the enormous Hanna Collection on the Role of Education in Twentieth-Century Society, established in 1976. Soviet education was always of special interest, and the library continued to receive materials until the collapse of the USSR.
In the waning phase of the Soviet Union, from the 1970s to the 1980s, there was a noticeable increase in the volume of literature published for the “military-patriotic upbringing of youth.” Books full of patriotic songs, sketches, games were accompanied by literature for adults on how to present patriotic material properly, both within and without the classroom setting. Despite this surge of patriotism, the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991.
Another wave of such literature arose in the early 2000s, but soon disappeared. Now a third wave is building up, and the Hoover Institution Library, as in the past, is acquiring the associated books, pamphlets and other didactic materials, so often overlooked by other libraries (many of the titles below are not listed in Worldcat).
N.G. Zelenova and L.E. Osipova’s My zhivem v Rossii (We Live in Russia) is a three volume set of songs, poems, games, and sketches (with instructions on how to present them) directed at adults who work with children from four to seven years of age. Didactic cardboard illustrations are published under such titles as Rossiia: besedy s rebenkom (Russia: Talks with Children) and Istoki patriotizma: besedy s rebenkom (Sources of Patriotism: Talks with Children).
History textbooks are also a useful tool for understanding the basic knowledge that children are exposed to in school and that they retain in their adult years. The Hoover Institution Library has acquired some of the new 2016 textbooks created in line with the recently officially established Unified Conception of History and the Historical-Cultural Standard, such as two different editions of Istoriia Rossii (History of Russia) for the 10th grade, which cover the history of the Soviet Union and post-Soviet Russian Federation. In addition, there is a variety of supportive and supplementary literature, particularly teacher’s guides, that provides a valuable window on how past events are interpreted and presented to children. For example, Fenomen fal’sifikatsii istorii Rossii i istoricheskoe obrazovanie shkol’nikov (The Phenomenon of Falsification of the History of Russia and the historical education of schoolchildren) by E.E. Viazemskii and O.Iu. Strelova provides instructors with ideas on how to present controversial moments of Russian history.
Early in 2018, one of these textbooks (see picture) came under attack in the chamber of the Council of the Federation, when the Council’s Chairwoman, Valentina Matvienko, referred to the presentation of the Ukrainian political turmoil of 2013-2015 as a “provocation”. The reason for this is that these events were referred to in the text as a revolution, while Crimean Senator Sergei Tsekov insisted that they were a “bloody putsch”. As a result, the Ministry of Education ordered the textbook sent to the Academy of Sciences for “additional expertise”. Presumably, the next edition of the textbook will look somewhat different, making this one in the Hoover Library a vestige of historical semantics.
This literature will be useful to future researchers looking at the question of how schoolchildren raised in the Russian Federation of the present will think about their country and its history when they reach a more mature age, and how pedagogical approaches may or may not transform this generation of children in comparison with previous generations. The books have been cataloged in the library; miscellaneous didactic material may be found in the Russian Subject Collection.
Anatol Shmelev PhD
Anatol Shmelev is a research fellow, Robert Conquest curator of the Russia and Eurasia Collection, and the project archivist for the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Collection, all at the Hoover Institution.