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Russia amends schoolbooks labelling victims of Stalinist deportations ‘Nazi collaborators’

13 November 2023
A new Russian history text book has spurred controversy for its depiction of victims of Stalinist deportations. Image via Dron.

Russia’s Ministry of Education has made changes to a history textbook that referred to North Caucasian nations that were deported from their homes during World War II as ‘Nazi collaborators’.

The textbook spurred controversy in the North Caucasus, where several nations were deported en masse to Siberia and Central Asia during World War II for allegedly collaborating with the invading Nazi Germany.

These included the Karachays, the Balkars, the Ingush, and the Chechens in the North Caucasus, and the Crimean Tatars, and Kalmyks, whose entire populations were deported. The deportations led to the deaths of a significant proportion of these populations, and the deportation of the Chechens and Ingush people has been recognised by the European Parliament as an act of Genocide.

[Read on OC Media: Opinion | Russia’s death train rolls through Chechnya and Ingushetia]

While the 10th-grade history book acknowledged that the deported nations were subjected to collective punishment through deportation, a chapter dedicated to the deportations read that ‘not only bandits and collaborators were repressed, but also many innocent people. The settlers had to endure many troubles and hardships. Justice was restored to them after 1953’.

The Soviet authorities load Chechens and Ingush into cattle waggons for deportation, likely taken in February 1944. Photo via Wikipedia.

Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s head, was outspoken in his criticism of the textbook, having recalled all textbooks from circulation in Chechnya and held discussions with the Ministry of Education about the introduction of amendments to the chapter.

Magomed Daudov, Chechnya’s parliamentary speaker, also spoke out against the new textbooks, stating that the nations that were deported had contributed heavily to resisting the German invasion.

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‘Thankfully, in our country, it is unacceptable to insult people. Moreover, people whose representatives have made an invaluable contribution to strengthening statehood and protecting the interests of the Motherland’, Daudov wrote on Telegram.

Daudov also said that representatives of the nations that were deported by the Soviet Union had created a joint working group to propose amendments to the controversial chapter.

On 19 October, Magomed Mutsolgov, the head of Mashr, an Ingush human rights organisation, wrote a statement demanding that the Prosecutor’s Office examine the textbook for ‘extremism’.

Also in Ingushetia, the Tsori clan sent an appeal to the Ingush parliament, asking them to create an expert commission to evaluate the textbook and to suspend its distribution until its ‘inaccuracies’ are corrected. 

Magas’s former mayor, Beslan Tsechoyev, directly addressed one of the authors of the textbook, Vladimir Medinsky, an assistant to Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying that the chapter discussing the deportations was ‘offensive and unfair’.

In Karachay-Cherkessia, the Congress of the Karachay People appealed in September to the State Duma to ‘prevent the circulation of the textbook’.

In its statement, the congress said that deported nations were grouped together in a section dedicated to actions committed by Nazi-aligned groups and forces.

‘Of course, this cannot but insult the representatives of the deported peoples of the USSR since the sons of these peoples fought bravely for the multinational Soviet people’, read the Karachay Congress statement.

RBC, a Russian news agency, reported that the Education Ministry’s examination of the textbook proved that its contents complied with Russia’s educational standards.

However, the Russian Ministry of Education published an amendment to the chapter on deportation in the textbook in October.

The amendments dropped any mention of nations or ethnic groups that were deported, and instead changed the contents of the chapter to say that ‘along with individual renegades and traitors, masses of completely innocent and loyal people, including those who fought in the Red Army, suffered’.

The changes were welcomed by groups in the Caucasus, including the Karachay Congress, which viewed them as ‘substantial and fair’.

On 10 November, Russia’s Minister of Education, Sergei Kravtsov, visited Chechnya to discuss the amendments with Kadyrov, who welcomed the changes.

‘Sergei Kravtsov presented me with a reissued history textbook for the 10th grade. All errors have been corrected, and rude language in the previous edition addressed to entire peoples subjected to Stalin’s repressions has been removed’, Kadyrov wrote on Telegram.

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