Russophobia in Central Asian Schoolbooks?

by Laurence on 8/25/2004 · 3 comments

That is why the very first history textbook for the 5th grade in Uzbek secondary schools immediately explains that “units of the Russian Red Army that invaded Central Asia and were notorious for atrocities were formed of criminals.” The chapter with the poetic title “Independence Murdered in Cradle” (no need to explain by whom, is there?) proceeds to announce that “deliberate and planned campaign of destruction of Kokand [a major city in Uzbekistan] was headed by Vladimir Lenin himself” (this is rubbish, because Lenin was in a wheelchair by then). Or take the textbook for the 9th grade where amiable epithets with regard to Russia are used on 292 occasions – “Russian invaders”, “Russian colonizers”, “Russian spies”. The term “Russian doctors” who saved the population of Bukhara and Kokand in the outbreak of plague in 1910 was never mentioned. Why bother? Better to use the malicious “Russia is a thief on the global scale” or “history itself made colonizers out of Russians.” Textbooks for the 11th grades call rescue from the Russian yoke a “Transition from totalitarianism to democracy”. To whoever has any doubts: democracy is what Uzbekistan has, these days.

Full story at Ferghana.Ru .

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Nathan August 25, 2004 at 10:56 am

That’s just great. My 11th form lyceum students ate up the ideology that took the place of content in their books.

Every week or two, I had my students read and discuss a one-page article from Newsweek. One of the ones that stuck in my mind was an article on a nightclub operating on land that had once been part of Auschwitz.

This eventually got into the topic of WWII in general and the Holocaust. My students were mostly married to the “official version” of the war that they received in school. The war was viewed through the lens of Russia vs. Uzbeks, and turncoats who fought for the Muslim Legion were heroes (oddly, those who fought for the Soviets were also heroes…). There was no discussion of the Nazis or their crimes. Following from that, my students knew nothing of the Holocaust–only that Jews had received “rough treatment.” I filled them in on a few of the details they had missed, but I was still quite shocked.

Mark Hamm August 25, 2004 at 5:53 pm

Interesting story. Do you think the author is looking at this rationally? Are any Uzbeks complaining? Is this a wide spread problem?

When I was in school, i remember the slanded history eventually tended to make me more cynical of historical reporting. Maybe this will happen to the Russian neighbors.

Nathan August 26, 2004 at 11:10 am

It is an enormous problem. Despite the failings of our textbooks, we still value and reward critical-thinking skills in our educational institutions (though on a bad day I’d say we don’t) and society. Uzbekistan values hierarchy and obedience. I noticed that when people start to question the received wisdom–usually because they’ve realized that you don’t get ahead on merit–their reaction is to give up and become angry. The choices are to buy in 100% or opt out 100%. I found it to be a pretty ugly thing to happen to people.

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