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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Critics: Books Skewing History

APNikita Zagladin's textbook "History of Russia and the World in the 20th Century."
If you can judge a book by its cover, then "History of Russia and the World in the 20th Century" tells students the Soviet past was all pride and glory -- three of four cover photos invoke Soviet propaganda images.

That goes for what's inside, too: The textbook for Russian high school seniors touts the Soviet system's achievements -- but treads lightly, if at all, on its failures and abuses.

It is virtually mute on the deportation of ethnic groups under Stalin that left hundreds of thousands dead and sowed the resentment that exploded in Chechnya a half-century later. The gulag gets scant attention and anti-Semitism the barest of mentions.

Critics warn that sanitizing Russia's tormented history will leave students unprepared to cope with the challenges they face in the post-Soviet era.

"The gulag is given minimal coverage in textbooks. Yet without the gulag, they cannot understand the history of the Soviet Union and Russia. Without these pages, their education will not be complete," said Semyon Vilensky, a 76-year-old survivor of the gulag who heads an association that documents horrors of the Stalin era.

Three of four photos on the cover of "History of Russia and the World in the 20th Century" carry Soviet propaganda images: Moscow's soaring "Worker and Collective Farm Girl" statue, a poster reading, "The Motherland Is Calling," and the Soyuz-Apollo space docking. The fourth is a shot of the United Nations headquarters.

The textbook, by Nikita Zagladin, is not the only one rife with such gaps, critics say.

Most 20th-century Russian history school textbooks fail to emphasize the mammoth human rights violations committed by the totalitarian Soviet state, a survey commissioned by the Andrei Sakharov Museum found.

"In the majority of textbooks, this period and the aspect of violence as the main method of implementing Soviet ideals is either addressed extremely briefly, or even if in greater detail -- it is completely void of any historical, political and ethical judgment," said Yury Samodurov, the director of the museum.

One textbook that did highlight crimes committed by the Soviet state was pulled from schools last year in a move critics said smacked of politics. The seventh edition of Igor Dolutsky's "National History: 20th Century" -- which invited students to discuss whether President Vladimir Putin could be considered an authoritarian leader -- was stripped of its Education Ministry license just days before the December parliamentary elections.

Unlike many other books, Dolutsky's emphasizes crimes the Soviet state committed against millions of its own citizens and insists on the importance of the Allied participation in World War II.

The book earned mixed reviews from educators and historians, but it offended a group of war veterans who complained to Putin that it was unpatriotic.

The complaint was in line with Putin's directive to historians last year: "Textbooks should provide historical facts, and they must cultivate a sense of pride among youth in their history and country."

Soon after, the government decided to subject textbooks to additional scrutiny.

Zagladin said it would be unfair to give children "an entirely negative view of the Soviet era as a time of a reign of terror and darkness."

"Approximately 18 million people suffered during the wave of mass repressions. ... No doubt, this is a great tragedy," Zagladin said. "But at the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that during the same time period the lives of a great number of people drastically changed for the better."