Vladimir Putin has saved human civilisation by invading Ukraine, according to a new propaganda-heavy textbook being taught to Russian schoolchildren.
As the Kremlin struggles to explain to ordinary Russians why they are being asked to make sacrifices for the brutal invasion of its neighbour, Putin’s regime has doubled down on brainwashing students.
A year after Russia’s president ordered his officials to come up with a new history textbook for Year 11, the final year in Russian high schools, authorities have formalised a narrative that seeks to justify the Russian invasion and portray Moscow as a victim of the scheming West.
The textbook’s last chapter falsely claims that Ukraine was going to join Nato when President Putin decided to invade.
Ukrainian membership of the alliance, which still appears to be a distant prospect, would have forced Russia to declare war on the whole of Nato, the book claims: “This could have been the end of civilisation. [We] could not let it happen.”
The authors also suggested that if Putin had waited, instead of attacking Ukraine, Russia would be in a sorry state, like it was in 1941 when it was invaded by Nazi Germany.
The book was co-written by Vladimir Medinsky, a former Russian culture minister who took part in failed peace talks with Ukraine last spring.
Making up facts
Mr Medinsky, who gained notoriety for making up historical “facts” in his research, has for years been dodging accusations of plagiarising his doctorate degree as independent researchers discovered that he lifted whole passages from other work without citing it.
In the new textbook, the former culture minister has written a chapter titled “Russia is a country of heroes” which gives a brief summary of military “feats” performed by 18 Russian commanders and fighters in Ukraine.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Mr Medinsky insisted it was essential to tell students about Russian soldiers in Ukraine. He said: “How can we not talk about it? It would be dishonest!”
Previous editions of school history textbooks have contained brief mentions of post-Soviet historical events and steered clear of offering any opinion on them.
The new textbooks, which will be obligatory for all state schools, contain blatant historical inaccuracies and seem to parrot the Kremlin’s propaganda line on Ukraine.
One passage claimed that Ukraine is an “ultra-nationalist state” where “opposition has been banned and all things Russian have been branded as enemy”.
The textbook also erroneously claims that Ukraine had been plotting to turn the Black Sea port of Sevastopol into a Nato base before Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014.
It also describes the ensuing separatist war in eastern Ukraine as a popular uprising of local citizens while failing to mention that the fighting was triggered by rogue soldiers, led by former Russian intelligence agent Igor Girkin and latterly by regular Russian troops.
Putin last week asked the education minister to make sure the textbook is printed and delivered to all schools in Russia by the start of the new academic year next month.
Alliance of Teachers, an independent Russian teachers’ trade union, in a statement on Wednesday suggested that parents who were “shocked” by the government’s attempts to brainwash their children could apply for home-schooling on individual subjects, including history.