Judging a book by its cover II

3 October 2023, 0536 EDT

Part I here if you are interested

On the day of German reunification anniversary I bring you the sequel to the post on the new Russian history book. Only, if you read this history book, you will not find the term “reunification” – it’s reserved for Crimea and Donbas – instead, you will find a passage about Western Germany “annexing” the Eastern one. Believe it or not, it is actually a toned down version of another history textbook co-authored by Medinsky: in “World History for 11th grade” he straight up called it an “Anschluss” highlighted in bold. Yes, the untranslated German term that was reserved to what Nazi Germany did to Austria. I remember laughing some 15 years ago about a guy who called the re-unification of Germany an Anschluss during the exam at MGIMO and getting a lower grade it for it. I am no longer laughing.

Since I published part I, Chechen authorities took this history book out of circulation from Chechen schools because of the minimisation of the deportation tragedy (a good German word for it is Verharmlosung). Chechen Parliament’s speaker Daudov offered a harsh critique that he subsequently deleted from his Telegram channel, but it speaks volumes that in the current political climate in Russia, only Chechen authorities can afford to criticise even Soviet era policies and even get an apology from Medinsky himself. Can’t wait for the erratum, maybe the authors will expand the list of people the Soviet regime harmed?

Back to the book though. Apart from Ukraine, the authors are understandably obsessed with the US. There are some really, let’s say, creative, primary sources used throughout. For instance, this quote from Stalin:

…The Americans are generally incapable of waging a big war, especially after the Korean War. All their strength lies in raids and the atomic bomb. England will not fight over America. America cannot defeat little Korea. We need firmness in relations with the Americans. Americans are merchants. Every American soldier is a speculator, engaged in buying and selling. The main weapons of the Americans are stockings, cigarettes and others goods for sale. 

Medinsky, Torkunov 2023

The book also took offence at “pro-American magazines” who dared to call Stalin a dictator and tyrant after his death. Where is the suitable decorum and grief, incredulously asks Medinsky on page 60? But politesse was not the only thing the US was not great at. Of course, its main aim was to surround the USSR with military bases and nuclear weapons “that could reach Moscow only in 10-15 min”. During the Cuban missile crisis, Khrushchev managed to avoid the nuclear war and get the nuclear weapons out of Turkey, but no worries, next we move on to the Vietnam war, “one of the most shameful pages in American history”. After the positive developments in Soviet-American relations, the book moves on to pretty much Gorbachov’s character assassination, where he allegedly made a number of concessions to “the West” because Western leaders and media were praising him for it. “In 1990, Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The reaction to it in the USSR was hostile and cold, while in the West, his contribution to ending the Cold War was noted”. I am amazed that the textbook does not bring up Gorbachov’s Pizza Hut commercial.

The end of the Cold War is, a big topic as well as the collapse of Soviet Union. The book makes sure to bring up several quotes from American officials about how they would love Soviet Union to fall apart. Of course, post Cold War, the US broke its promises and included Eastern European countries into NATO (as though the countries had zero agency on their own):

Behind the desire of the United States to play the role of a world leader under the slogans of “democracy” and “globalism” was hidden a desire to firmly advance its interests, not stopping at the use of force in circumvention of international law.

Medinsky, Torkunov 2023

After all, “Russia is resisting persistent attempts of the West to provoke internal instability in the CIS countries and organise new “color revolutions”. The ultimate goal of the United States and its allies is to create chaos and instability along the perimeter of our borders and the subsequent development of these territories by NATO forces” (p. 378). After that we move on to the photographs of new missiles developed in Russia and a matter-of-fact text box about Crimea annexation, I mean “reunification”. I am afraid chapter 37 on the “reasons Russia was forced to begin the special military operation” needs another post.