Rus­sia or­ders re­moval of Bri­tish his­to­ri­ans’ books


Rus­sian of­fi­cials have or­dered li­braries to re­move books by well­known Bri­tish his­to­ri­ans John Kee­gan and Antony Beevor, say­ing they pro­mote Nazi-era stereo­types, a spokes­woman said Wed­nes­day.

The move is among a raft of mea­sures to ex­clude per­ceived for­eign in­flu­ence from fields such as ed­u­ca­tion, and to stream­line his­tor­i­cal nar­ra­tive by lim­it­ing al­ter­na­tive view­points.

The re­gional ed­u­ca­tion min­istry in Sverdlovsk, near the Ural Moun­tains, is­sued a de­cree telling school and univer­sity li­braries to “check the avail­abil­ity of books” by the his­to­ri­ans and “take mea­sures to re­move them from ac­cess by stu­dents and teach­ing staff.”

Both Kee­gan, who died in 2012, and Beevor are re­puted mil­i­tary his­to­ri­ans with a fo­cus on World War II.

Beevor’s award-win­ning best­sellers, par­tic­u­larly “Ber­lin: The Down­fall 1945,” have been crit­i­cized in Rus­sia for fo­cus­ing on atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted by the ad­vanc­ing Red Army.

Sverdlovsk of­fi­cials claimed that un­spec­i­fied books by the au­thors “prop­a­gate stereo­types formed dur­ing the Third Re­ich,” ac­cord­ing to the scan of the de­cree posted by lo­cal news web­site E1.

A spokes­woman for the re­gion’s gover­nor, Yu­lia Voron­ina, con­firmed the de­cree to AFP, adding that the li­brary in­spec­tion was on­go­ing.

In a state­ment sent to AFP, the re­gional ad­min­is­tra­tion said “many his­to­ri­ans be­lieve that books by au­thors such as John Kee­gan and Antony Beevor mis­in­ter­pret in­for­ma­tion about World War II events, con­tra­dict his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ments and are in­fused with stereo­types of Nazi pro­pa­ganda.”

‘Ide­o­log­i­cal con­trol’

Rus­sia’s Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin in 2013 or­dered the cre­ation of one ap­proved line of history text­books for all Rus­sian schools, which is meant to “show the chronol­ogy of events and their of­fi­cial eval­u­a­tion” and will be in­tro­duced to the school sys­tem this year.

Rus­sia — locked in its worst stand­off with the West since the Cold War over the Ukraine cri­sis — has re­cently in­ten­si­fied its cam­paign against Western in­flu­ences.

Ac­cord­ing to the Sverdlovsk author­i­ties, Beevor and Kee­gan’s books have been pub­lished in Rus­sia by the Open So­ci­ety Foun­da­tions of U.S. bil­lion­aire phi­lan­thropist Ge­orge Soros.

Last month the up­per house of par­lia­ment drew up a list of “un­de­sir­able” or­ga­ni­za­tions rec­om­mended for ban­ning, in­clud­ing the Soros foun­da­tions.

Rus­sia’s ed­u­ca­tion min­istry on Mon­day or­dered of­fi­cials to comb through text­books for any “in­au­then­tic data” or in­for­ma­tion deemed “pro­pa­ganda of war” in or­der to draw up a register of ap­proved pub­lish­ers.

The Moscow-based Sova cen­ter, which has re­ceived fund­ing from Soros’ foun­da­tions and works on mon­i­tor­ing na­tion­al­ism and xeno­pho­bia in Rus­sia, said the cam­paign against history books is ide­o­log­i­cally mo­ti­vated.

The books do con­tain “crit­i­cism of the Soviet lead­er­ship and men­tion facts about vi­o­lence by the Soviet army against Ger­many’s civil­ian pop­u­la­tion,” the cen­tre said in a state­ment on its web­site.

But that doesn’t make Kee­gan and Beevor Nazi ide­o­logues, it said.

“The author­i­ties are try­ing to jus­tify ide­o­log­i­cal con­trol over ed­u­ca­tional literature by these loud and un­sub­stan­ti­ated al­le­ga­tions,” it said.

Soros’ Open So­ci­ety Foun­da­tions — which no longer have of­fices in Rus­sia — have been vil­i­fied by author­i­ties in the coun­try for al­legedly try­ing to med­dling in Moscow’s in­ter­nal af­fairs.

They had funded a book pro­gram in Rus­sia which supplied re­gional li­braries at a time when state fund­ing ran dry.

Pro-Krem­lin news­pa­per Izves­tia last month de­nounced the pro­gram, say­ing it “planted the re­quired ide­ol­ogy un­der the guise of phi­lan­thropy and en­light­en­ment.”

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