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books by authors such as John Keegan and Antony Beevor misinterpret information about World War II events, contradict historical documents and are infused with stereotypes of Nazi propaganda.”
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.”