At first, the very political circumstances of Russia in the era of “mature Putinism” pushed the already-obedient ordinary Russian, who did not have his own opinion, toward a self-imposed Stalinization of mind. But this was during the stage of authoritarian practices. Totalitarian practices presuppose unanimity, which is achieved by the unification of ideas about history and ideology.
The instrument for this unification is school history textbooks, in particular the textbook for the 11th grade by Vladimir Medinsky and Anatoly Torkunov
, which plays the role of Stalin’s History of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks): Short Course
, and university textbooks on the “Fundamentals of Russian Statehood,”
designed to play the role of “Scientific Communism,” taught in the Soviet years.
The monstrous Stalinist dystopia that has become reality is presented in the Medinsky-Torkunov textbook as a blissful retro-utopia. It is a rewritten history of a sacralized state: there are heroes and events, but not the same as in real history – they are bureaucrats and generals and abstract human robots who care exclusively about their fatherland’s state.
This is applied history – adapted to the intellectual and moral occupation of society by official Putinism. The single textbook forces young people starting life, if not to think in a way that is convenient for the dictatorship, then at least to publicly
follow the “correct” discourse formulated by it – otherwise they will not pass the history exam and will not be allowed to enter adulthood. The Medinsky-Torkunov textbook becomes a sort of ticket to adult life, a fee that must be paid for entry.
A sample assignment for high school students: “Read an excerpt from J. Stalin’s speech at the election meeting of voters from the Stalinist Electoral District in Moscow (February 9, 1946). Answer the questions and complete the assignments. 1. Which of the plans for the development of the national economy formulated by Stalin were short-term, and which were long-term? 2. How much time did he give for achieving the short-term development plans? 3. What are the minimum terms given for achieving the long-term plans for the development of the Soviet national economy?”
The conversation is being conducted as if it were Putin’s recent keynote speech on social and economic development.
The technology of re-Stalinization is the justification of repression, the simplification of historical realities, omissions and, of course, outright lies. Here is a sample: “Former accomplices of the invaders were systematically identified and imprisoned. Members of the peoples resettled in Kazakhstan, Central Asia and other eastern regions of the country during the war years continued to live there until the mid-1950s.”
“Members of the peoples resettled there during the war years” are the accomplices of the invaders? Who are these peoples? How many of their “members” were deported? How did the drama of resettlement unfold? These questions are not answered. It is also not explained that in a number of cases they were forced to live in exile not until the mid-1950s, but much longer.
The repressed of the past are the forerunners of those who today oppose the Putin regime. And to assert the correctness of today’s acts of state violence, the authorities need to repress the memory of political persecution in the Soviet era, both Stalinist and late-Soviet.
Links to the current day come up several times in the Medinsky-Torkunov textbook.