04/12/2014, 00.00
RUSSIA - UKRAINE
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Russian schools to teach new course on Crimean "reunification"

by Nina Achmatova
The topic is not yet in history books, but schools are already teaching kids about how the region was "donated" to the Ukraine in 1954, when the two countries were still part of the Soviet Union. A teacher complains about student "brainwashing".

Moscow (AsiaNews) - It will take some time to revise Russia's history textbooks to include the annexation of Crimea, but that is not preventing the authorities from changing the country's school curriculum to give students a politically - and patriotically - correct line on the issue.

In recent weeks, a new course titled 'We Are Together' has been introduced in high schools throughout the country, Radio Free Europe reported.

The course presents the annexation as a "reunification of Crimea with Russia," the exact phrase used by Russian authorities with regards to Crimea's territorial and cultural affiliation with Russia, which gave the region to the Ukraine in 1954, when the two countries were still part of the Soviet Union.

Officials from the ruling United Russia party have joined teachers to give lectures on patriotism as part of the course.

"As a former teacher, I understand that the events in Ukraine, Crimea, and Russia need to be clarified for students," said Nikolai Bulayev, a State Duma deputy from the United Russia party. "We need to explain the position taken by our president to them," he added.

"Of course, not all states want to see a strong Russia that carries out its foreign policy according to its national interests," history teacher Lybov Moskalyova told her students. Still, "I am happy for Russia, I am proud of my president," she added whilst providing information about Crimea's economy, geography and history.

One student, Yegor Tsvetkov said that "reunification" is just a first step toward a Russian takeover of eastern Ukraine, something that many fear in the international community.

"A referendum should be conducted in [eastern Ukraine] to see what percentage of the population supports unification with Russia," Tsvetkov said. "I'm sure, an absolute majority would vote in favour."

Another student, Arseniy disagrees. "I support my country but I think the confrontation with the West is stupid," he said.

For Tamara Eidelman, who teaches history at School No. 567 in Moscow, "This is outrageous. It's an outright brainwashing of children".

She pointed out that the course presents the facts in a partial way, omitting, for example, significant events such as the mass deportation of Crimean Tatars during the Second World War.

Mikhail Kopitsa, a history teacher in the northwestern city of Arkhangelsk, said that he was reprimanded and required to write an official letter of explanation after criticising Russia's military presence in Crimea.

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