Posted 26 января 10:03

Published 26 января 10:03

Modified 26 января 10:50

Updated 26 января 10:50

Education of hypocrisy: what can the returning of the Soviet literature into the school curricula lead to

26 января 2023, 10:03
Commenting on the decision to include "patriotic" works of Soviet literature in the school curriculum, analysts agree that this will do more harm than good

As you know, Putin signed a decree in which "the formation of a state order for the creation of works of literature and art is included in the tasks of the state cultural policy". In particular, it includes countering the "excessive use of foreign vocabulary", protecting the "institution of marriage as a union of men and women", and most importantly, ensuring the cultural sovereignty of Russia, as one of the main goals of state policy in this area.

This does not exhaust the changes in Russia's cultural policy: Soviet patriotic literature will be returned to the compulsory school curriculum, including: Nikolai Ostrovsky's novel "How Steel was Tempered", Alexey Tolstoy's story "Russian Character" and Sergei Smirnov's novella "Brest Fortress", Alexander Fadeev's novel "The Young Guard".

The initiators of these measures are apparently not at all embarrassed, to put it mildly, by the low artistic level of the returned literature, and the fact that these works were created with pronounced propaganda purposes.  

A direct road to doublethink

It was this circumstance that caused a mixed reaction on social networks.

For example, political scientist Alexey Makarkin is sure that the inclusion of these works in the compulsory school curriculum can only lead to an increase in doublethink, and on both sides — both students and teachers:

"The former, for the most part, will simply ignore these books, pragmatically preferring retellings, of which there are many on the Internet for such cases. As for teachers, a generation has changed in schools over three decades, and for a considerable part of teachers, official Soviet literature looks archaic — they either did not read it at all, or (those who are older) formally "passed" in a late Soviet school.

Therefore, if you introduce a "commitment", then you can get a new formality — these books will "pass" again, and in conditions when there is no "iron curtain" now, and cultural alternatives are much more accessible to both children and adolescents. By the way, in Soviet times, officialdom unintentionally contributed to such an interest in Nazism (which resulted in the mass publication of literature justifying Nazism in the post—Soviet years), which the modern West never dreamed of - however, this is unlikely to happen now, since the attraction of the global mainstream is much stronger..."

All these are dusty "yesterdays"

The famous literary critic Galina Yuzefovich is also sure that schoolchildren will not read these books:


"The Ministry of Education has promised to include "How steel was tempered" in the school literature curriculum, which makes us once again think about which of the Soviet eras the current Russian government is reconstructing.

It used to seem that it was late Soviet, Brezhnev, but now it is clear that it is not. During Brezhnev's time, the main public rhetoric remained peacemaking, unifying, and the main vector in relation to, say, the Great Patriotic War was the thesis "never again" and "a holiday with tears in your eyes" with a pronounced emphasis on the word "tears".

Well, "How steel was tempered" in the school curriculum is about the same thing: during my Brezhnev stagnant childhood, this book was already a little out of focus - it seemed to be passed, but I, for example, managed to completely skip it, although I was a responsible girl and generally an excellent student. That is, in the early 1980s Ostrovsky's book was already, excuse the expression, "dusty yesterday." And its actualization, characteristic, let's say delicately, for an earlier time, suggests bad thoughts.

However, this can now be said about almost anything..."

Tempering steel in our time is a dangerous occupation

Political commentator Dmitry Drize wittily noted the fact that, for example, Ostrovsky's novel can cause students not patriotic, but revolutionary feelings: 


"As you know, the novel "How Steel was Tempered" was a Soviet bestseller. Probably, many even very young people somewhere once heard the phrase: "Life is given only once, and it needs to be lived in such a way that it is not excruciatingly painful for the aimlessly lived years." But there are other interesting theses there, which it is not a sin to quote. For example: "You look, it used to happen, at the well-fed and dressed up gentlemen's sons, and hatred engulfs." Or another: "The slaves have risen up, and the old life must be put to the bottom. But for this we need a brave brotherhood, not mama's sons, but a strong breed of people."

It may seem that the narratives "brave brothers" and hatred of the lord's sons may well be in demand now. And not in the context of creativity, patriotism and Komsomol exploits. It may seem attractive to someone to expel clean bourgeois from a luxury train and force them to build a railway. Especially for those who do not have the funds for such trips.  You need to be more careful with Soviet works. Especially in such a difficult issue as the school curriculum.

And also, what about modern socialist realism? Where is the new patriotic classic to bring tears to your eyes? Where is the new Pavel Korchagin? Somehow it's not very good.

It is not easy to build communication with ideological people in general — they do not always understand the complexity of the moment. And as a result, there is a misunderstanding that can become a problem..."

Literature for every ideological taste

The analyst of the Neshulman channel generally believes that Russian literature will fit literally for any government, it has an ideology for every taste:


"Literary-centric Russia is again discussing the school curriculum in literature. We can say that the peculiar trouble of Russia is the abundance of good writers, you can't cram everyone into the school curriculum. On the other hand, any ideologically charged course can be made from good Russian literature. Military-patriotic, Orthodox, liberal, socialist... But neither society nor the state gives an order for such an integral discourse.

The school curriculum consists of pieces that I stumbled into there for the sake of individual groups and political conjuncture. Like Solzhenitsyn publicly supported Putin, let's put him in the program. Fadeev and Soviet Ostrovsky are also being returned there on a conjunctural basis.

Making a school course based on academic philology will also not work. Then schoolchildren will spend six months studying Dostoevsky with Nabokov..."