Ideology and Historical Narratives in Prescribed School Textbooks: Russia

Year: 2016

Author: Zajda, Joseph, Zajda, Rea

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The main aim of this paper is provide a new understanding of the nexus between ideology, the state, and nation-building—as depicted in secondary history school textbooks in Russia. Nation-building historians make extensive use of historical narratives to promote sentiments and aspirations that reflect the desired ideology, language and symbols. An example of the nationalist’s image of nation-building is a composite national mythology of the desire to return to a golden age of the Ancient Russia. Some scholars argue that school history textbooks, represent a clear manifestation of ideological discourses in historiography and historical understandings (Zajda & Whitehouse, 2009, Zajda, 2015). The ideological function of textbooks, has been mainly through This paper continues such analysis. Using the framework of structuralist and post-structuralist discourses in curriculum and pedagogy, and mixed methodologies research methods: a survey (using a questionnaire) and discourse analysis, the article analyses and discusses the findings of the survey. This paper is fully based on the funded research findings for the Australian Research Council Discovery Grant DP110101320 (2011-2015). The analysis of a sample of prescribed history textbooks in the Russian Federation (RF) demonstrates that there has been a visible ideological shift towards the national ideology in historical narratives. It signals a pronounced exercise in forging a desirable new identity, nation-building and a positive re-affirmation of the greatness of the present Russian state (Zajda, 2015). It also represents a clear denial or another form of ‘characteristic amnesia’, as certain controversial issues are either ignored or not discussed critically. Instead, it suggests an existence of the nexus between ideology, the state, and nation-building, as depicted in historical narratives of the more recent prescribed and approved by the Ministry of Education and Science school textbooks. It also demonstrates that the issue of national identity and balanced representations of the past continue to dominate the debate surrounding the content and pedagogy of history textbooks in the RF. For Russia, undergoing an all-too-familiar process of nation-building, the three most significant issues defining an ideological re-positioning of the politically correct historical narratives are—preferred images of the past, patriotism and national identity. The paper concludes that competing discourses and ideologies will continue to define and shape the nature and significance of historical knowledge, ideologies and the direction of values education in prescribed history textbooks in Russia.