Globalisation, ideology and history school textbooks: Russia

Year: 2013

Author: Zajda, Joseph, Zajda, Rea

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Using mixed methodologies research methods: the survey and discourse analysis, the paper reports on the findings of an ARC Discovery Grant (2011-2014) ‘Globalising studies of the politics of history education: a comparative analysis of history national curriculum implementation in Russia and Australia’ and the recent survey of 200 history teachers in the RF. The survey focused on representations of historical narratives covering 1762-2011, dealing with analysis of the success and failures of the Tsarist regime, the Bolshevik regime, and Russian leaders. The respondents were also asked to list up to 5 significant events in Russian history of the past 100 years that the history textbooks either ignore or underemphasise. Of the 1,000 possible responses by 200 respondents to 5 events, collapse of the USSR, the Civil War, the October Revolution, and political repressions topped the list.
Consequently, the main aim of this paper is to offer an analysis of the survey, with reference to the nexus between ideology, the state, and nation-building—as depicted in current history school textbooks in the Russian Federation (RF). This paper employs the term ‘ideology’ as ‘supra-individual cultural phenomenon’ (Namenwirth & Weber, 1987, Zajda, 2012). The most important function of ideology, in general, is to legitimise political and social action, by validating its goals and means. Ideological symbols, as essential elements of discourse, represent, to use Max Weber’s term, the ‘value-ideas’. Some scholars argue that school history textbooks, represent a clear manifestation of ideological discourses in historiography and historical understandings (Zajda and Whitehouse, 2009, Zajda, 2012). The ideological function of textbooks has been analysed by Apple (1979, 2004), Anyon (1979), Geertz, (1964), Sutherland, (1985), Macintyre & Clark (2003), Pratte, (1977), Zajda (2009a) and others, mainly through the framework of structuralist and post-structuralist discourses in curriculum and pedagogy.
The analysis of history textbooks and the survey data demonstrate that there has been a definite ideological shift in interpretation and emphasis of historical narratives. It signals a pronounced exercise in forging a new identity, nation-building and a positive re-affirmation of the greatness of the present Russian state (Zajda, 2012). In general, school history textbooks, as demonstrated by the survey, continue to emphasise the historical greatness of Russia.