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HOLOCAUST EDUCATION AND GENOCIDE PREVENTION

Russia

Russia

RUSSIA is a former Soviet Republic. The people in the Soviet Union were provided with the official Soviet view of the Nazis as, above all, enemies of communism and with the war as less about the Holocaust and more about the heroism of the Russian people.

According to Russian Holocaust scholar Ilya Altman, “from the mid-1940s until the late 1980s, the Holocaust was omitted from school and university textbooks, encyclopedias, and monographs for exclusively political reasons. The ideological mechanisms of forgetting the memory assumed different forms: omitting it in silence, distorting historical facts, and direct falsification.”  Holocaust education in RUSSIA, then, really began in the early 1990s, following the formal disintegration of the Soviet Union. read more

In 1991, a group of 200 historians, journalists, teachers, researchers, and students formed the Russian Research and Educational Holocaust Center (RREHC) in Moscow. Altman currently co-directs the center. In 1997, the Interregional Holocaust Foundation created a regional framework for representatives in several more Russian cities and in the Belarusian city of Brest to coordinate Holocaust awareness efforts.  Since the 1990s, the RREHC has pushed to bring Holocaust education into Russian schools, publishing scholarly articles, training educators, and providing source materials to both private Jewish and public school teachers in Russia. These materials include teaching and study aids published in the series The Russian Library of the Holocaust as well as documentary films. In 2009, Yad Vashem received a sizeable grant in part to promote Holocaust education in Russian-speaking countries and has worked with the RREHC and other partners to do so, largely in the realm of teacher training.

Besides RREHC, Eva and the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture serve as charitable and cultural organizations for the Jewish communities of St. Petersburg and the former Soviet Union, respectively. Eva opened the city’s first Holocaust museum and coordinates the Jewish Society of Concentration Camp and Ghetto Survivors. In November 2008, Eva organized the “Festival of Tolerance” to celebrate the 130th anniversary of the birth of Janusz Korschak. The festival included an exhibition about the Holocaust and educator workshops.  The Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, established in 1965 and based in the United States, has also forged awareness in the Jewish community and, more generally, the former Soviet Union, of the history of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe.

Only in the past few years has the Russian government developed a serious interest in formally supporting Holocaust education. Rising xenophobia and antisemitism following the collapse of the Soviet Union have led Russian politicians to take steps to promote Holocaust education in the public schools. A report on a 2010 country visit by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) highlighted Russia’s official efforts to discourage antisemitism after several high-profile attacks earlier in the decade. The Ministry of Education currently “considers fighting antisemitism to be a focus of its efforts.” It worked with the RREHC to develop a program called “Lessons of the Holocaust—a Path to Tolerance” within the existing curricular framework. Though the Russian Ministry can set federal education standards, it can only suggest the materials to be used in school curricula. According to the OSCE report, however, the Ministry is working to distribute materials from the “Lessons of the Holocaust” program to be used in teacher training programs that would be included in history, literature, and world culture courses for high school students.

There have been two recent unique events regarding Holocaust education in Russia. First, in early March 2012, the Russian Ministry of Education announced that the Holocaust would become a mandatory part of the national curriculum and that new textbooks would be distributed to allow Russian teachers to teach it adequately. The second, later that month, concerned an episode of a popular game show that gained international attention. Two telegenic twins competing on a Russian game show were asked, “What was the Holocaust?,” and admitted that the term “says nothing” to them, guessing that “We think that the Holocaust is wallpaper paste.” The clip went viral on YouTube, as the total lack of knowledge exhibited by the twins seemed to indicate that awareness of the Holocaust is limited in Russia.  

In an attempt to create more awareness about the Holocaust in Russia, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre and the Association “Verbe et Lumiere” at UNESCO organize a regular “Russian Holocaust Essay Contest.”

RESOURCES

GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES ON HOLOCAUST EDUCATION: Trends, Patterns, and Practices,  a publication of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and  the Salzburg Global Seminar, 2013
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GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES ON HOLOCAUST EDUCATION: Country updates 2014, published ahead of the Salzburg Global Seminar session Holocaust and Genocide Education: Sharing Experience Across Borders

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UNITED STATES HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM Encyclopedia Articles

LINKS

Russian Research and Holocaust Education Center
http://en.holocf.ru/

Anne Frank House
http://www.annefrank.org/en/Education/Travelling-exhibition/Europe/Russia/

European Holocaust Remembrance Infrastructure
http://www.ehri-project.eu/content/russia
 
UNESCO
http://www.unesco.org/new/en/media-services/single-view/news/unesco_celebrates_the_9th_russian_holocaust_essay_competition_ceremony/#.UiMibT9FrXU

USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive
http://libguides.usc.edu/content.php?pid=58585&sid=489673

Yad Vashem
http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/righteous/stories/russia.asp

FURTHER READING

Baker, Rabbi Andrew. Country Visit: Russian Federation Report of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chair-in-Office on Combating Anti-Semitism, December 14-17, 2010. Vienna: Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. 3 Mar, 2011.

 

 

FELLOW UPDATE

Alexander Engels, Museum of Jewish Heritage and Holocaust, Director

 

Alexander organized a museum event on the fate of Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust at the Museum of Jewish Heritage and Holocaust, and installed a traveling exhibition on Hungarian Jews during WWII.