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Nordic Russian and Eastern European Studies Conference
Intentions, Interactions and Paradoxes in Post-Socialist Space
24-25 May 2013 in Helsinki, Finland

Abstracts

Russian History and Culture in post-Soviet Textbooks
Chair: Sanna Turoma (Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki, Finland)
Discussant: Susanna Rabow-Edling (Uppsala Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies, University of Uppsala, Sweden)
Alla Marchenko (Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Ukraine) and Sergiy Kurbatov (Uppsala Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies, University of Uppsala, Sweden): Who played chess of perestroika? The representation of Mikhail Gorbachev in Post-Soviet historical textbooks
Kåre Johan Mjør (Uppsala Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies, University of Uppsala, Sweden): Does Philosophy have a National Past? The Representation of Russian Philosophy in Post-Soviet Historiography
Jutta Scherrer (Ecole des hautes etudes en sciences sociales, France): The Foundations of Orthodox Culture – a Culturology for Children?
Mikhail Suslov (Uppsala Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies, University of Uppsala, Sweden): Spatial Imagination and Identity-Making in Contemporary Russian Manuals on Geopolitics

This panel focuses on how Russian history and culture are represented in post-Soviet textbooks – in schoolbooks as well as university manuals. In addition to exploring the content of various kinds of textbooks, the participants intend also to address broader issues related to processes of identity-formation, as these come to expression in the historical narratives and the drawing of cultural boundaries in this material.
The first paper by Sergiy Kurbatov and Alla Marchenko analyzes how the last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, is represented in school and university textbooks of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. All these countries were the part of the USSR during the perestroika period, but after the collapse of the Soviet Union they have followed different socio-political trajectories. How are these socio-political contexts reflected in the official narratives of Gorbachev’s project of perestroika in these three countries?
The second paper by Kåre Johan Mjør is devoted to the historiography of Russian philosophy as it appears in post-Soviet university manuals, the number of which has increased significantly since 2000. How is a Russian national tradition in philosophy – a discipline that otherwise operates with a universal truth-claim not bound by its cultural settings – created and defended in these texts? Particular emphasis will be put on their rejection of the alleged Eurocentrism of Western philosophy and their idea of Russian philosophy as an independent “integral history” of otechestvennaia filosofiia.
Jutta Scherrer’s paper explores the “The Foundations of Orthodox Culture,” an optional course that was introduced in Russian schools in 2010. She will examine more closely the textbooks written for this course and discuss the version of Orthodoxy and “Russian Orthodox culture” disseminated in this course in the context of the overall “cultural” (or “culturological”) and “civilizational” turn in post-Soviet intellectual and academic culture.
Mikhail Suslov, finally, analyzes Russian university textbooks on geopolitics, the number of which soared up from 9 published in the period between 1993 and 2000 to 67 between 2001 and 2008. This quantitative leap was paralleled by the resurrection of “classic geopolitics,” which informs most of these manuals. Suslov argues that spatial imagination in textbooks is centered on such geopolitical “constants” as the conflict between continental and maritime powers, the importance of geographical centrality, the concept of the “pivot” Eurasian landmasses, and so on. These discourses soothe the “trauma” of the Soviet Union’s dissolution and offer a geopolitical context in which Russia still continues to play the central role in the world.