Whitewashing Banderists: Ukraine Plans to Rewrite History Textbooks for Schools

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard



Ukraine once again plans to rewrite history textbooks. The Ministry of Education assures: cardinal changes are not foreseen. Meanwhile, in Lvov there are already demands to withdraw various textbooks due to the fact that inside them the scandalous Roland and Nachtigall battalions are described as collaborators. “Vesti” found out what will change in textbooks and why it was decided to rewrite them before elections.

Demands to withdraw various textbooks

At the end of October deputies of the Lvov regional council appealed to the Institute of Educational Content Modernisation of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine with the demand to withdraw from circulation the 10th class textbook History: Ukraine and the World authored by Mudriy and Arkusha [see the bottom of the article – ed]. Deputies were displeased with the fact that the portrait of the head of UPA Roman Shukhevych is published in subparagraph 33.4 “National military formations in the German army. Manifestations of Collaborationism”. The authors are also demanded to withdraw the specifying wording “Manifestations of Collaborationism”, but in the next edition to leave the title “National Military Formations in the German Army”. In addition, the authors are demanded to remove from the 10th–11th class textbooks the equation of collaborators with the scandalous “Roland” and “Nachtigall” battalions, which for a long time were considered to be punisher battalions as a part of the SS, consisting mainly of the Ukrainian nationalists.

“Vesti” contacted one of the authors of this textbook Maryan Mudriy, but he refused to comment on this incident. And his colleagues, in particular – 250 Ukrainian historians, already signed an open letter in which they said that such attacks on the authors of the textbook are an attempt to impose on both the scientific community and the general public a single interpretation of the Ukrainian past.

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In addition, the commission of experts of the Ministry of Education earlier found a “gender imbalance” in history textbooks. Only 9% of the images of historic figures are women.

What will be rewritten

In turn, the Ministry of Education said that it is already working to revise the school program for history. And it won’t be limited to the 10th-11th classes. As it follows from the order of the Ministry of Education, it is planned to correct textbooks for all classes. And a working group of 25 experts – among who there are schools teachers, historians, representatives of the Institute of National Memory headed by Vladimir Vyatrovich, and the head of the Center for Research on the Genocide of the Ukrainian People – is already engaged in revising the history of Ukraine.

From the document it follows that new editions of history textbooks were supposed to be submitted for a public discussion on November 8th. But this did not happen. As a member of the working group, the history teacher from the Kiev sports lyceum-boarding school Aleksandr Guk, told “Vesti”, on November 16th the working group managed to consider only one program — for the 11th class, which will be published in the next few days. “We still haven’t even considered all the other programs. So far only two meetings have taken place,” explained Guk to “Vesti”.

Members of the working group still remain secretive concerning what exactly they plan to change in textbooks, but they unanimously promise that cardinal changes are not expected. “It will only be an update. The fact is that during this year representatives of the Institute of History of Ukraine, the National Academy of Pedagogical Sciences, the Institute of National Memory, and others carried out historical research, which revealed new details. That’s why now they make suggestions concerning the contents and the improvement of concepts. But if amendments are made, then it will be only clarifications, and not innovations,” said the head of the sector of methodical work of the Institute of National Memory Anna Baykenich to “Vesti”.

One more purpose of this working group, as Guk said, is the optimisation of the program for the purpose of making it more understandable for pupils. “We are also working on unloading the training program as much as possible and to make it more accessible and clear for pupils. We are also making sure that the textbooks for the 11th class do not repeat the material of past years that they have already learned,” said Guk to “Vesti”. And Maryan Mudriy, who is in this case the deputy head of the working group, added that a lot of attention is paid to terminology. “It can happen that we discuss one term for half a day,” he said.

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Is rewriting history necessary?

It should be noted that rewriting history textbooks is an habitual affair for Ukraine. As the head of the Institute of National Memory Vladimir Vyatrovich told “Vesti”, representatives of his institute regularly participate in the development of new educational programs concerning the history of Ukraine. “Since 2014 and to this day our employees regularly take part in this process. We pay special attention to Holodomor, Ukrainian dissidents, UPA, and many other facts that were distorted as a result of the previous government’s interference in history textbooks,” said Vyatrovich to “Vesti”.

The last government also rewrote textbooks. Thus, in a textbook for the 11th class there was Yanukovych’s biography. But only two paragraphs in comparison with the whole section in the previous edition of the textbook were devoted to the Orange revolution. Besides this, the section that at Yushchenko’s time was called “Ukraine during World War II” was renamed into the section “Great Patriotic War”. In addition, the description of the activity of OUN-UPA, which in previous textbooks was allocated three paragraphs, was cut down to just one sentence.

The last time that Ukrainian history textbooks were rewritten was in 2016. They were supplemented with information about Euromaidan, as well as about events in Crimea and in Donbass. However, as the political scientist Evgeny Filindash considers, there is a need to approach even the most insignificant changes in history textbooks very accurately. “What we see in Ukraine has only one purpose — to please nationalistically oriented voters. It’s not a coincidence that all of this story with the rewriting of textbooks has emerged before elections,” considers Filindash.

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