Olga Strelova «War of history textbooks»

Within the limits of our research for the majority of people  school history textbook is a mass book, which sets out the substantive content of education, and would prefer a spontaneous statement of a TV reporter, “Why did they write the history books? To remember! “.

The author of this statement has allocated such concept of the history textbook which politicians prefer not to advertise widely. History textbooks, notably the patriotic history has been and continues to be the “custodian of collective historical memory”.

Many scientists in modern Russia and abroad do not think any more, that the textbook gives to students only objective historical true. On contrary, they regard it as a sociocultural phenomenon, reflecting the ideas, values and knowledge in this particular society. The aim of the history textbook is to “separate” yourself from others and thus create, develop and defend own (national) identity. “In an effort to confirm the physical, political and cultural unity of the nation traditionally focus on common what makes them distinctive from the neighbours.”

International experience shows that history books generally focus on the establishment of “collective national memory”, and the conflicts around them reflect the desire of politicians to control memory of “its own” society. At the same time, the “others” may feel insulted if you treat them in these books not respectful and compassionate … Then the scientific and political discussions and debates becomes active protest actions, which are already involved on the people, most of whom do not even read the “harmful” books. Modern journalists dubbed these conflicts “educational wars” or “wars of history textbooks”.


War of history textbooks in the Far East

Nowadays vivid example of history textbooks war has become the events, which began in Seoul in April 2001. For a few days the capital of the Republic of Korea turned into an arena of anti-Japanese speeches. Demonstrators burned white flags with the red circle and chanted at the walls of the Embassy of Japan “Japan, repent!”.

Before that, February 28, 2001, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Culture and Tourism of South Korea has decided to protest against the publication “New history book” in Japan, which was prepared by scientists belonging to the “Society for the reform of history textbooks”. After this the Korean government has developed the measures limiting propagation of products of mass Japanese culture in the country. In the House of the government in Korea the negative position of the Korean side concerning the initiative of the Ministry of Education of Japan has been stated to the Plenipotentiary ambassador of Japan. One of the biggest opposition parties called up to boycott Japanese goods. A group of South Korean historians held on hunger strike in Tokyo. South Korean Association of teachers of history has actively acted against attempts to falsify the history of the country.

South Korean side blamed the “New history textbook” in the wrong interpretation of the Korean-Japanese relations from ancient times to the Japanese colonization of the Korean Peninsula in the first half of the twentieth century.

But if the discrepancy of views on some issues of the long past history is a subject of narrow scientific disputes, the Japanese interpretation and evaluation of the events in twentieth century cause sharp reaction of the broad audiences of the Korean public.

For example, an episode from the “New history textbook” –  why Japanese troops occupied Korea in the early twentieth century: “The Japanese government believed that the annexation of Korea is necessary to ensure Japan’s security and protect the interests of Manchuria. Britain, America and Russia, suspect each other of intention to extend its influence on the Korean peninsula, did not express their objections. Therefore, in 1910 (’43 Meiji) Japan, suppressing the resistance of Korea by armed forces nd resolutely implemented its annexation … In Korea, there have been voices in support of annexation, however, there was also a resistance … After that, the movement for the restoration of independence was organized».

But the most vehement reaction has caused the description of the war that Japan waged in the 1930s. It was named “The great war in East Asia” for the sake of creating a “greater Asian co-prosperity zone.” Almost nothing in this tutorial say about the suffering caused by Japan’s occupation to the Korean people, who do not want to forget that millions of men during the Second World War were mobilized for labor work in Korea, in Japan and South Sakhalin, the former territory. modern Koreans not going to the forget, that thousands of young women and young girls have become “women for pleasure” in the imperial army. he 35-year occupation of Japan mercilessly plundered subsoil Korea, taking millions of tons of minerals needed for the war in Asia. However, the authors do not feel any shame and remorse.

The political and scientific circles of South Korea stated that the new textbook based “on the imperial world-view, justify the aggression of militarist Japan and distorts the facts of encroachment upon the sovereignty of Korea.”

Ambassador to South Korea’s Choi Sang Yong met with the Minister of Education of Japan Nobutaka Machimura and urged the Japanese government to take effective measures to redress their very conservative history textbooks. But Japanese officials said that the new textbook pass the State certification of the Ministry of education and the following school year should be introduced in schools as a teaching tool. In this context the government of Japan had no choice but to try to explain the South Korean side of their actions.” Such a firm stance of the Japanese government forced the South Korean president to withdraw its ambassador from Tokyo “for consultations”. The diplomatic protest lasted for 9 days …

In the mid of 2000’s, “fighting” in Asian history textbooks war broke out with renewed vigour. After the events of 2001, the Japanese Government has fixed in “a new textbook …” more than a hundred “clarifications” (Japanese term for criticism and protests of neighboring countries). But former victims of the Japanese occupation saw that textbooks produced by historians from the nationalist society for the reform of textbook of history continues to justify and glorify Japan’s criminal record.

“These amendments are clearly not enough, said Zhu Rongji, State Council Premier of the PRC. – And how close to the truth will be school textbooks, will depend the development of the relations between Japan and Asian countries from generation to generation” China’s Xinhua news agency expressed even more strongly, “ Some chauvinist of the far right are still trying to revise the verdict of history handed down by the Japanese aggressors’. Neither in Korea, nor in China considers the fact that, in 2006, less than 0, 1% Japanese schools have selected these books for the work 9.

Cause of the riots that occurred in April, 2005 in Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Shanghai and many other cities throughout China, was also the solution of Tokyo to approve history textbooks of a revanchist nature. Beijing condemned the decision as ‘ poison ‘ for the minds of young Japanese.

Thousands of Chinese held rallies near the Japanese Embassy in Beijing threw eggs, attacked dozens of showcases Japanese department stores and restaurants, demanding a boycott of Japanese goods and demanding not to allow Japan to the members of the Security Council. Authorities Tokyo demanded an apology from Beijing for damage and better protect of its citizens and property from an angry crowd. However, the PRC Foreign Ministry stated that he was not going to make such an apology. By mid-April, the Japanese Prime Minister Dzunitiro Koizumi stated that if the forthcoming meeting with President Hu Jintao would draw harsh rhetoric, then it is better not to conduct this meeting.

One of the strongest claims of Chineses to Japan’s textbooks was official denying of the events which have happened in December, 1937 in Nanking by them. Many Japanese prefer to believe that the horrors committed by atrocities were ‘fiction’, bloated by vindictive Western powers. When under diplomatic pressure from officials of education were forced to include Nanjing textbooks, they did their best to minimize the size of ‘Nanking Massacre’. For example, a directive was issued, requiring exclusion from the texts any mention of the number of Chinese killed by Japanese troops in Nanjing.

On December, 12th or 13, 1937 (precise date is not established) Japanese have entered in a Nanking. ‘Rape of Nanking’ or ‘Nanjing massacre’-under this name the followed events entered into a worldwide history. The number of killed in the next six weeks, civilians and military deserters was about 300 000 people. Exactly the number and ways of murders made Nanjing sadly famous. Due to the presence of Europeans in the city, especially reporters, the news of this massacre spread through the wild world. According to Iris Chang, author of ‘Rape of Nanking’ (U.S., 1997), the events in Nanking were ‘forgotten holocaust’, especially in Japan, where all sorts of information about the crimes of the Japanese militarists in China until now ignored or deliberately distorted.

Everything that is related to the assessment of the past and history textbooks, the Japanese themselves are ambiguous. Professor Saburo Lenag, author of ‘ the new history of Japan ‘ for high school students, back in the mid 1970 ‘s. sued the Ministry of Education for the fact that it regularly makes new amendments to the educational texts. Their core – is to shift gradually from war as a criminal act committed by military configured rulers of Japan. This line can be seen even in the replacement of illustrations of textbooks. For example, in ‘War and the lives of the people’ instead of women languishing in the queue for food rations, there was a picture of Prime Minister Tojo, who in a fatherly comforts children of fallen soldiers.

New texbooks contain the other explanation of the ninth article of the post-war Constitution. Earlier it said: ” the current Japanese Constitution proclaims that Japan forever renounces war as a means of settling international disputes. Instead, now is written: ‘The Constitution states that, wanting world peace, Japan will not lead the war, bringing misery to the people.

“However, the scientific circles in Japan are gaining momentum and diametrically opposite trend. Chauvinistically adjusted members of the ‘society for the textbooks reform’ claim that Japan has come to abandon the “masochistic approach” to its role before and during the Second World War, from “the history, fabricated by the winners”. The members of the community … ” as Professors of Tokyo University Nobukacu Fujiok and Tadae Takubo, believed that “every country has the right to interpret their own history and any interference from outside is unacceptable. ”

The reasons for divisions of contemporary Japanese society are based on the fact that, in recent decades, there is a new wave of nationalism and the unwillingness to accept responsibility for events in Asia in 1930-1945. Battleground is the younger generation, as well as textbooks, for which they are taught the history of Japan.   In the first post-war Japanese textbooks expressed their view of the Second World War, Close to the positions of Allies, especially the United States. But this situation changed in 1950., when the United States who wanted to democratize Japan and turn it into an ally, have weakened the impact on Japanese education.

Since 1958, when the Japanese Ministry of education has the right to ‘ check ‘ textbooks, the authorities and the ruling liberal democratic party revise school history courses. Since then historians and bureaucrats disputes about the “correct” interpretation of national history.

In 1970-80-IES, when Japan began actively to expand economic ties with neighboring Asian countries, her Government had begun to pay more attention to the views of those countries. Internal disputes on the history books transferred to the diplomatic scene in 1982, when some neighbouring countries, particularly Korea and CHINA, strongly condemned the formal definition of a Japanese World War II as a defensive and anti-colonial struggle forced upon Japan from outside. As a result, the Ministry of education has enabled writers and publishers to use in school textbooks, the word ‘ aggression ‘. But after that in Tokyo there were many times the scandals, which cost more than the chair of service ministers, which allowed a public disavowal of responsibility for the war, military brutality and cruelty of the Japanese.

After the fall of the Berlin wall and the disappearance of the Communist threat in modern Japan once again intensified attempts to prevent the recognition of the responsibility of Tokyo for initiating World War II in Asia. Odious nationalists and critics among politicians and professors at leading universities now argue that the content of history textbooks has been unduly distorted by pacifist ideas and anti-Japanese propaganda during the second half of the twentieth century.

According to Professor Masanori Nakamur from University of Hitocubasi, since the revolution of Meiji (1868), modern Japan is at the fourth wave of nationalism. Its impact on society as a whole is quite limited. But the younger generation of Japanese is much more sympathy to the arguments Nationalists, than senior generation.

Unlike Germany, Japan is still avoiding any serious debate about its responsibility for the outbreak of World War II in the Pacific Rim. Finally, school textbooks in modern history of Japan is still “a battlefield for the past.” And the latest nationalist currents have complicated the solution of this problem in Japan and the Asia-Pacific region.


War of history textbooks in Russia …?

It is remarkable that at the same time with the history textbooks war between Japan, South Korea and China, another group of Japanese politicians and scientists in the international society of information in the field of education (ISEI), appealed to the Council of Europe to hold a bilateral meeting between Japanese and Russian didactics-historians to discuss: what images of Russia and Japan form the school textbooks of neighboring countries?

The culmination of a three-year project was a conference of experts in the field of history education and training literature from Russia, Japan and the European Council in Tokyo in October 2000. My report, “History of Japanese school textbooks of Russia” 12, based on the analysis of two dozen Russian textbooks on general and national history, led to the conclusion: image of Japan is formed mainly on the facts of the political and military history; in modern times it is represented in the image of “troubled” neighbor Russia, its rival in the struggle for spheres of influence in the far eastern region; This image is not in harmony with the more positive view of Japan, which is formed by the students aware of the universal history.

At the conference in Tokyo, Japanese historians and the didactics told how the history of Russia is presented in textbooks in Japan.

From the Russian side actual steps on updating an image of Japan have been undertaken only at a regional level. Khabarovsk Krai in 2003 published a “History of the far East in the middle ages”. а in the Primorsky region, within the framework of the project “history and culture of the countries of the Asia-Pacific Region”, the manual “history and culture of Japan in documents and illustrations” was published, partially financed by the Japanese side and supported by documents and illustrations of Japan’s archives. Unfortunately, the Russo-Japanese cooperation in the field of history education was suspended, but the claims of neighbouring countries to the books of history remain …

In particular, in the spring of 2011 international observers have called attention to the relatively ‘mild reaction’ Russian Foreign Ministry on the new Japanese history textbooks, geography and social studies where students are taught that the southern part of the Kuril Islands – is a territory of Japan, “illegally occupied” by the USSR after World War II. The Russian Foreign Ministry only “paid attention” to the new textbooks approved by the Japanese Ministry of Education for secondary schools. In a commentary on the Russian MFA’s website states that southern Kurile Islands belongs Russia after three treaties: Crimean agreement of the three great powers on the Far East on 11 February 1945, the Potsdam Declaration and the Peace Treaty, signed in San Francisco in 1951, the Russian Foreign Ministry regrets “about the spirit in which unfriendly in Tokyo continue to shape the younger generation attitude towards neighboring country “.

In the named textbooks to Japan assigned not only southern Kurile Islands, but also the territory owned by China and South Korea. Japan’s Foreign Ministry made a “serious warning” for “groundless claims” on the Diaoyu Islands (in the Japanese version – Senkaku) contained in the text and on maps of textbooks.“ Claims Japanese reactionaries “to Korean native land”, even condemned North Korea’s state news agency, and in his statement refers to a generalized ” Korea “, without division into North and South.

at present, Russia supports two-sided project with Ukraine for the joint history textbook. The Minister Sergei Lavrov said, “Obviously this is a very difficult – one way or the other nationalist sentiment are breached. Our partners desire to present joint history a little bit differently in part relates to them, and in the part which relates to us, how are impartial Russian authors? Generally, we believe, that politicians, and historians should deal with it, – continued the minister – we support creation of the joint commissions of historians. Such commissions have been formed with the Polish, Latvian, Lithuanian and German historians. We agree about creation of such commission with Japan ».

Apparently our country will not be involved in wars of history textbooks, and the problems associated with interpretations and evaluations of the textbooks of the joint past of the former USSR and the socialist camp area will remain only in historical and pedagogical discussions. Though last ten years, according to scientists, conditions for or the writing of history in post-Soviet space have become more complex, and the leading role in the establishment of national stories shifted to political elites interested in the manipulation of the past to achieve certain policy objectives, including the strengthening of the independence of the new State formations.

However, historically, the complete picture of past and future projections  it should be reminded to our readers of “civil” war history textbooks in the mid-1990 ‘s. Then the national anger has fallen upon A.A.Kreder’s textbook « the advanced history. XX a century » (1996) which scarecrow public condemn as “biased selection of facts, fallacious and with anti-Russian content. Letters to the newspapers and the Ministry of Education, bans on the use of this textbook in four regions of Russia, public insults and accusations of Professor Saratov links with the CIA, Russian citizens went to protect the young generation from the “Soros tentacles, beset those who are alien to national pride, honor and civic virtue…”

At the age of … 53 years (October 30, 2000) “On the rise of creative and scientific forces A. A. Kreder died. Russian and world history has suffered an irreparable loss. But his colleagues, friends, students cherish the memory of this outstanding scientist, a good friend and wise mentor “.

The wave of popular anger around Kreder tutorial at the beginning of the 2000s. subsided by itself, spreading to other objects. But nowadays, the flames of war of history textbooks try to ignite new-old defenders “historical truth”.


War of history textbooks in Europe…?

In Europe, according to political analysts, a scandal similar to what happened in Asia, is impossible.

To identify bias and prejudice in the content of school history education the Council of Europe began since its creation. In the 1950 ‘s 2000 history textbooks from Western Europe were examined. Experts noted the inherent “national” interpretation of the past and the desire of authors to emphasize the achievements of their own peoples, diminishing the significance of others. For example, the French and English historians have attached importance to only to the victories of their own armies in the hundred years war and the colonial wars of the 18th century. They also stressed the crucial role of “their” peoples in the development of democracy and parliamentary, “their” engineers and inventors in the European industrial revolution, etc.

By the 1990-ies the rate of national bias in European textbooks has become smaller. In 1992, for the first time 12 historians from 12 European countries have prepared a general textbook on the history of Europe. The main purpose of its creation was not advocating the idea of pan-European integration but elimination of traditional errors and bias. According to the President of the European Association of History Teachers (EVROKLIO), J. van der Leeuv-Rurd, “this book is mostly about Western history and, of course, it cannot be called European history … “National Mirror pain” (ie, National interpretations of the past) Have been strengthened in the translation of this book in European languages. The publishers changed the words and sentences in European textbook to demonstrate their national point of view”.

More successful in modern Europe developed a two-and multilateral projects on creation of the general textbooks for the countries with a mixed joint past: Germany and France, Poland and Germany, etc.

Significant support they receive from the International Institute on research of textbooks named after G. Eckert, created in Germany after the Second World War. Its funds collected more than 130,000 books from 90 countries, including history, social studies and geography. These subjects have more effect on the formation of values ​​in pupils understanding of “us” and “other”, and therefore are in the “zone of special attention” of scientists around the world.

It is possible that in the twenty-first century due to the work of such international organizations one war of history textbooks on our planet becomes less …


Translated by Osipova Marina, APIR Center