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100 Books a Student Should Read: Russian Government View
January 27, 2012 13:13

Compulsory reading: Russian students are suggested to plough through 100 books

As the electoral race gains pace, the participants are offering various plans for the future. The current Prime Minister, in particular, has undergone a change in style, and instead of TV appearances is regularly publishing articles in the Russian press.
His latest piece in Nezavisimaya Gazeta (The Independent Paper) concerns various aspects of Russian history and mindset. In particular, he underlines the important role History, educational system, and reading play in constructing and cementing the nation by establishing and maintaining solid principles and values. To achieve this for the Russian society, he suggests to compile a list of 100 works of literature that every respected Russian citizen should read. The example of American universities' programs was offered as a blueprint for students to follow.
"Some U.S. Universities have preserved this tradition. Our people have always been the most avid readers. Let's poll our cultural authorities and compile a list of 100 books that every graduate of a Russian school must read. By that I mean: not merely to drum the book, but to read it thoughtfully. And let's base a graduate exam at school on the basis of these books, or at least give an opportunity to young people to showcase their knowledge and outlook at various contests. <...> Remember, too, that with the help from Hollywood, Americans constructed the mindset of several generations - and that without compromising on the values either in terms on national interests, or from the point of society and ethics. There is something to learn here".
It is true that in 2000s Russian education, particularly school programs, have lowered its standard. At the same time, a single examination has been introduced, similar to the one taken by the British school graduates. The critics of the exam say that it significantly glosses over important points and does not really provide a proper assessment of a student. The overwhelming amount of foreign literature and contemporary Russian books and films that often concern the topic of the day has negatively affected Russian film industry, too.
Thus, in many ways Prime Minister's appeal to re-introduce Russian culture to Russian citizens should be welcomed by supporters and opponents alike. There are only two problems. One, this is a clearly populist address; whether or not this plan is carried out after the elections, it is evidently put forward for the reason of people's dissatisfaction with the State's policy of the recent years.
Two - and this leaves many people flabbergasted - American example is used to push the idea. Nothing against the U.S., but in the Soviet times there was a reading list similar to the one Prime Minister is suggesting to compile. Personally, I read over 100 works of Russian and foreign literature as part of my school curriculum (1987-1997).  Cinema, although State-owned, brilliantly fulfilled the role of a popular "educator". The mindset of Russian citizens were constructed by features that commemorated the Russian history, scientific research, and cultural advances. The names of Mikhail Romm, Sergei Eisenstein, and others instantly come to mind as socially aware film makers. Moreover, the values were set at the State level and propagated among all layers of the society by using Literature and Cinema.
It may sound like "back to the USSR", but the question is not "why go back?" Considering that same topics are still on the agenda, the question is rather: "why did we abandon it in the first place?"
Julie Delvaux
Source:, Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

Author: Julia Shuvalova

Tags: Russian education Russian politics elections 2012   


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