Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

"Creative Class" has its heroes

People born in the last century have absorbed certain values with their mothers' milk. They played the Red Army in kindergarten, and knew who Stalin and Hitler were. From a young age they attended Victory Day parades and felt proud of their country. But times have changed, and many of young Russian citizens today have totally forgotten their heroes.

In Moscow, a preliminary hearing was held on the case of WWII veteran Boris Feofanov against a journalist Olga Romanova. The veteran filed a lawsuit against the journalist for her insulting remarks about the memorial cemetery opened on the Day of Memory and Grief in the Mytishchi district of Moscow. Prominent statesmen and military leaders will be buried here.

Olga Romanova arrived at the hearing right before the start, and journalists were not able to talk to her and find out all the details of the scandal. However, on the opening day of the memorial cemetery (June 22) she was very talkative. In her blog, the journalist commented: "Chelobityevo is a great location and a suitable name. Shoigu laid the first stone of the animal cemetery." Romanova's Insulting words were heard by all veterans.

"Our indignation has no limit," said veteran Boris Feofanov. "She insulted all war participants. This happened on a memorial day, and we are outraged, and demand a public apology to the veterans of the war." The veteran demanded that one million rubles be recovered from Romanova that can be allocated to help veterans of Mytishchi district. Apparently, the litigation caused serious damage to the health of 88-year-old Boris Feofanova who was hospitalized in a Moscow cardiological clinic.
At the court hearing the veteran was represented by his trustees. Over all that time Olga Romanova did not even bother to apologize to the veterans, or at least explain what exactly she meant. The cemetery that the journalist offended will be the main memorial in Russia. This will be the place of burial for Heroes of the Soviet Union and Russia, veterans of wars and other local conflicts, and Cavaliers of higher orders.

Unfortunately, Olga Romanova is not the only representative of the so-called "creative class" who does not care about Russia's recent history. Others include Alfred Koch, the former statesman of Russia in 1990's - early 2000's, and now a blogger who with impunity is throwing dirt on the acts of the Soviet soldiers who liberated the world from Nazism. In one of his articles Koch wrote that it was in fact the Soviet Union who wanted to attack Germany, and that poor Hitler had to defend himself. Koch also believes that the Soviet Union should have offered Germany peace after the victory at Kursk instead of liberating Europe. Apparently, the fate of hundreds of thousands of concentration camps prisoners as well as the sad fate of the civilian population of the European countries that were ruled by the Nazis does not mean much to Mr. Koch.

Today, only a quarter of Russian students know whether their relatives participated in World War Two. On the eve of the 72th anniversary of the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, Moscow Humanitarian University published shocking results of its own study about the feelings of modern youth of the Russian Federation towards the heroism of Soviet soldiers in the World War Two. The survey was part of the project "Demythologization of Russian History." 800 students from various universities in Moscow, Kyzyl, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, Bratsk, Belgorod, Barnaul, Ryazan, Petrozavodsk and other Russian cities participated in the opinion polls. Experts were shocked by the results.
A quarter of respondents do not know anything about the Battle of Stalingrad, and half of the respondents could not name a single Soviet war hero. But despite that, the vast majority of Russian students (96 percent) believe that they should be proud of the deeds of the Great Patriotic War. The war remains a major event in the Soviet history that makes the new generation of Russians proud of their country. However, this fact does not prevent young people from knowing very little about the most important stages of the war and its heroes, those who gave their lives for their country.

Only 14 percent of the respondents could correctly name the supreme commander of the Red Army during the war, Joseph Stalin. Among generals the young people named Zhukov (57 percent), and Rokossovsky (19 percent). Much less common were the mentions of Tymoshenko, Vatutin, Voroshilov, Konev, Malinovsky, Chuikov, Budenny, Yeremenko, Vasilevsky. The experts also noted the obvious failures of historical knowledge when among the participants of World War Two, along with Hitler and Roosevelt, the students named Suvorov and Kutuzov.

37 percent of those surveyed did not remember a single name. Nearly half of those polled (47 percent) could not think of a single hero of World War II.  

As for the decisive military operations, a quarter of respondents have not heard anything about the Battle of Moscow, Stalingrad, and the Battle of Kursk. Only half (54 percent) heard of the battle for Leningrad, and one third (35 percent) of students heard about the battle for Berlin. For 25 percent of the polled students the Great Patriotic War is a matter of the distant past along with the First World War and the War of 1812. Only a quarter of today's students heard war stories from the loved ones and family archives. 38 percent have heard something but do not know the details.

13 percent of students did not know whether their relatives were involved in the war. According to Valery Fyodorov, the General Director of VTSIOM that conducted the poll, now many students cannot correctly name the start and end of World War II, its participants, the main causes and the major battles. Young people in Russia know the allies of the Soviet Union, although even here there is often confusion. 63 percent of Russians believe that the Soviet Union would have been able to win the war on their own without the help of its allies.

The causes of total ignorance about historical facts vary. The modern education system is largely to blame. Modern textbooks provide piecemeal information. A large amount of data on a particular historical period is given in one block. It seems that the authors of these books believe that children somehow already have all this knowledge, and school only helps to make it stronger. Despite tremendous opportunities to obtain a variety of information (books, Internet) teenagers are not accustomed to doing research, many of them are not interested in anything at all, not only the Second World War.  

It would be wrong to blame the ignorance of children exclusively on the educational system. This is a complex issue that includes the education system that provides insufficient knowledge, lack of family traditions to transfer this knowledge, and the society that does not notice these problems. 82 percent of Russians believe that it is necessary to hold Victory parades and introduce "lessons of memory" in schools. An ancient philosopher once said that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

Sergei Vasilenkov