In Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the Kremlin even writes the history textbooks.

Kremlin aide Vladimir Medinsky has published four history textbooks for 16- to 18-year-old schoolchildren giving a completely revised interpretation of the fall of the Soviet Union, the Putin era and the causes of the Ukraine war.

The books, which enter schools next month, reflect Putin’s historical view: pride at the achievements of the superpower Soviet Union, indignation at the humiliations of the Soviet collapse, and acclaim for the “rebirth” of Russia under the former KGB spy’s rule which began on the last day of 1999.

new history textbooks presented in russia

A view shows a page spread from the chapter “Russia Today – The Special Military Operation” in the newly published textbook for school children entitled “History of Russia 1945 – the start of 21st Century”

The final chapter of the 447-page “History of Russia 1945 – the start of 21st Century” focuses on the causes of the biggest land war in Europe since World War Two – the Ukraine war that has left several hundred thousand soldiers injured or dead.

Entitled “Russia Today – The Special Military Operation”, the chapter reflects Putin’s own disillusionment with the West after he offered Russia’s support to the United States during the 9/11 attacks in a gesture of post-Cold War friendship.

“The West became fixated with destabilising the situation inside Russia,” the book, a copy of which Reuters has reviewed, says on page 393. “The aim was not even hidden: to dismember Russia and to get control over its resources.”

Such an explicitly endorsed history of the kind that has for millennia been used by the powerful to influence their own legacies gives an insight into Putin’s own reasoning for war and the insecurities which may lace his domestic hegemony.

Russia’s youth, according to the book’s narrative, must understand the tragedy of the Soviet collapse, the perfidy of the West and the need to sacrifice themselves for the greatness of the Russian motherland.


For the longest-serving Kremlin chief since Josef Stalin, Putin has long grappled with the ghosts of Russian history, whether bewailing the silence of Moscow as the Soviet Union crumbled or arguing for the “historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians” in a 6,900-word essay less than eight months before ordering troops into Ukraine.

The West, the book says, expanded the NATO military alliance eastwards despite promises not to, ignored the persecution of Russians, spread Russophobia and stoked “colour revolutions” in Georgia and Ukraine, sweeping away established elites from power.

Western leaders, Russian dissidents and some Russian historians reject such an interpretation, casting the war in Ukraine as a strategic blunder that has exposed Russia’s weaknesses and forged Ukrainian nationalism into statehood.

“This is propaganda – it’s not a textbook,” Mikhail Kopitsa, a Russian history teacher who left Russia after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, told Reuters of the book. He now teaches at a school in Montenegro.

Asked if the book showed the strength or the weakness of Russia, he said it showed both.

“The regime shows its strength: we will do what we want, and you will just have to put up with it, just take it,” he said. “It is yet another brick in the wall of this propaganda machine that is aimed at the whole system of education.”

“But we can definitely talk about the regime being worried: there is a fear that the Internet generation, the Zoom generation, will turn out to be unreceptive or not receptive enough to propaganda and so they need to strengthen it more and more.”

Russia currently controls a little under one fifth of Ukraine which has sought to rewrite its own history and purge much of its Soviet and Tsarist past.


The textbooks illustrate both the depth of the Kremlin’s post-Cold War schism with the West and a degree of insecurity about the legacy of the Putin era which was supposed to usher in order, prosperity and peace after the turmoil of the 1990s.

The book, co-authored by Anatoly Torkunov, the rector of the prestigious Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), asks students to answer the question: “What reasons forced Russia to start the Special Military Operation?”

The answer, according to the book, is a struggle for control of Ukraine between Russia and the West which fanned “Ukrainian neo-Nazism” in an attempt to undermine Russia. It describes Ukrainian attempts to ban Russian books, music, films and Russian language teaching.

“Gradually, the United States and NATO started to prepare Ukraine for the role of the main battering ram against Russia,” the book says.

Language became a sensitive issue in Ukraine since 2014 when a pro-Russian president was toppled in Ukraine’s Maidan Revolution and Russia annexed Crimea, with Russian-backed separatist forces fighting Ukraine’s armed forces.

The West’s attempt to punish Russia for the war has failed, the book says, but it says Russian assets totalling over $1 trillion were stolen in the West, comparing the sanctions to the Continental Blockade of Napoleon Bonaparte against Britain.

“Such unique times happen rarely in history,” the book says. “Don’t miss this chance – Russia today is truly a land of opportunity.”

It ends with small biographies of some of the Russians who have fallen in the Ukraine war – which it does not call a war.

It does not say how many Russians have died in the war.