Russia’s War on Literature: An Attempt to Erase Ukrainian History

Image: Twitter / @MelSimmonsFCDO

In an attempt to rewrite history, Russian military police are destroying Ukrainian literature and history textbooks in the occupied regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Chernihiv and Sumy. 

According to a recent report by the Times, the Kremlin have announced a reform in the Russian school curriculum which allegedly calls for the removal of any evidence of Ukrainian nationalism.

A member of the Ukrainian defence forces in the Zaporizhzhia region commented on Russia’s attempts to impose a literary censorship: “Russians are confiscating historical textbooks from libraries. They are declared as banned literature because these books, according to the occupiers, ‘promote ideas of nationalism’.”

Accounts of this extensive removal of Ukrainian literature emerged from a Facebook post from Ukraine’s military staff where the Central Intelligence Agency of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine reported that Russian police units had “removed” historical and artistic literature that does not match the Kremlin propaganda posts.

The post further elaborated how many of the books that were seized covered historical events such as the Maidan Uprising protests of 2013 and the liberation movements fighting in defence of the disputed Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The Russian military police units are reportedly seeking to obtain one work in particular, the non-fiction book The Case of Vasyl Stus by Vakhtanga Kipiani, which recounts the criminal case of a Ukrainian poet who was imprisoned by the Soviet regime.

In an attempt to rewrite history, Russian propaganda has recently denied significant atrocities suffered by Ukraine at the hands of Stalin. One of the most significant events that was refuted on state television last week was the famine of 1932-1933, which resulted in the deaths of five million people. 

Evidence of historical and cultural erasure have also been reported amidst the increased incidences of pillaging, looting, and destruction. According to Mykyta Poturaev, chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy, such destructive acts are an attempt to completely erase Ukrainian cultural heritage.

He emphasises the war’s devastating impact on culture, stating that Russian soldiers have not only burnt books, but have also destroyed museums and stolen paintings by world-famous painters like Aivazovsky: “In the Kyiv region, Maria Prymaichenko’s museum has been destroyed. People risked their lives saving her paintings engulfed in flames. It’s a heroic act!”  

Words by Katie Heyes

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