Monday, July 28, 2003

Revisionist literature 

Via The Corner, 50 Minute Hour notes that anti-totalitarian novels are being dropped from Russian syllabi in favor of those written in the Soviet era. She notes:
Many adults, especially in government, tend to remember communism with an attitude of nostalgia. Call it the "at least the trains ran on time" phenomenon, but people I've talked to who have visited Russia and the newly independent states say it is prevalent among people who are suffering during the transition, and they pass it on to their children. It is a lack of historical perspective that often leads to struggling new democracies electing authoritarians to power, which, in turn, threatens the freedom that so many fought and died for in previous generations. It's something that we need to keep an eye on, and those who remember the bad old days need to keep the pressure on society to reflect on the past, lest it repeat itself.
I should note, given our discussion of the Berkeley study, that when you use the word "conservative" referring to the xUSSR, as does the article 50 Min links to (fifth item down), it means conserving communism, not some tsarist past. It's worth remembering that very few of the young enter the professoriate in the xUSSR, because most universities are still state-operated at very low wages -- which go unpaid many times. I had a wonderful translator when I worked in Ukraine who learned English from two parents who both worked at a local university. She was their only source of income, even though both still taught. Many faculty have to support themselves through outside income. So it isn't surprising that most of the faculty there are both older and still have syllabi from the previous era. Come to think of it, you could say the same here, couldn't you?