Scholars mull over red past

January 4, 2002

A decade after the Soviet Union officially ceased to exist, Russian scholars are still divided over how to assess the legacy of 70 years of Soviet rule, and no more so than in education.

At a high-level conference in Smolensk towards the end of last year, Russian scholars and educators tried to judge the Soviet educational past and its relevance for Russian education today.

Nikolaj Belkanov, a prominent Russian educationist, said the views expressed ranged from "apologetics to total nihilism". So, they turned to the West for advice.

The approach formed the basis of a round table at the UK-based Study Group of Education in Russia, the Independent States and Eastern Europe.

James Muckle, associate senior research fellow in continuing education at Nottingham University, noted the unofficial nature of the approach, which, he said, would have been unheard of in the Soviet era "when we were all 'bourgeois falsifiers'".

Simon Horsman, senior lecturer in accounting, strategy and business at Coventry University, said educational reform was an aspect of the management of change.

The Soviet education system had been geared to producing the ideal Soviet citizen. "Behaviour follows rewards, and Russia must try to ensure that the 'new' behaviours which will support civil society are the ones that will be rewarded," he said.

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