Now, the Kremlin claims it wants to change that situation and a recommissioning of Russia's history textbooks is under way. A handbook for teachers, on the basis of which a future textbook for students could be written, is called The Modern History of Russia, 1945-2006. Only one of the authors is a professional historian. The book calls Joseph Stalin a "contradictory" figure, and states that while some people consider him evil, others recognise him as a "hero" for his role in the Great Patriotic War (the Second World War) and his territorial expansion.
"Learning history should make people feel part of the nation, but it depends on how it's done," said one history teacher from Moscow. "If the idea is to hide everything that was bad and only speak of strength and military victories, I'm not sure that this is the best way to create that kind of feeling."
The law seems to have come from a meeting Mr Putin held with teachers when he lamented the state of history teaching in the country, saying that both society and teachers were "confused". He called for a more patriotic approach to the subject.
Granted, Mr. Putin has cause to obscure some of the more embarrassing incidents the old Soviet Union was responsible for. Why should the kids read about the millions sent to Siberia to rot in the gulags? Or the persecution of dissidents? Better to let the children read about the glorious victories against Nazi Germany rather than Stalin's purge of the Red Army where thousands of officers were executed on trumped-up charges or maybe the genocide carried out against the Kulacks where as many as a million peasants were deliberately starved to death.
Santyana's cliched adage rings true in this case: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”