The Master and Margarita banned from the schools?

March 7, 2013

Paul Pozhigailo, the  head of the Russian Public Commission to preserve the historical and cultural heritage proposed to withdraw Mikhail Bulgakov's novel The Master and Margarita from the literature lists at the schools.

"Children are addicted to Woland, Koroviev, Behemoth, but they don't understand the creative task of Bulgakov", he said. This is only one of a number of initiatives proposed by Pozhigailo, who was asked by the Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky to chair the working group to develop a guide of Russian literature.

The authors of the new concept want to streamline the teaching of literature in the schools in such way that it "guides teachers in educating children through literary images of pride for our multi-ethnic country, for deep and calm patriotism and respect for different cultures in order to teach strong traditional family values to the students". No, reader, this is not a parodying quote from The Master and Margarita, this is a serious statement of the  head of the Russian Public Commission today.

As a consequence, all the works  not suitable for this "mission" would be placed under special control of the state. According to the plan of the Public Commission, a special training manual for teachers would be released, in which will be explained in detail what can and what can not be said about so-called controversial works. Among these books are The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev, Storm by Aleksandr Ostrovsky, the writings of Nikolay Nekrasov and Vissarion Belinsky, and the tales of Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin.

Deputy Culture Minister Grigory Ivlev confirmed the mandate given to the Public Commission, but noted that the members of the Commission would be assisted in their mission by specialists of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Culture.

The development of a new teaching plan started after President Vladimir Putin had said that he was surprised that the learning plan developed by the Russian Academy of Education contained the works of Lyudmila Ulitskaya, while writers as Nikolay Leskov and Aleksandr Kuprin were not in it.

Putin's aversion towards Lyudmila Ulitskaya should not surprise, by the way. She's one of the most talented contemporary writers in Russia, but she annoyed Putin in 2008 by the publication of her correspondence with Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former owner of the oil company Yukoz, who was eliminated by a series of questionable political trials and who ended up in jail.

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