Six years after Russian soldiers seized control of Crimea and the world had to resurrect the term annexation, last used about Adolf Hitler, in response, Crimean children are learning quite a different version of history.
It is one in which Crimeans were the key players, not Russia, and in which Ukraine was the bad guy, along with those western countries who took its side, Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group reports.
While Russia's aggressive militarization of Crimea and glorification of war among very young children are rightly eliciting enormous concern, distortion of history that Russia is instilling from an early age creates a false reality in which such indoctrination becomes dangerously absolute.
Russian school textbooks, when telling kids about the events of 2014, have no mention of Russian soldiers or of armed paramilitaries whose abductions, torture and at very least one horrific murder were very widely reported by the world media.
Instead, children are being told that "based on the results of a referendum (96% "for"), the peninsula on March 21, 2014, joined the Russian Federation. Crimea, whose territory had, without any grounds, been handed to Ukraine in 1954 by Nikita Khrushchev, returned to the Russian Federation". The 11th graders do learn also that "governing circles in the USA, who supported the coup in Ukraine, assessed the situation that arose as Russian aggression against it [Ukraine] and introduced economic sanctions against our country", with this reinstating Cold War American-Russian relations.
No mention is being made of the call by the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people to boycott the referendum, which is believed to have been widely heeded.
A methodological guide for teachers claims that "the referendum took place in full accordance with the norms and principles of electoral law, in open, democratic circumstances." People are alleged to have gone to vote as though to a festival, without any mention of the fact that Russian soldiers with machine guns and armed paramilitaries had been deployed.
Instead of complying with international law and ending its occupation of Ukrainian sovereign territory, Russia is actively instilling anti-Ukrainian propaganda and trying to destroy the younger generation's identification with Ukraine, KHPG writes.
History textbooks in Crimea present the post-Maidan government as "unwilling to consider the economic and cultural values of the Russian-speaking east of Ukraine" and claim (in History of Russia. 10th Grade) that Ukraine was planning to ban the use of the Russian language.
In August 2019, a new Russian textbook in verse for children claimed that Ukraine "has stirred up war and vengeance" and that people have been prohibited from speaking Russian.
This and similar narratives were used in 2014 to justify Russia's aggression against Ukraine.