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Dispute Over History Textbooks

By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Wednesday, December 15
Last week, another topic of controversy arose in Georgian politics - it was unacceptable for a part of the society to present the main issues of the history of Georgia from 2003-2012 in two 9th grade history textbooks, which are approved by the Ministry of Education in 2021. Opposition Sees Government Propaganda, Ministry of Education and Georgian Dream leaders defend their position.

The two history textbooks that have caused a great deal of controversy in recent days, were approved in June 2021, and are being taught in schools. That is why one of the topics of outrage was this - why did not the education experts and school history teachers who knew the contents of this book say anything right away.

In this, too, some saw pressure on teachers by the authorities to be cautious in expressing their opinions. The cause of the political controversy was the last two sections of the textbooks, which tell the story of the post-Rose Revolution period, 2003-2012.

According to critics of the government, these paragraphs are tendentiously written, on the one hand, diminishing the achievements of Saakashvili's government after the Rose Revolution, and on the other hand, trying to show the merits of the "Georgian Dream" and Bidzina Ivanishvili. These paragraphs saw an attempt to rewrite recent history in line with the interests of the Georgian Dream and the Russian authorities.

Critics say the textbooks talk about the mistakes made by Saakashvili's government but say little or nothing about the impressive achievements of post-Rose Revolution reforms in curbing corruption, building state institutions, and accelerating economic growth.

Representatives of the Georgian Dream do not accept this criticism and some demand that the ‘previous government’ be portrayed more negatively in the textbooks.

According to Irakli Kobakhidze, the textbook should mention that "under Saakashvili's regime, for 9 years, the most authoritarian regime was established in Georgia, the result of which was a systemic violation of human rights."

The narrative of the August 2008 war, according to critics, follows the Russian version, as if only ‘Ossetian formations’ were bombing Georgian villages, and Saakashvili's order to open fire was followed by the invasion of Russian troops in Georgia.

The topic of "Georgia's relations with the world community" proposed by the authors of one of the textbooks as a ‘discussion’ issue for the students was considered to be obvious pro-Russian propaganda. Georgia is trying to make friends with Western countries, but “none of us are our neighbors!" so ‘first of all, we should make friends with neighboring countries, and whoever does not make friends, we should still have peaceful relations.”

Such a judgment, led by a teacher, is likely to end with a rejection of Western orientation.

A particular criticism of the opposition was followed by the inclusion of Bidzina Ivanishvili's picture and biography in the textbook. According to their statements, it is unacceptable to allow the praise of Bidzina Ivanishvili, who is behind the current government, in school textbooks. According to Zaal Udumashvili, a representative of the United National Movement, "if we were told about Lenin's biography in the Soviet Union, students would be forced to write down Bidzina Ivanishvili's biography in the same way."

According to Lasha Damenia, the representative of European Georgia, the "Georgian Dream" has diverted the country from the path of democratic development and "does everything to show, like the Soviet Union, the cult of the ordinary person, as well as Ivanishvili's merits before Georgia." Elene Khoshtaria, the leader of the Droa party, believes that the protest should start in the history textbook "for the glorification of Beladi Bidzina".

The demand to remove Ivanishvili from the textbook made the authorities very angry and they said even more about Bidzina Ivanishvili's merits than what was written in the textbooks. "It is not strange for anyone that Bidzina Ivanishvili has a special role in modern Georgian history.

"He was able to unite the political spectrum and in 2012 he made a significant change in the state and our society," said, for example, Irakli Chikovani, a member of the majority. The position of the Minister of Education Mikheil Chkhenkeli was similar, who said that "Mr. Bidzina Ivanishvili must be presented with dignity in the history of modern Georgia" and will be so in the future.

We should think that in the new history textbooks, the narrative will continue after 2012 and will narrate the successive victories of the "Georgian Dream" in all elections and the destructive opposition, which questions these victories.

The opposition is demanding the removal of these history textbooks from schools, although it is already clear that the Georgian Dream will not only remove these textbooks but also seem to reinforce the passages criticized by the opposition. The nature of coverage of events after 2003 in school textbooks is likely to change in the event of a change of government.

In this regard, some people remembered the history textbook published during Shevardnadze's rule, which wrote about the wise policy of the then leader of Adjara, Aslan Abashidze, to make his ruling region prosperous. However, nothing like this is written today ...