km. In Germany, propaganda has also reached schools and the classroom. When it comes to the subject of Ukraine, “polyperspectivity” – as it is, at least theoretically, in Switzerland – is currently not in demand. This is shown by the materials for civics lessons dealing with the topic of Ukraine, which were quickly churned out after 24 February 2022.
An example of this is the four-page leaflet from the Landeszentrale für politische Bildung (State Agency for Political Education) in Baden-Wuerttemberg entitled “Krieg in der Ukraine – Putins Angriff auf den Frieden" (War in Ukraine – Putin’s Attack on Peace), which is intended for only one lesson. The title alone is propaganda. There has been no peace in Ukraine since 2014. In the east of the country, a war has been raging for eight years between the Ukrainian army and Ukrainian militias on the one side and the largely Russian population on the other. Despite the Minsk Agreement, this war has been massively expanded since 16 February 2022, especially from the Ukrainian side, as the regular reports of OSCE observers on the ground have documented. According to the United Nations, around 14'000 people, mostly civilians, had died in Donetsk and Luhansk by 24 February 2022.
Propaganda is also the caricature on the cover of the leaflet: a military truck with Russian soldiers on their way to Kiev. The speech bubble is put in the mouth of one of the soldiers: “They look like humans, but they are bloodthirsty, hateful monsters ...!” The cartoon suggests that the Russian soldiers invaded Ukraine with a hateful image of the enemy ... and are probably committing atrocities for that reason. However, there is no evidence for this, neither in the leaflet nor in the other material of the Landeszentrale für politische Bildung.
The second page of the leaflet is largely factual. Here it is generally about “reasons and causes for war” and “forms of war”.
The third page again has elements of propaganda. The pupils are asked to fill in three blank texts with given words. Filled in “correctly”, two sentences read: “Over time, there have been efforts by Ukraine to be accepted into the EU and NATO. However, this would cause Putin to lose power and influence, which is why the neutrality of Ukraine and other former Soviet states is being demanded.” (The gap fillers are written in italics). Here, the Landeszentrale für politische Bildung only reproduces (and presents) what is claimed on the part of EU and NATO officials. Russia and even US-American scientists see it differently: It is not about “Putin” and his “power and influence”, but about Russia’s security interests and peace in Europe.
The claim in the third cloze that “in 2014 the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea was annexed by Russia [highlighted in bold in the leaflet]” also only reproduces the claim common in the West and conceals the fact that in a referendum in Crimea, with a turnout of more than 80% of those eligible to vote, more than 90% voted for independence from Ukraine and for membership of the Russian Federation.
Even the first sentence at the end of the leaflet on page 4, the conclusion so to speak – “The war in Ukraine is an attack on peace and freedom” – fits more into a Western politician’s speech than it gives adequate information. Without any context, the students are confronted once again and expanded – now “freedom” is added – with the title of the leaflet. The goal is obvious: work on the enemy image of Russia.
In the Baden-Wuerttemberg curriculum for grammar schools from 2016, it says at the very beginning: “Germany’s political system can only function according to democratic principles if it is supported and shaped by politically responsible citizens. Enabling and encouraging students to think and act democratically is the most important task of civic education, but also of schools as a whole.” This is to be fully agreed with. But practice has moved away from this.
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