The date of May 9 is important in Russia since it is the commemoration of the victory over Nazi Germany in 1945. Particularly scrutinized and followed this year because of the war in Ukraine and the symbolism it sends back , it was also an opportunity for many Internet users to recall the importance of the role of the USSR during this conflict.

Many publications on social networks have also regretted that this role is possibly underestimated in education in France: “We too often forget that it is thanks to the Red Army that we do not speak German. Enough of Western propaganda at school! “. Some publications also highlight the photo of Marshal Joukov, the Russian officer who took Berlin in May 1945: “He defeated Hitler, but his name does not appear in French schoolbooks. »


Contacted by 20 minutesthe Ministry of National Education specifies that the Second World War is “particularly addressed in the final year class, but also mentioned in cycle 3 and 4 (CM2, 6th and 3rd)”.

If in cycles 3 and 4, the situation of France and its neighbors is at the center of the teaching, the global aspect and the military conflicts are detailed in terminale in chapter 3 of theme 1: “Fragility of democracies, totalitarianisms and World War II (1929-1945)”, according to the program available on website of the ministry.

In addition to the presentation of the protagonists of the conflict and the global scope which are part of the learning objectives, the program also stipulates, in the passage and opening points for teachers, “The eastern front and the war of annihilation” and “June 44: the Normandy landings and Operation Bagration”.

Battles and casualties

If the landing is well known to everyone in France, Operation Bagration is the Soviet offensive that took place at the same time, from June to August 1944, on the Eastern Front. Both battles have the same importance in the program.

A point on which Christine Guimonnet, general secretary of the Association of History and Geography Teachers (APHG) insists: “We are working on both subjects as much, they are necessary for understanding the situation. “We explain to what extent the 3rd Reich was taken in a vice, the capture of Berlin by the Red Army,” adds the high school history teacher. At the time of establishing the balance sheet of the Second World War in Terminale, the USSR is also mentioned with the siege of Leningrad and the 900,000 dead of Stalingrad: “We are also working on the military and civilian victims of this conflict. »

Textbooks like the programs

As for school textbooks, those that we have been able to consult (the images of which we cannot distribute here for rights issues) clearly highlight the various battles and military advances of the Soviet troops. The human losses are also widely disclosed and other elements such as the famous photo of a Red Army soldier waving a flag on the roof of the Reichstag in Berlin are offered for comment on war propaganda.

“To attack textbooks is useless, they do not represent the programs but are only tools, not the line to follow”, explains Christine Guimonnet.

But then why does this idea seem to imprint on the minds of many Internet users? Surely because this minimization of the role of the USSR in the 1945 victory has been a gimmick of Russian power for decades. The glorification of the role of the USSR during the Second World War has even been enshrined in the Russian Constitution since 2020.

According to Christine Guimonnet, many keep in mind the lessons of the 1960s to 1980s, during which information was difficult to obtain from the Soviet side: “Since the collapse of the Eastern bloc, many archives have been opened and have allowed to discover and accentuate the historiographical renewal. Since many theses and works have been made and we know a lot more. »

For example, when Stalin recognized only 7 million Soviet victims of the conflict in 1947, Nikita Khrushchev evoked nearly 20 million in 1993. The historian Nicholas Werthemeritus research director at the CNRS and specialist in the USSR quoted by The worldestimates the number of dead at 26 million, the number commonly accepted today.


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