Ukrainian secondary school students will no longer study Russian classics during foreign literature classes, except for those writers whose life or creative heritage was connected in some way with Ukraine. 

“In the Ukrainian school program of foreign literature, only those writers connected to Ukraine through their lives or pieces will remain,” reported Yuriy Kononenko, head of the Department of General Secondary and Preschool Education of the Ministry of Education and Science.

This means that writers of Russian classics who are (or were) closely connected with Ukraine, for instance being born in Ukraine, having lived in Ukraine for some time, or having wrote about Ukraine in their works, will remain in the secondary school educational program.

A notable example is Mykola Hohol (Nikolai Gogol in Russian), of Ukrainian origin, who wrote about Ukraine and contributed to Ukrainian culture. Others include Volodymyr Korolenko and Mikhail Bulgakov, who lived and initially wrote in Kyiv and whose “Heart of a Dog” will continue to be studied, according to Kononenko, speaking on Ukrainian television.

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“The school program will include Anatoly Kuznetsov’s novel “Babyn Yar” because it is a landmark piece – a documentation of the Nazi crimes in Kyiv and mass execution of its Jewish population. Also, “12 Chairs” by Ilf and Petrov will also be studied in schools,” Kononenko added.

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He recalled that during the summer, a working group within the Ministry of Education and Culture set out to update certain curricula, in particular the history of Ukraine, world history, foreign literature, geography, defense of Ukraine and some other courses. The resulting program was considered by the Scientific and Methodological Commission of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, and Science of Ukraine. The Minister then led a meeting to further discuss the program and underpinning issues.

Kononenko reported that the necessary changes to educational programs have now been prepared and will be signed ahead of implementation across schools from September 1.

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He also clarified that “a lot of writers who worked on the European, American, and Asian continents will now be studied in the course of foreign literature” and gave the example of Austrian writer Joseph Roth (who was born and raised in western Ukraine).  That said, many new pieces will not be included in the foreign literature program and will therefore be extra-curricular.

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