Do you know what a "Gulag" is? If you do, you know more than 90 percent of Sweden's pupils. According to research carried out in early May this year, Swedish youngsters know very little of communism and the crimes that have been committed in its name. Almost half of Sweden's students are convinced that no or at least very few people were killed in the Soviet Union because of political reasons. And every fifth young Swede believes that communism is a democratic system.
These devastating figures caused an outcry in Sweden. Nearly everybody agreed that something had to be done about the extreme lack of historical knowledge. The question was - what should be done? Eskil Franck, head of the Living History Forum in Stockholm, an authority that was established in 2003 in order to deal with the Holocaust, received the governmental order to broaden the focus from Nazi crimes to communist crimes - a task Eskil Franck considers necessary regarding the obvious lack of knowledge of communism.
A political touch? Indeed. Commentators around the country maintained it was striking that once the new center-right coalition government had come into power they ordered the Living History Forum shift its emphasis from the Holocaust to communism. Are the new ministers in office to fight an ideological battle in order to bring any kind of leftist thinking into discredit? Tensions rose when Education Minister Jan Björklund of the Liberal Party implied that the Living History Forum did not achieve enough when it comes to fulfilling governmental orders. Björklund stated that, since communism was such a wide and important field, the Forum ought to cooperate with other organizations on this matter. But this time Björklund seems to have gone too far. Pure coincidence or not - Sweden's Left Part was the first political power to object to the government's plan to concentrate on communism in general. Until two years ago the party's leader used to refer to himself as a convinced communist but stopped doing so when the public reacted rather negatively to it. Now the Left Party accused the Education Minister of governmental interference. Rossana Dinamarca is a member of "Riksdagen", the Swedish parliament.
”For me it’s very important that we have a free research in Sweden and also that we can depend on the teachers. In this case that they are teaching history. We should not write from the governmental side, what teachers should or should not teach. I think that is dangerous for democracy.”
”Now we have said that history should be one of the most important subjects in school and of course we need to have guidelines, every single country has to have them. And I think that for most Swedes, it’s so obvious that you need to have information about the Holocaust, why not about the Gulag? And I think we have a lack of knowledge and we need to work with it.”
So, it all sums up to one question: when is a free society more endangered - when its teachers are entitled to teach whatever they want? Or when the government tells the teachers what to do? Sweden's center-right coalition government has already positioned itself on this question. Education Minister Jan Björklund announced that he is intending to change the guidelines for this nation's schools. His reform is expected to come into effect in 2009. The bill is likely to pass parliament due to the government's own majority - to the explicit resentment of opposition politicians like Rossana Dinamarca.
“We should learn something from the Soviet Union. For example that the government should not be influencing what the researcher, for example, or the teacher should teach in school but to really develop a democratic society. No matter what the subject is.”
The first nationwide campaigns dealing with the dark side of communism will start off in March next year. And maybe many young people will finally get to hear what a "Gulag" actually is - the Soviet version of a concentration camp.Listen to the report:
In France many say social unrest has been on the cards for some time. Dozens of police officers were injured on Monday and Tuesday during clashes with youths in a northern Paris suburb. The intensity of the violence took everyone by surprise – Molotov cocktails were thrown and even shotguns were fired, putting several policemen in hospital. The catalyst for all of this was the death on Sunday of two teenage boys who were killed when their motorcycle collided with a police car. The violent reaction from sections of the community’s rekindled memories of the nationwide rioting two years ago, when the protest act of choice was car-burning.
In case you haven’t come across the GPS sat-nav system yet, it’s a system of satellites that pinpoint your car and then beam information to the the voice under your dashboard, which in turn tells you verbally to turn right, left or go straight ahead. The EU’s ‘Galileo’ project is supposed to rival America’s GPS satellite navigation system. But being the EU there has been drawn out wrangling about how the project will be funded, stalling progress for months. Until now.
One of the Netherlsnds’ most controversial politicians, Geert Wilders, has thrust himself back into the spotlight this week. You may have heard of Mr Wilders, journalists usually put the word “controversial” in front of his name. He’s a parliamentarian known as an Islam-basher and it’s now emerged he is making a film denouncing Islam and arguing for the Koran to be banned. Immediately, parallels are being drawn with the film “Submission”, made by murdered Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh and writer Ayan Hirsi-Ali. That film pushed the issue of Moslem integration in Holland up the political agenda, especially after Van Gogh’s murder by an Islamic extremist.
It’ll be a white Christmas for more European party-goers than ever before this year. Cocaine abuse is on the rise across Europe, and particularly in Spain. So far in 2007, Spanish police have intercepted five shipments each holding over 3 tonnes of the drug. With such high supply, prices have dropped and the Iberian peninsular is awash with the narcotic that keeps you up all night. DW’s Jerome Socolovsky reports from Madrid's Barajas airport, one of the key entry points for smugglers from Latin America.
Six weeks after Poles voted the conservative Law and Justice party out of office, Poland's new government is in place, with Prime Minister Donald Tusk at the helm. So what does the Polish man-in-the-street expect from the new leadership? And what does the new cabinet stand for? Michal Kubicki of Polish Radio's External Service reports.
This webpage receives support from the European Union