September 20, 2013

Russia’s children’s ombudsman: Forget about sex education, just read Russian literature


Pavel Astakhov: more Chekhov, fewer condoms

It’s not the first thing that comes to mind when you consider Russian literature, but Pavel Astakhov, Russia’s children’s ombudsman (aka Children’s Rights Commissioner for the President of the Russian Federation) is arguing for an official ban on sex education in schools, stating that he believes everything children need to learn about sex and love can be found in Russian novels. According to the Guardian, Astakhov shared these views during a TV interview, stating:

“The best sex education that exists is Russian literature … In fact, literature in general. Everything is there, about love and about relationships between sexes. Schools should raise children chastely and with an understanding of family values.”

Sex education is not currently taught in schools but just to be certain, Astakhov is demanding an outright ban. This is despite Russia suffering one of ‘the world’s fastest-growing HIV epidemics’. Astakhov was also the host of Russia’s version of Judge Judy, and is the author of a number of legal thrillers, which he presumably would also advise Russian children to read.

Astakhov didn’t specify which novels in particular he thinks are suitable educational tools for children, but let’s be honest; that country’s entire literature is a delicacy minefield. The kids are going to get confused, so here are a few do’s and don’ts which might be thought of as a brief reading guide as they embark on their education. Because as Astakhov rightly notes, “It is unacceptable to allow things that could corrupt children.”

Don’t turn up to a Christmas party and attempt to shoot an ex-lover with a revolver. (Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak)

Boys, don’t seduce a young woman while also dating her mother. (Various)

Near-death experiences can sometimes lead you back to your lover. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. (The Duel, Anton Chekhov)

If you fancy a girl and she’s just not that into you, it probably won’t be because she fancies your dad, but you never can be sure. (First Love, Ivan Turgenev)

When the relationship turns sour, suicide is probably not the best option. (Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy, and various)

You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style. (Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov)



Zeljka Marosevic is the managing director of Melville House UK.