Court demands edits for Abkhaz history textbook, authors appeal
In Abkhazia, the first stage of a trial concerning a history textbook has completed, after lasting more than a year.
The authors of the textbook, two reputable historians Stanislav Lakobu and Oleg Bgazhbu, were obliged to change the chapter on the Abkhaz political crisis of 2014.
However, the historians have already filed a cassation appeal to the Supreme Court.
What’s the issue?
The problem was the textbook “History of Abkhazia from ancient times to the present day” for grades 10-11.
The chapter that caused the textbook to go to court is dedicated to the events of the end of May 2014, when opposition protests turned into a seizure of the presidential palace, after which the then President of Abkhazia Alexander Ankvab hid on the territory of the Russian military base in Gudauta and then announced his early resignation.
In April 2018, former Prime Minister of Abkhazia Leonid Lakerbaia appealed to the court. He held this post just at that time – from September 2011 to the end of May 2014.
Lakerbaia accused scientists of deliberately distorting events. His claim to court included a requirement to edit paragraphs that describe his own actions during that political crisis.
Lakerbaia said that the authors of the textbook presented his actions in a false and negative light. He had claims only against one phrase.
“In the current situation, on May 29, 2014, the Abkhaz parliament announced a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister L. Lakerbaia, who had promised to leave his post in February 2013.”
In the lawsuit, the former prime minister said that he had not, in fact, given any promises to resign, and the phrase in the textbook discredits his honour and professional reputation.
Over the past year, the court listened to all the witnesses for the defense and the prosecution, and also conducted a linguistic examination – the court then found with the plaintiff.
The court ordered the Ministry of Education “to remove the defamatory information from published textbooks within a month, and the authors of the history textbook must Lakobu and Bgazhbu publicly refute the information they published.”
“Deletion of information should be understood as its destruction in order to make it impossible to [receive] it further,” Bella Hasaia, chairman of the Sukhumi city court, read out in the verdict.
The court did not explain how to remove one phrase from eight thousand copies of a history textbook that had long been handed over to schoolchildren.
The case, however, is not over, as the authors of the textbook appealed to the court of appeals. .
In 2018, this case caused outrage among several Abkhaz scholars who circulated an open letter, expressing dissatisfaction with the very fact of the trial.