Italian school textbook can make wrong impression of Estonia

Aimar Altosaar
, ajakirjanik
Italian geography textbook depict not only Estonia but also Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova as part of Russia.
Italian geography textbook depict not only Estonia but also Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova as part of Russia. Photo: Erakogu

Some Italian geography textbooks depict not only Estonia but also Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova as part of Russia. The error is being corrected.

Some Lithuanians, whose children are studying in Italian schools, discovered that the geography textbooks they are using depict the Baltic states as a part of Russia. Estonian Ambassador to Italy Paul Teesalu told Postimees that he has been dealing with the issue since last autumn when the parents of the Lithuanian community, discovered the error in the geography textbooks used in the local basic school.

“Together with the Latvian and Lithuanian embassies we contacted the Italian Ministry of Education and the publisher of the textbook and expressed our dissatisfaction over the concept of the so-called Russian region as depicted in the textbook,” Teesalu said. “We recommended treating the Baltic states as part of Northern Europe according to the UN classification. The publisher admitted the mistake and introduced corrections in the online version of the textbook.” According to the ambassador, the corrections will be introduced in the new printed version as well where the mat will depict the Baltic states as a part of Northern Europe.

Teesalu added that the parents discovered last week the same error in a geography textbook issued by another publisher. “We again contacted the Italian Ministry of Education because it seems to be a wider problem. It is true that schools use textbooks published by different firms and this problem does not usually crop up. Russia is treated in its usual borders and no Rissoan region is mentioned,” he explained.

According to the diplomat, the Italian Ministry of Education admitted that their textbooks contained an error and expressed willingness to send a memorandum to the association of publishers of school textbooks to present the Baltic states correctly in their publications. “As a result, the error in the textbooks will probably be soon corrected. This map has probably been used in the textbooks already earlier, but it attracted the attention of the embassy only this school year thanks to the local Lithuanian community.”

Ambassador Teesalu said that hopefully everyone can understand that the content of textbooks has apolitical aspect besides correct knowledge and that the new generations must receive adequate information. He added that the Italians have understood at the institutional level that the textbooks contain errors – besides the Baltic states also Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova have been included in the Russian region.

“But maps may differ in different textbooks. A common approach via the association of publishers is probably the most efficient way. We are trying to achieve that the textbooks will be correct about that by the beginning of next school year.”

Report any errors

Kerstin Meresma, press official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

We are not compiling a data base of errors in textbooks used abroad. Such information need not reach us because errors may be corrected before it. But if we discover errors in textbooks or study aids or someone informs us, we shall react and ask to correct the errors.

Information about Estonia may be surprising

Aadu Must, Chairman of the Riigikogu Cultural Affairs Committee

The latest incident of this kind happened at an international conference where the Internet technical documentation listed us in the Russian division. After we interfered the error was corrected in a few days and Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were moved in the Baltoscandian region.

Within the Eastern Partnership we have exchanged with other countries school programs, which mention the other partner countries however briefly. But we have no information about the other countries so that some information about us may be surprising. I am aware that some of the work has not been done and will raise the issue in the parliamentary Cultural Affairs Committee. I shall also mention the subject during Estonia’s chairmanship of the Baltic Assembly so that our history and geography were correctly presented everywhere.

Professional negligence

Daniele Rampazzo, Italian Ambassador To Estonia

This is not deliberate spreading of false information or an attempt to manipulate geography.

I assure that the publishing house and my colleagues in Rome are aware of the textbook’s error about the geographic location of the Baltic states.

The publisher declares that they have corrected this error in the new issue of the textbook. This was a case of lack of professionalism of the authors and negligence of the publishing house which failed to check the facts before printing. In Italy, the teachers bear the responsibility of the content of lessons and they are free to use textbooks issued by different publishers.