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Great literature has lessons for us all

Russian minister of education and science Dmitry Livanov is right to emphasise the importance of a nation's literature in education ("Why Dostoyevsky is one of Russia's best teachers", 24 January). And he is rightly proud that all Russian children are familiar with writers such as Pushkin and Chekhov. But is the purpose of literature simply the uncritical transmission of a nation's culture or should it endeavour to enrich us with a deeper understanding of the human condition? The minister should ask himself whether literary freethinkers like Dostoyevsky (exiled to Siberia) and Tolstoy (excommunicated from the Russian Orthodox Church) would be tolerated in today's Russia.

Stan Labovitch, Windsor, Berkshire.

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