With the signing of new legislation to become law, Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to create a new generation that supports him and refuses to open up to the West by amending some school curricula, according to a report by the New York Times.
From grade one, students across Russia will attend weekly classes in which they will watch films, documentaries and educational programs on the “special military operation” in Ukraine, as well as virtual tours of the most important landmarks in Crimea, which annexed Moscow. almost eight years ago.
According to the newspaper’s report, the students will receive regular and permanent lessons and lectures, study material of an ideological nature that deals with issues such as “geopolitical situations” and “traditional and national values”, in addition to the ceremony of hoisting the national flag. on a regular basis (the flag salute) in the morning queues and with departure.
According to legislation that Putin signed into law from Thursday, all Russian children will be encouraged to join a new national youth movement such as the Pioneers for Children and Youth that existed in the days of the former Soviet Union and display children wore red berets representing the communist regime.The young organization would be led and supervised by the Russian president himself.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, attempts by the Russian government to establish a state ideology on school children have proved unsuccessful, says Sergei Novikov, a senior Kremlin bureaucrat who addressed thousands of Russian schoolteachers in an online workshop.
But now, amid the war in Ukraine, Novikov stressed that Putin sees this need to change, adding: “Our ideological work is aimed at changing consciousness.”
As the war in Ukraine approaches its fifth month, experts note that Putin has stepped up his ambitions to end 30 years of openness from the West, as the Kremlin has captured all activists who have criticized the invasion of their western neighbor. and the independent press has been eliminated, not to mention the crackdown on anyone who opposes Putin’s policies, starting with academics and bloggers, does not end with hockey players suspected of their loyalty.
40 thousand schools
But nowhere is the Kremlin’s ambition to consolidate its dictatorial rule more visible than in the nearly 40,000 schools in which the consciousness and values of the new generation are formed.
The nationwide education initiatives, which began in September, are part of the Russian government’s scramble to indoctrinate Putin’s anti-Western militarism and patriotism, demonstrating the scope of his campaign to exploit the war against Ukraine to further Russian society. mobilize and eliminate any potential adversaries.
While some experts doubt that the Kremlin’s grand plans will soon bear fruit, even before the new school year, the effectiveness of Kremlin propaganda to change the minds of vulnerable young people is already visible.
In this regard, Irina, a ninth-grade student, says that the computer lessons at her school in Moscow were replaced in March by watching a government television report on the surrender of Ukrainians to Russian forces and lectures telling them that reliable information about the war is available only in official Russian sources. .
Irina, who spoke to her mother from Poland, said in a telephone interview with “The New York Times” that she soon noticed a shift between some friends who were initially scared or confused by the war.
He continued, “They suddenly started repeating the things they had seen and heard on television … and thought the war was inevitable and had to happen without trying to explain it logically to me.”
In the city of Pskov near the Estonian border, an English teacher, Irina Milyutina, said children at her school initially argued vehemently over whether Russia was right or wrong with the invasion of Ukraine, before having to change its mind under the impetus of official government propaganda. in schools ..
The teacher noticed that the voices of disagreement quickly evaporated, and the children began to write the letters Z and V (the symbols of the invading Russian forces in Ukraine) on the blackboards, study chairs and even the floors.
And she added: “Once upon a time, the fifth- and sixth-grade students pretended to be Russian soldiers and that those who did not like them very much called them Ukrainians.”
“Government propaganda has succeeded in getting what he wants inside schools,” explained Miliotina, 30, who was arrested in February for objecting to the invasion but managed to keep her job as a teacher.
She said in a telephone interview that government regulations to hold a series of pro-war propaganda lessons reached her school in the first weeks after the invasion.
According to Russian activists and news reports, schools across the country have received such orders, and in this context, the president of the Independent Teachers’ Union, Daniel Keane, showed the New York Times some of the directions he said teachers had passed on to him.
In a classroom, students are taught that the Western media provides false information and reports about the war in Ukraine and that it is aimed at sowing discord in Russian society, followed by a school exam to make sure the students have absorbed which they received. those lectures.
It appears that the Kremlin’s efforts to change students’ ideas, according to experts and activists, represent a new and intense boost in Putin’s ongoing efforts to militarize Russian society, with clear efforts by his regime officials to recruit young people. to convince that the war against Ukraine was justified.
“Patriotism must be the overriding value of our people,” a senior Kremlin staff member, Alexander Kharyshev, said during his participation in a teachers’ workshop last month hosted by the Ministry of Education.
He defined his vision of patriotism by saying that it is “the willingness to sacrifice life for the sake of the motherland.”