Students in Russian schools, starting in the first year, will have weekly classes where they will watch war films and take virtual tours of Crimea. They will have regular classes on topics such as the geopolitical situation and traditional values. In addition to the traditional flag-raising ceremonies, classes will begin to celebrate the national “Renaissance” under the auspices of President Vladimir Putin.
According to the legislation enacted by the guide on Thursday (14), everyone will be encouraged to join a new national youth movement in Templates of the so-called “pioneers” of the Soviet Union, with their red ties. President Putin himself will lead the movement.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, attempts by the Russian government to engage students with the state’s ideology have failed, a senior Kremlin bureaucrat, Sergei Novikov, recently told thousands of professors at an online workshop. But now, in the midst of the Ukraine war, Putin has made clear that this needs to change.
“We need to know how the students are infected with our ideology,” Novikov said. “Our ideological work aims to raise awareness.”
With the war approaching five months, Putin’s broad ambitions for the home front began to become clear: a comprehensive reprogramming of the entire society came to an end. 30 years of opening up to the West.
The Kremlin has imprisoned or forced into exile every activist who spoke out against the war; criminalizes the remainder of independent press; and come suppression of academicsbloggers and even an ice hockey player whose loyalty to the nation was in doubt.
But nowhere are these ambitions more evident than in the Kremlin’s race to reform the education offered to students in the country’s 40,000 public schools.
The nationwide educational initiatives, which will take effect in September, are part of a government campaign to indoctrinate students with Putin’s version of patriotism, Camping and anti-Westernillustrating the scope of his broad efforts to use war to mobilize Russian society and eliminate any potential opposition.
Some experts doubt that the mega-plans are likely to bear fruit in a short time, but even before the start of the new school year, the power of political propaganda to shape the opinions of vulnerable children and teens is already becoming clear.
For example, Irina, a ninth-grade student, said that a computer class that was scheduled for March in Moscow was replaced by a state TV report showing Ukrainians surrendering to Russian forces and a class showing that the only information you can get trust is that comes from sources formal. It didn’t take long to notice a change of attitude among some of her friends who were at first frightened or confused by the war.
“Suddenly they started repeating everything the TV said,” Irina says in a phone interview with her mother, Lyubov Ten. “Suddenly they started saying everything was due, that it had to happen. They couldn’t even try to explain it to me.”
Ten and her husband left for Poland in the spring, due to her refusal to raise children in an increasingly militarized environment.
Teachers were also noticing a change. In the city of Pskov, near the Estonian border, English teacher Irina Milutina said students at her school argued bitterly over whether Russia was right to invade Ukraine. Sometimes they get involved in strikes.
But it did not take long for dissenting voices to fade away. Students went to Scribble Z and V – War Support SymbolsBecause of the markings that identify the invading Russian armored vehicles – on panels, desks and even on the ground. During the break, the fifth and sixth graders play the role of Russian soldiers, says Milyutina. “When they don’t like someone, they call them Ukrainian.”
According to activists and reports in the Russian media, schools across the country have received the orders. Daniel Kane, director of the Independent Teachers’ Union, shared with The New York Times some of the orders teachers would have received and passed on to him.
In one class, students are taught about “Hybrid Conflicts They are being fired against Russia”, with a BBC report on a Russian attack on Ukraine and a statement by President Volodymyr Zelensky presented as examples of fake news aimed at sowing discord in Russian society. Students are taught to distrust any opposition activists in their communities.
“One effective measure of hybrid conflict is to encourage influencers in the local population,” says a prayer that the student must categorize as true or false. The correct answer, of course, is “correct”.
The new campaign marks an intensification of Putin’s years-long efforts to militarize society, intensifying the authorities’ one-off post-invasion efforts to convince young people that the war is justified.
Novikov, who heads the Kremlin’s “Public Projects” Directorate, said that with the invasion of Ukraine in February, teachers were faced with an “urgent task”: “to do explanatory work” and answer “difficult questions” from teachers and students.
“While everything can be more or less managed with younger students, older students receive information from a variety of channels,” he says, acknowledging government concerns that the internet could influence young people’s views. A poll conducted by the independent Levada Center last month showed that 36% of Russians aged 18-24 oppose the war, a position held by only 20% of adults.
The Kremlin is working on writing down its educational ambitions before the start of the next school year. A draft decree issued by the Education Ministry last month shows that two decades of Putin’s rule will be enshrined in standard school curricula as a historic turning point. At the same time, the teaching of history itself will become more dogmatic.
The decree calls for the inclusion of lessons of Russian history on new topics such as “Russia’s rise as a superpower in the twenty-first century”, “reunification with Crimea” and “the special military operation in Ukraine”.
While current educational guidelines state that students should be able to assess “different versions of history,” the new proposal states that they should learn to “defend historical truth” and “highlight the falsification of homeland history.”
As civil servants, teachers often have no choice but to adhere to the new guidelines. However, there are signs of underlying resistance. Kane says the teachers’ union, his union, is providing legal advice to dozens of teachers who have refused to teach political propaganda lessons, noting that political unrest in schools is technically illegal under Russian law. In some cases, he says, school administrators have simply canceled classes, realizing their unpopularity.
“One has to find the moral force necessary not to facilitate evil,” says Sergei Chernyshov, the principal of a private high school in Novosibirsk, Siberia, who has resisted the promotion of government propaganda. “If you can’t protest him, at least don’t help him.”
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