Dressed in white shirts and carrying bouquets, children across Russia returned to school on Friday, where the Kremlin’s narratives about the war in Ukraine and its confrontation with the West were more prominent than ever.
Students are expected to listen to the Russian national anthem and watch the country’s tricolor flag be raised each week. is a weekly article that translates as “talk about important things”, which was introduced last year with the aim of promoting patriotism.
A new high school history textbook includes a chapter on the annexation of Crimea and “special military operations” — the Kremlin’s appetite for war, and some basic military training included in self-defense and first-aid courses. Is.
President Vladimir Putin even personally met students from 30 schools from different regions on Friday and described Russians as “an invincible nation”. The Kremlin described it as “an open lesson” as part of the study program “Discussion of Important Things”.
Nikolay Petrov, a researcher at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, said, “The school … is a powerful mechanism for raising the individual under the state.” “For a while the school was out of active state attention. Today, it’s all coming back.”
The Kremlin tapped into what was on the minds of young people several years ago, when teenagers and students staged unauthorized protests organized by now-imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
“The Kremlin suddenly started paying a lot more attention to children and young people,” Mr. Petrov noted.
Mr. Putin began meeting regularly with young people, and officials began investing in promoting his political narrative. The effort appears to be driven by the realization that a whole generation of people who grew up with Mr Putin as president “might think differently than the Kremlin wants”, the analyst said.
In recent years there have been frequent media reports of teachers dressing down, shouting or calling the police on students who express support for opposition or anti-government views.
The crackdown intensified after Moscow sent troops into Ukraine, and teachers were fired or forced to leave their jobs for refusing to hold “discussions about important things” sessions. Parents face pressure from school administrators and authorities if their children skip these lessons.
Earlier this year, authorities in Yefremov, a town south of Moscow, convicted and imprisoned a father whose daughter had drawn an anti-war sketch at school.
The Ministry of Education has unveiled the Class 11 history textbook, which includes a chapter on Russia from 2014 to present. It justifies the annexation of Crimea and the invasion of Ukraine, and paints the West as hostile to Moscow. Questions about fighting were included in the final date exam pattern released by the authorities recently.
The practical self-defense and first aid course now includes some basic military training, teaching students about various weapons and lectures on information warfare and the dangers of extremist groups.
Some parents say they are worried about these mandatory lessons.
“I have discovered that, to my horror, theoretical lessons have become mandatory for my daughters and there is no way to avoid it,” said Sergei, a Muscovite whose two daughters have just started high school. Is. She and the other parents spoke to The Associated Press on condition that their last names not be released out of concern for their safety.
“Now I have to explain and tell the girls to be more careful about what they say at school so they don’t hurt themselves,” she said.
Sergei said his daughters, whose passion is ballroom dancing, “are suddenly asking questions about the flight range of missiles and drones.”
“School students are militarized, history textbooks are being rewritten, imperatives are being enforced,” he said. “Russian schools increasingly revert to the worst Soviet examples, when there were two histories and two truths.”
He added that parents now have few opportunities to protect children from “brainwashing”.
Other Muscovites told the AP they were lucky their children had to attend schools where teachers were not following the guidelines to the letter, trying to stay out of politics.
“We have teachers who understand everything. They won’t say out loud that they are against ‘talking about important things,'” said Vladimir, whose daughter attends a school in Moscow.
“We got a teacher who prepared his own material for the lessons and talked about apolitical topics without ideologies, for example the theater, the history of Moscow,” he said.
Anna, whose son attends middle school in Moscow, also said she was grateful to the school and its administrators for not taking an “aggressive stance” and resorting to propaganda. She said the school has a weekly national anthem and featured a lesson about Crimea last year, but other than that, “so I’m not worried about it.”
Vladimir believes that teachers who are well-educated, critical thinkers will be able to meet the demands. If they’re “willing and flexible,” he said, they might “officially implement what they’re being told, but actually quietly sabotage it.”
This content appears as provided to The Globe by early wire service. It has not been edited by Globe staff.