Due to the lack of manpower to replenish the ranks of the occupying army, the Kremlin leadership considered the possibility of involving 17-18-year-old members of the Russian children's and youth military organization "Yunarmiya" in hostilities. The relevant decree, signed by Russian Defense Minister Serhiy Shoigu, was published 20 March 2022 by the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine. The document deals with the preparation of reports on the potential human reserve aged 17-18 to engage in hostilities in the occupying army. The top military leadership of the Russian Federation must submit proposals for the training of these personnel as soon as possible. Gennady Zhidko, the head of the main military-political department of the occupying forces, was in charge of monitoring the execution of the order.
Yunarmiya members are trained to shoot, provide medical assistance, navigate by map. In their free time, the members of the Yunarmiya will keep a watch of memory at the Eternal Flame, engage in volunteer activities, work to preserve memorials, and also take part in other events. In addition, it is planned to involve members of the movement in the elimination of emergency situations, search work in the battlefields of the Great Patriotic War and assistance to veterans.
The Yunarmiya movement, which later formed the Yunarmiya, was born in 1990 on the basis of the youth voluntary public organization "Movement of Young Patriots" (YUP), which was formed by merging the military sports games " Zarnitsa ", "Eaglet", "Gaidarovets", posts at the Eternal Flame of Glory, military-patriotic clubs and others. The motto of the organization was: "For the glory of the Fatherland!". At the same time, the very word yunarmeets (derived from "young army man") appeared back in the USSR. Participants of the games " Zarnitsa " and "Eaglet", as well as teenagers studying specialties related to military affairs in public organizations were called Yunarmists .
The All-Russian military-patriotic movement for children and youth "Yunarmiya" was created in 2016 at the initiative of the Ministry of Defense and with the support of the President of Russia. The Yunarmiya movement unites all organizations and bodies involved in the pre-conscription training of citizens; DOSAAF will provide an opportunity for members of the newly minted movement to study at its base. The distinctive sign of the Yunarmiya member is a bright red beret. The official anthem of the movement is the song "Serve Russia".
At the end of May 2016, the first rally of Yunarmiya members was held in Patriot Park. In all regions of Russia, except for Chukotka, these movements are organized and registered. The head of the department suggested that members of the Public Council take patronage over the schools where they once studied and organize branches of the Yunarmiya there. On 16 September 2016, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in Yaroslavl took part in the ceremony of entry of the Association of military-patriotic clubs DOSAAF into the All-Russian military-patriotic public movement Yunarmiya.
First Deputy Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation Sergey Gerasimov handed over a certificate of registration of the All-Russian military-patriotic movement Yunarmiya to the head of the General Staff of this organization, Olympic champion Dmitry Trunenkov. "In accordance with the law on public associations, on July 29, the All-Russian military-patriotic movement Yunarmiya for children and youth received state registration. From the moment of registration, the organization received its flag, emblem, and became a legal entity," Gerasimov said at the certificate presentation ceremony.
The Yunarmiya movement of schoolchildren does not aim to militarize youth, Shoigu said 19 September 2016. "They say that we are engaged in the militarization of the country, so that we all walk in formation there. This, of course, is far from the case," Shoigu said on Monday during a meeting of the Public Council under the Russian Defense Ministry. "But," he added, "we definitely don't like what is sometimes done in individual subjects with young people and what is shown on TV screens. Therefore, we have set ourselves a number of tasks." According to him, the creation of the Yunarmiya youth-patriotic movement, supported by the president, is "a landmark event for us, and let's not hide it, it is of a long-term, very important nature."
More than 70,000 people have joined the Yunarmiya military-patriotic movement, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said 11 April 2017. "For ten months, regional branches of the movement have been created in all regions of the Russian Federation, and its number has now reached 70,000 boys and girls," Shoigu said at a plenary meeting of the Public Council under the Ministry of Defense.
As of June 2017, the movement had more than 117 thousand people, in September 2017 - more than 160 thousand members. In May 2018, according to the statement of the head of the Air Force Academy, Colonel General Gennady Zibrov, the number of participants in the movement exceeded 230 thousand people. According to Novaya Gazeta, such a rapid growth occurred due to the fact that all schoolchildren were automatically included in the movement, as the school administration received orders to create military-patriotic detachments.
School administrations put all the care for young patriots on life safety and history teachers, most often men. They were not happy: firstly, they were simply confronted with a fact, and secondly, their Yunarmiya activities are not paid in any way. Teachers were supposed to form school youth detachments. They are controlled by district and regional headquarters, and above them is the federal headquarters of the Yunarmiya, directly subordinate to the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. The headquarters is headed by Roman Romanenko, cosmonaut and State Duma deputy from United Russia. The headquarters develops a plan, rules and strategies of the Yunarmiya and monitors the implementation of the developed one. Since the order "from above" was received by all schools, the Yunarmia overnight became the largest youth movement.
The Yunarmiya does not give any special knowledge to schoolchildren, and so far there are no serious preferences for admission to military schools. But from 2020, in 20 civilian universities, points were added to the results of the Unified State Exam. It makes children prepare for war. And schoolchildren grow up with the idea that war is a part of everyday life, that war is here, right next to it, and you should always be ready for it.
Aggressive militaristic propaganda, including in schools, is designed to make war a norm in Russian society. The Kremlin wants Russians to get used to war. Daniil Ken, head of the independent trade union Alliance of Teachers, said this on the air of the FREEDOM TV channel 02 September 2023. “Through the forcible involvement of children in support of the war, direct actions, the collection of humanitarian aid, emotional involvement – when they teach you to march or throw a dummy grenade, assemble and disassemble a machine gun for ideological lessons that while you are throwing a grenade in the schoolyard, dads, elders brothers, comrades, graduates of past years are already throwing real grenades, defending their homeland – they are simply making war the norm of life in Russian society, ”said the guest on the air.
He also noted that in addition to the forms of propaganda approved by the Kremlin, there are also grassroots initiatives that school leaders are introducing in an attempt to curry favor. This is exactly what happened in Nizhny Novgorod, where first-graders – girls and boys – were given military uniforms on the eve of September 1, and after the indignation of their parents, they played back: they say, this is not for the ruler. “There is already the zeal of local performers who, often understanding the political order, do not feel the reality and people’s attitude to it. It is clear that these are not errors, but a system thing, ”added Ken.
The head of the independent trade union “Alliance of Teachers” also commented on “Conversations about the Important”, which is another element of propaganda in Russian schools, stressing that they are part of an extracurricular program, students have the right to attend them freely. “Very often people do not know about it, parents do not know. Principals and teachers are mistaken, thinking that this is part of the program … We recommend parents to write applications for refusing these lessons so that the school, in case of disagreement, resolves conflicts with parents, and does not put pressure on children, ”said Daniel Ken, adding, that in the past academic year, this practice justified itself.
As Moscow’s war against Ukraine raged on, children at schools across Russia saw significant changes to the academic curriculum starting in September 2023 -- alterations with a militaristic bent. At a discussion in the lower house of parliament in June 2023, State Duma Deputy Andrei Kartapolov lamented what he said was the unpreparedness of young volunteers and conscripts joining the Russian military. “They are infantile youths,” said Kartapolov, a member of the Kremlin-controlled United Russia party who chairs the Duma Defense Committee, “who in many respects are not prepared for real life.”
Over the next two years, Russian schools would address this purported issue by scrapping its long-standing program called Fundamentals Of Safe Living and replacing it with a block of lectures with the working title Fundamentals Of Safety And Defense Of The Homeland. It was the latest intensification of the thread of “patriotic education” that has run through Russia in Vladimir Putin’s more than two decades as president or prime minister -- and that many critics said prioritizes the goals of the government over the interests of children.
Beginning with the new school year in September 2023, students in 10th grade would be taught the “elements of basic military preparedness.” In addition to drills and instruction in basic military skills, it will also include lectures on the “career prospects” of military service, according to textbooks and teacher’s manuals that had been officially posted online. In 11th grade, such lessons would continue with “the formation of Russian civic identity, patriotism, and a sense of responsibility toward one’s homeland,” as well as the development of “conviction and readiness for service and defense of the Fatherland and a sense of responsibility about its fate.”
Other lecture topics to be covered include “the danger of being lured into illegal and antisocial activity” and “the use of young people as a tool for destabilization.” Students would also be warned about what the documents call the danger of “fakes as an element of information warfare.” Instructors will tell students that “it is illegal to violate norms about the distribution of information about the role of the U.S.S.R. during World War II or to commit public acts aimed at discrediting the armed forces of the Russian Federation.”
In the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the government hastily adopted a series of laws criminalizing the knowing distribution of “false information” about Russian military operations and “discrediting” the Russian armed forces. In February, 18-year-old Maksim Lypkan was sentenced to two months in jail for repeated anti-war statements and actions, becoming the youngest Russian convicted under the new laws.
The new block of lectures replaced a Soviet-era innovation called Fundamentals Of Safe Living that was introduced in the 1980s following a spate of accidents, most notably the Chernobyl nuclear-plant disaster in 1986. Over the years, the course of weekly lectures -- 68 hours per academic year --- was modified to include sections on emerging threats such as terrorism and cybercrime. The legacy version included lectures on reducing the risk of terrorist attacks, ways of remaining safe in large crowds, and fundamentals of online safety. It also included a lecture on the “symbols and traditions” of the Russian military.
The new course also included basic first aid, but other topics were replaced by “basic military preparedness,” including the maintenance and operation of the Kalashnikov automatic rifle and two types of hand grenades. The program was similar to the basic military training taught in schools during the Soviet period that was canceled in 1993.
Education Minister Sergei Kravtsov said the changes will be introduced “gradually.” In January 2023, Kravtsov said the new courses could be taught by veterans of the “special military operation” in Ukraine, using the Kremlin’s mandatory euphemism for the war of aggression against Kyiv. Former soldiers would undergo three months of pedagogical training before being assigned to classrooms, he said.
The Fundamentals Of Safety And Defense Of The Homeland program is the latest in a series of similar developments in Russian schools under Putin. Since 2014, the Education Ministry recommended that schools organize five-day military camps for all 10th-grade boys -- and girls, on a voluntary basis -- to be held, if possible, at a nearby military base. The purpose of the camps is “to form the moral, psychological, and physical qualities necessary for service in the armed forces.” Students learn how to dig trenches, march in formation, shoot, throw grenades, move around a battlefield, and cope with battlefield injuries.
The idea for such camps was originally proposed jointly by the Defense and Education ministries in 2010. In February 2023, as the full-scale war against Ukraine entered its second year with no sign of a quick resolution on the horizon, parents of children in many schools were informed that participation in the camps was now mandatory. Beginning in September 2023, the Defense and Education ministries have proposed the camps be conducted by Avangard, a lavishly funded Defense Ministry “center for the military-patriotic education of young people” after many schools complained that no military bases were available.
Avangard runs a large, modern campus outside of Moscow, where military veterans, including many fresh from the war in Ukraine, serve as instructors. It conducts five-day camps similar to those mandated for schools, but on a commercial basis. The center had opened similar facilities in the Perm region, in Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s home region of Chuvashia, and outside St. Petersburg. The regional government of the Chelyabinsk region in the Ural Mountains, has allocated more than $7 million over two years to build an Avangard training center there.
For the 2022-23 academic year, Russian schools introduced weekly lectures for students of all levels called “Important Conversations.” The program, which was launched by Putin during a visit to a school in Kaliningrad, was designed to inculcate patriotism and to present to students the Kremlin’s version of events in Ukraine and other political matters. Children at the lower levels get lessons on Russia’s natural wonders, interspersed with patriotic messages such as, “Love your motherland” and, “It’s not scary to die for the motherland.”
In 2024, the Education Ministry would introduce a new social-studies textbook, Kravtsov said at a forum in May. “The current textbook was, to say the least, liberal or pseudo-liberal,” Kravtsov said. “Now we will stress the real and immutable values of society.” He added that mathematics, physics, and geography textbooks would also be reworked with the new ethos in mind. Earlier, he said that new history textbooks for the 11th grade would include a chapter on the war in Ukraine.
In April 2023, the Duma quietly and unanimously adopted in all three readings amendments to the law on military service that would allow people as young as 18 to sign contracts to serve in the military. Previously, volunteers had to complete a technical education or academic degree to sign up, meaning that contract soldiers younger than 20 were rare, even though Putin reduced the minimum age to 18 in May 2022.
When Duma Deputy Kartapolov, who described Russian school graduates as “infantile,” first proposed the amendments in 2022, Deputy Nina Ostanina, head of the Committee on Families, Women, and Children, expressed her opposition, saying the proposal left “schoolchildren who want to make money immediately simply defenseless.” According to Russian media reports, the government set the goal of signing up 400,000 new volunteer soldiers. “The goal has been set and now they are purging the law of all obstacles to concluding contracts on military service,” human rights activist Sergei Krivenko told the BBC’s Russian Service.
A brand-new history textbook for students in 11th grade -- the final year of high school -- were distributed in September 2023. "The section about the period from the 1970s until the 2000s has been completely reworked," Vladimir Medinsky, a nationalist aide to President Vladimir Putin who served as culture minister in 2012-20 and is one of the authors of the new textbook, said at a presentation on August 8. He said that "a section has been added that covers the period from 2014 to the present" -- the period, in other words, since Russia seized control of Crimea and fomented a war in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region that was supplanted, in February 2022, by the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
"There are many micro-histories and interesting facts. Many new illustrations.... And, of course, there is a separate chapter devoted to the 'special military operation,'" he added, using the Kremlin's euphemism -- enshrined in Russian law -- for the invasion and the war that persists 18 months later.
Critics say the new textbook has little to do with history but rather is a return to Soviet-style practices of ideological indoctrination aimed at youths who could soon find themselves drafted into the military. With some exceptions, boys become eligible for one year of mandatory service when they reach the age of 18.
The textbook repeats President Vladimir Putin's false claims that Ukraine is an "ultranationalist" and "neo-Nazi" state; that Kyiv is controlled by the West, which seeks to dismember Russia and steal its natural resources; that NATO advisers pushed Kyiv to "attack the Donbas" in 2020; that "strictly secret" U.S. "biolaboratories" were created in Ukraine; that Kyiv has been "aggressively" seeking to acquire nuclear weapons; and more.
"The new history textbook is a book addressed to pre-conscripts and their girlfriends," Aleksei Makarkin, deputy head of the Center for Political Technologies, wrote. "The government today actually has few effective ways of communicating with young people. Young people don't watch television and there is no way to make them do so."
Russia's national idea is patriotism, President Vladimir Putin said 10 May 2020. “Yes, in patriotism, I think there can be nothing else. But patriotism should not be leavened, stale and sour,” the head of state said in an interview with the program “Moscow. Kremlin. Putin." “This does not mean at all that we need to cling only to our heroic past all the time, we need to look to our no less heroic and successful future, and this is the key to success,” the Russian leader stressed. “Patriotism consists in devoting oneself to the development of the country, its movement forward,” Putin explained.
The vast majority of Russians (92%) now consider themselves patriots, according to a survey releasd 09 June 2018 by the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM). This is the maximum figure in the XXI century, sociologists said. "For the majority of respondents (59%), patriotism is still manifested in love for one's country," the authors of the survey stated. More than a third of Russians (39%) call it patriotism the desire to change the state of affairs in the state. Almost the same number of respondents (38%) consider work for the benefit of the country as an expression of patriotism.
Only a third of the respondents (32%) correctly named the date of the start of World War II - September 1, 1939, according to the results of a survey releaaed 29 August 2019 by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM). “More than half of the respondents (52%) believed that World War II began in 1941. Another 6% named another option,” the authors of the survey said. According to the results of the survey, citizens without higher education made mistakes more often. The correct date was mentioned mainly by people with higher or incomplete higher education (48%).
In Russian educational institutions it is necessary to strengthen patriotic education at all stages of the educational process. This was stated 12 December 2019 by Deputy Minister of Education of the Russian Federation Viktor Basyuk. “The patriotic component is, in general, one of the elements of personal learning outcomes. And it should be permeated through all subjects: through extracurricular activities, and through additional education, and in general through the entire educational environment that exists in an educational organization”.
Russia needed a law on the patriotic education of youth. This was stated 28 December 2019 by State Duma deputy Mikhail Sheremet. “This initiative is long overdue. Even I will say this - overripe. I hope that 2020 will be an important landmark year when we adopt this law,” Mikhail Sheremet said. According to the parliamentarian, at present the regions themselves determine the content and directions of work on patriotic education, reports gorod24.online. “I think that there should be a single pyramidal basis. Then we will all be in harmony. And so we lose time and opportunities,” the deputy noted.
The Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation on 06 January 2020 released a report "On the state of civil society in the Russian Federation for 2019". The document said that "patriotic education, along with the development of volunteer practices, remains one of the most important areas of state-public dialogue." According to the study, Russians consider “patriotism as love for the Motherland”, “sense of duty to oneself, family and Fatherland”, “philanthropy and justice” as key values. The authors of the report point out that these values are traditional for Russia.
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