Scenes of war in the sandbox and weapon exercises: Putin's propaganda now even reaches children
Created: 2023-01-11Updated: 2023-01-11, 12:31 p.m
By: Stephanie Munk
Putin's propaganda is now also reaching the very youngest in Russia - an expert explains to IPPEN.MEDIA the new course in the Ukraine war.
MOSCOW - In December, the Russian leadership laid the foundations for a new "all-Russian youth movement": the "Movement of the First".
In all schools in the country, groups for children from the age of six are to be formed as quickly as possible, and President Vladimir Putin is said to be personally responsible for overseeing the content.
"We are concerned with a movement that should reach a maximum number of children," emphasized Ksenia Rasuwaeva, head of the state youth authority, according to the
In other words, the Kremlin is now expanding its propaganda to include the very young.
Since the beginning of the Ukraine war, the state has been investing even more in youth organizations such as the "Young Army," says Félix Krawatzek, political scientist at the Center for East European and International Studies,
“Attempts to get youth interested in the military are increasing and the pressure to join organizations is increasing.
They are now suddenly also represented in remote regions.” The expert concludes: “The Kremlin wants to get closer to young people in order to indoctrinate them.” He sees a change in strategy.
Russian President Vladimir Putin in a group picture with young people in December 2022. © Valery Sharifulin/Tass/Imago
Putin's new course: Kremlin wants to "get young people to defend Russia with arms"
Approaches to this have been around for a long time.
The youth organization "Junarmiya", in English: "Young Army", has existed in Russia since 2016.
The patron is Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
When founding the organization, he found clear words about its goals: "In order to get young people to defend Russia with guns in their hands, the willingness and will to serve must be awakened in childhood and adolescence," said Schoigu according to a report in the
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
The “Young Army” is intended to prepare children as young as eight for a career in the state and military.
A selection of small arms is available in the group rooms, and a picture of Putin and a Russian flag on the wall are mandatory.
Félix Krawatzek is a political scientist and heads the research focus "Youth and Generational Change" at the Center for East European and International Studies in Berlin.
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According to Krawatzek, the members of the "Young Army" march in large military parades, complete military exercises, hold vigils, go to camps, collect donations for soldiers and get involved in the neighborhood.
Recently the organization reached one million members, there was a big celebration.
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Russian children take part in a commemoration day of the Russian Air Force in August 2022.
© Vitaliy Ankov/Imago
For a long time, Putin wanted to induce apathy in Russia's youth
The fact that young Russians are encouraged to get involved in this way is relatively new in Russia, says Krawatzek, who has been researching young people in Russia and Eastern Europe for a long time and has carried out numerous surveys.
“For decades, the state has focused on encouraging political apathy and passivity among young people.
The young people were told: 'Politics is not for you.'”
A change could be observed at the latest with the Ukraine war: "Now the Kremlin wants active youth, who support the war and are militarily involved, instead of passive ones," says Krawatzek.
Moral education as a separate school subject in Russia
Even children and young people who do not take part in the "Young Army" or other organizations feel the effects of state propaganda on a daily basis: there is a separate school subject for the patriotic and moral upbringing of children, which corresponds one-to-one to Kremlin propaganda, describes the political scientist.
For example, the following is conveyed: Ukraine is part of Russia, Russia is threatened by the West and is the last guardian of true, conservative values.
WWII battles are recreated in the sandbox with tanks.”
political scientist dr.
There are even examples of war propaganda in kindergartens in Russia: “The content is conveyed there in a playful way.
For example, battles of the Second World War are recreated with tanks in the sandbox and patriotic songs are sung together.”
A boy holds a Russian A12 assault rifle at the opening of a military fair.
© Yuri Smityuk/Imago
Putin's tough education regiment: severe penalties for resistance - teachers and lecturers denounced
Of course, not all educators would strictly follow Putin's instructions - but the pressure to comply was increasing, according to Krawatzek: "The space for controversial discussions is very, very narrow." And the danger of being denounced is always there - especially at Russian universities.
“The lecturers there have to be very careful about what they say.
We know of cases of denunciations where parts of seminars were recorded and presented to the university management.”
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With all this, Putin is pursuing the goal of breeding “citizen soldiers” who are loyal to the regime and who see themselves as opponents of all liberal values – according to the
, this is how the Finnish expert Joanna Alava, who researches the topic intensively, describes it
However, among young people there is also resistance to Putin and the Ukraine war, even if this is shown less and less openly because of the harsh penalties.
For many young Russians, the only option is to withdraw completely into their private lives or emigrate abroad to avoid state propaganda.