11 November 2022
by Aleksandr Podrabinek
The waves of military-patriotic hysteria raised by state propaganda have reached our schools. Education Minister Sergei Kravtsov has announced the introduction of basic military training starting the next school year for grades 10-11. In addition, schools may themselves introduce military and naval training starting in grade 5 and hold practical field exercises.
If militarization has touched politics, economics, and even daily life, then how can education not be drawn into it as well? It is the failure of mobilization, the low martial spirit of the recruits, and their lack of preparation for military actions that may have pushed the regime to think about the necessity of training young people for future wars starting from the schoolbench. In addition, it’s much easier to corrupt a child’s consciousness with the freedom of violence than it is to free adults from moral obligations.
When in the late 1960s the military subject was introduced in Soviet schools, upperclassmen were seriously inoculated with a love for weapons and a hatred for the imagined enemy. Who to hate and who to shoot was unimportant. At the right moment the Party would point him out, and what was important was the readiness to fight. This was the point of military education in school.
“WHO WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE IN WAR?”
In military training classes we disassembled and assembled Kalashnikovs quickly, ran in gas masks, and studied possible shelters from the terrible effect of poisonous substances and radiation. But what remained central was our ideological education, each person’s readiness to give his life for his homeland. “Who would you like to be in war?” our military instructor conducted an open survey. At the time I said military doctor, because I should save lives, not take them.
The military instructor looked at me with unconcealed contempt and told me to have my parents come to school. My father came and the military instructor informed him that I was behaving unpatriotically and it was time to take up my upbringing. “Do you mean to say we should train children to kill?” my father inquired, and the military instructor realized he’d run into a class enemy.
On the whole, militaristic propaganda did not achieve the goal on which the country’s military-political leadership had been counting. The boys were always interested in playing with weapons, but that interest did not extend to the patriotic hullabaloo. The propaganda was too primitive, too much lying had built up over the decades — both inside school walls and all over the country. The only thing military training achieved with relative success was inculcating the habit of obeying and not asking smart-alec questions. The submission they called discipline was valued by pedagogues, and the military, and the political leadership.
AT LEAST 70 HOURS OF WAR A YEAR
Today we are still dining on the fruits of our Soviet upbringing, when civilians mobilized for the war against Ukraine are more prepared to become free cannon fodder than to question this war’s purpose and make a decision counter to military orders.
Unquestioning obedience was always valued in military structures, therefore it is no surprise that the Defence Ministry has supported the pedagogues’ initiative. The military have emphasized that they recommend allotting at least 70 hours a year to study of the subject. As has already been noted, this is more than given to the study of the Russian language, history, and physics. And twice as much as to geography, chemistry, and computer science. In the government’s opinion, the country needs foot soldiers, not specialists. It is foot soldiers they’ll be training from the schoolbench.
The so-called partial mobilization demonstrated that many tried to get out of it, unwilling to kill others and die themselves. About a million people hastily fled the country. Most of the others were mobilized forcibly, under threat of criminal prosecution.
Draft-age men were fished up off the streets by officers from military recruitment offices and police. Now these functions will be handed over to the schools, in order to educate boys there, boys to whom it won’t occur to hide from the draft or mobilization. Nothing is likely to come of this, but the transfer of military and police duties to schoolteachers is wholly in the spirit of a police state.
Translated by Marian Schwartz