Officials are so keen to ensure that Russian children receive a “patriotic” education that they are going even further than their Soviet predecessors. Education Minister Sergei Kravtsov has urged Vladimir Putin to extend the work of the “Russian Eaglets” movement to kindergartens.
- While preparing for his trip to the Middle East last week, Putin managed to attend a meeting with the council of the “Movement of the First” patriotic youth organization. It was established in 2022 as a modern equivalent of the Soviet Union “Pioneers,” a union that all secondary school students had to join. The Movement of the First is not obligatory, but has already recruited 4 million members. Its board of trustees is headed by Maxim Oreshkin, well known to The Bell readers as Putin’s economy aide and a former investment banker at Societe Generale.
- At the council meeting, it was made clear that the authorities were not content with simply recreating the Pioneer spirit. In the USSR, children joined the Pioneers at age nine, having previously been members of the “October” organization from the age of seven. Russia also has a modern equivalent of that as well – called the “Eaglets of Russia.” Education Minister Kravtsov took the opportunity to tell Putin how successful the Eaglets have been, boasting of 2.5 million kids in its ranks.
- Kravtsov urged Putin to extend the Eaglets’ work into kindergartens, recruiting children as young as three. Even in Soviet times, ideological education never began so early. Of course there was talk about Lenin and the “glorious revolution,” in kindergartens but there was no dedicated communist organization. In modern Russia, however, there will now be ideological education for toddlers. And there is still room to start even younger. Minister Kravtsov quoted film director Nikita Mikhalkov, who said: “Education begins from the moment a child starts kindergarten, and perhaps even earlier.” In his response, Putin said the important aspects of education start at birth.
- According to the Agentsvo media outlet, which has previously researchedwhat the Eaglets get up to, its members study leadership, volunteering and “preserving historical memory.” Ceremonies are accompanied by a chorus of the Russian anthem, with flags raised as children are presented with badges and neckties to mark their achievements and progress.
Why the world should care
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Soviet-style “social activity” has been increasingly mandated from above. The trend began in the mid-2010s, and has accelerated sharply over the past couple of years. It seems likely that for the foreseeable future, the lives of Russian children will be tightly regulated and ideologically controlled, both at school and beyond.