Russian schoolchildren forced to commemorate ‘genocide of the Soviet people’

The Bell

In the latest installation of forced propaganda in Russian schools, students across the country were forced to kneel en masse in front of a five-pointed star — an army symbol — to mark the “genocide of the Soviet people.” It follows an intensification of war-time messaging in the Russian curriculum following the invasion of Ukraine, that also includes meeting with war veterans and “patriotic flashmobs.”

  • Nobody outside of Russia has ever heard of or spoken about a “genocide of the Soviet people.” The term was conjured up in the bowels of Putin’s presidential administration, said historian Konstantin Pakhalyuk. The president first uttered the phrase in July 2020. And the following April, Russia began to mark the catchily-named “day of united action in memory of the genocide of the Soviet people at the hands of the Nazis and their accomplices during the Great Patriotic War.” 
  • As part of this year’s event, pupils at almost 2,000 schools and colleges across the country were lined up in the shape of five-pointed stars. In several cases, the children were told to kneel, the independent Agentstvo outlet wrote, publishing photos of the events. Citing manuals given to schools, the outlet reported that the five-pointed star — a symbol of the Russian army — was intended to be presented to schoolchildren as a “symbol of safety and security.”
  • Teaching in Russian schools has become increasingly politicized in recent years. Hundreds now offer “lessons in courage” led by servicemen, including Wagner Group mercenaries and men called up by the regular army. Since Sep. 2022 schools have also run compulsory sessions titled “Conversations about Important Things,” where pupils essentially recite propaganda lectures on geopolitics and other “patriotic” subjects that Moscow deems it “important” that schoolchildren are indoctrinated with. Topics range from criticism of the West to historic Russian achievements such as Yury Gagarin’s first flight into space.

Why the world should care

In authentic Soviet fashion, the Russian authorities are currently devoting a lot of time to political agitation in schools — targeting students from elementary years right through to high school. This is the new reality of the Russian education system, and it is set to continue in this fashion for years to come. “We have to understand that this war [for the minds of the younger generation] will be our longest,” said Sergei Kiriyenko, first deputy head of the presidential administration, in 2023.


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