Saturday, October 31, 2015

Putin Children’s Movement Likely to Be a New ‘Hitler Youth,’ Russian Children’s Writer Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 31 – Vladimir Putin clearly chose October 29th to sign an order creating the Russian Pupil’s Movement because that is the anniversary of the day in 1918 when the Soviet state created the Komsomol. But the new group, Eduard Uspensky says, is more likely to resemble a new Hitler Youth than that structure from Soviet times.

            According to Putin’s decree, the purpose of the new movement is “the improvement of state policy in the area of training the rising generation and supporting the formation of the personality on the basis of the system of values characteristic of Russian society,” and it will function under the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs.

            But the decision to place the new group under that agency suggests what it will really be about.  Sergey Pospelov, the agency’s head, declared that “the state must train children because the state needs this, and one must not be shy about saying so” (

            When this Russian agency was in charge of the Nashi movement, that group burned in effigy journalist Nikolay Svanidze and rights activist Lyudmila Alekseyeva, evidence of what the state wanted given that for the four years of its existence, the youth agency provided Nashi with more than 460 million rubles.

            Will the new group be like that? There seems to be a very good chance, says. Putin’s order talks about how the group will be funded, subordinated and led by parents. What it doesn’t do is to talk about what is supposed to be the most important player – the children.

            Russian children’s writer Eduard Uspensky said he is concerned that the children will soon be marching around city squares “with slogans like ‘Long Live Putin!’” The country doesn’t need a new Komsomol, although it could certainly benefit if more money went to support camps and other childhood activities.

            The question now is whether the new group will “fall into the hands of the Nashi people” and thus become a Russian analogue to the Hitler Youth, or whether – and Uspenskay said this was “improbable” – it will be led by “normal people” and become a kind of Russian Boy Scout movement. The Federal Agency for Youth “will make it a Hitler Youth.”

            Russian young people are now a highly fragmented group. They sit at home and interact relatively little, even though Russian children have traditionally developed best in collective settings, Uspensky says.  But of course, the question of questions is what kind of collective settings these are to be.

            Another Russian children’s writer, Grigory Oster, is even more skeptical about this new group.  “I cannot trust the state with the education of children … [from my youth] I know how this works. It is terrible.”  And it will be terrible regardless of what “the secret desires” of the organizers are.

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