Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Both Militarist Ends and Totalitarian Means of Kremlin’s Patriotic Program Disturbing, Kirillova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 6 – The program on political training of Russian citizens over the next five years approved by Moscow four days ago is disturbing both because of its focus on militarism and war and because it calls for the introduction of agitprop techniques that recall some of the worst excesses of the totalitarian Soviet past, according to Kseniya Kirillova.

            The document, the San Francisco-based Russian commentator says, defines “no more and no less ‘the spiritual direction’ which in the opinion of its authors ‘will lead to the rebirth of the heroic past of Russia’” by inculcating the lessons of World War II and other conflicts (

            Kirillova notes that the document does not say that the past should be respected; it specifies that the past, one “based on the experience of military conflicts,” should be reborn in Russia today and tomorrow.

            Exactly what the rebirth of the past means, of course, is something the document does not specify. It is left unclear whether it is really a call for the restoration of the USSR or simply a threat to do so “’if needed.’”  But there is no doubt that the report focuses on military themes above all.

            Thus, the commentator continues, “it is obvious that the clearly manifested trends seen in 2014-2015 to exploit history and to use it to justify the actions of present-day Russia by historical parallels will only be intensified” now that there is a specific government program specifying what is wanted.

            Of at least as great concern, Kirillova suggests, are the ways in which the authors call for the program to be implemented via schools, social organizations, labor collectives, informal groups of young people and individual citizens, a call that suggests a return not only to a focus on the past but to the use of the Soviet past as a model for promoting that.

            Those old enough to remember the Soviet past will have some notion about what “’patriotic education in labor collectives’” means and are only left to wonder whether “the new form of the well-forgotten old will include in itself” the kind of meetings at which those who deviate are identified and corrected.

            Other revenants from the past also seem likely, as groups for school children reemerge, although it is not entirely clear how one organizes “informal youth groups.” That would seem to be an oxymoron.  But it seems clear that “the schools is being transformed from an educational institution into an ideological-training one,” even though the Constitution prohibits an ideology.

            Moreover, Kirillova says, the document’s call for more attention to and glorification of soldiers and security personnel seems unnecessary given the central place they occupy in the media of Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Other professionals like teachers and doctors could certainly use such a boost more.

            But perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the document is its call for adopting methods to overcome “negative” attitudes” and efforts at “discrediting patriotic values in the arts.”  Such an appeal sounds like a call for censorship and the kind of totalitarian control that many had hoped Russia had left behind.


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