Staunton, May 11 – The Russian education ministry has directed teachers across the country to devote significant class time to discussing the annexation of Ukraine in order to ensure that the rising generation has no doubts about the appropriateness and correctness of this action (gazeta.ru/social/2014/05/06/6020597.shtml).
But as often happens, some advocates of this program are pushing an even more expansive agenda and at least some children are learning far uglier lessons, lessons that some of them are likely to retain and thus to extend the current crisis over a far larger area and for a far longer time than would otherwise be the case.
That such messages are clearly intended is suggested by a new “polite alphabet” for Russian school children that being promoted for schools in Siberia. Each letter, Aleksey Tarasov of “Novaya gazeta” reports, is represented by, in the words of the alphabet’s creators, “symbols significant for contemporary Russia” (novayagazeta.ru/society/63500.html).
Thus, A is symbolized by the Anti-Maidan, B by Berkut (not a bird but the shield of the Ukrainian MVD), G by border (“granitsa” in Russian), D by Donetsk, M by Mishka the Olympic bear, O for father (“otets” in Russian with a picture of Patriarch Kirill), P for Putin, Yu for the Southern Flow pipeline and Ya for Yalta.
As Tarasov comments, it is not clear which is worse: the penetration of politics into schools or the fact that the education of children has been “entrusted to individuals” who apparently learned much when they were in school themselves. The only salvation may be that most children learn the alphabet before they enter schools.
But the impact of this ideological campaign on Russian children is already clear from a collection of eight pictures drawn by children about Ukraine and Russia that has been posted online (npubop.livejournal.com/1979837.html).
These drawings show among other things a tank with a Russian flag running over and killing someone holding a Ukrainian flag, a Russian tank shelling a Ukrainian apartment building and a Russian pair celebrating, Putin beheading a Ukrainian in Red Square, and a Russian soldier with a USSR label killing US President Barack Obama who is shown with a swastika.
If these pictures are current -- and some have now (May 12) been identified since the original posting of this story as being dated before the current crisis -- they suggest that Russian school children may have formed the kind of image of Ukrainians as an enemy people that is likely to prove hard if not impossible to overcome for many years ahead.