Staunton, February 12 – The Kremlin has worked hard to ensure the loyalty of its defenders in the interior ministry and Russian Guards, consistently providing them with higher salaries and better benefits, including early retirement, than the Russian government offers all other groups.
Now, it has come up with a new plan to provide an additional and much-prized benefit: the government has approved and will submit to the Duma for approval a plan to give the children of personnel in these units special preferences for admission to higher educational institutions (iz.ru/1121822/2021-02-08/detiam-silovikov-mogut-dat-preimushchestva-pri-postuplenii-v-vuzy).
The government says that it will also extend these preferences to contract soldiers who have served 20 years or more – a much smaller category – and argues that the move will not discriminate against any other categories because the siloviki children will still have to meet all the other standards required for admission.
But because a university education is so important as a step toward a better life, anything that tilts admissions even slightly to one group over another is likely to outrage those who feel they are being discriminated against. Indeed, this may lead already restive Russian youth to have another reason to go into the streets and protest.
But clearly the Kremlin sees that as a price worth paying. This new benefit will certainly attract some ambitious people to the ranks of the interior ministry forces and the Russian Guard without requiring the government to spend any more money, something it has less of in a time of budgetary stringency.
A more interesting question perhaps is what an increase in the number of children of the police forces in universities will do to the universities themselves. Will these young people become a kind of Trojan horse for the expansion of government influence within those institutions?
Or will their presence there change them and lead to new generational conflicts between the police and their children? If the former, the atmosphere of many higher educational institutions in Russia will change. If the latter, the Kremlin may have taken yet another counter-productive step which will intensify its problems rather than ease them.