For the past two months, every new teaching week in Russian schools has started with so-called “talking about important things”. Raising the Russian flag has also been mandatory since September 1st. The Ministry of Education specifies the topics of the talks.
Many are dedicated to official holidays – Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or Elderly Day. But on Teacher’s Day, for example, it was ordered to explain to schoolchildren why the occupation of Ukrainian territory by Russian troops was “historical justice” – these were “originally Russian territories”.
School children are often told about Ukraine. Mark (name changed) goes to school in St. Petersburg. He says that when it came to terrorism, the director and teacher said Ukraine was carrying out attacks. “Actually, during the lesson, we should learn how to behave in the event of an act of terrorism,” says Mark.
And a high school student from Kaliningrad says that at the end of October, during patriotism lesson, the head of his school said, “Russia is constantly being attacked by someone and everyone wants to destroy the country”.
Parents who want to protect their children from such classes can run into problems. The family of ten-year-old Varya Scholiker experienced a report to the youth welfare office and compulsory psychological counseling in a state agency because they stayed away from “discussions about important things” in a Moscow school.
That’s why a committee at school discussed her daughter’s behavior, according to Jelena Scholiker. A representative of the school management, a psychologist and a man believed to be from the FSB told her they were concerned that Varya did not take part in the “discussions about important matters”.
On WhatsApp, she also shows the so-called Saint Javelin, an Internet meme in the style of a saint holding an anti-tank system in front of the Ukrainian national colors of blue and yellow, which is used in Ukraine against the Russian invaders.
After the school and police interviews, inspectors came to search the family’s home. In their report, they pointed out “suspicious colors” at the facility.
“On Jelena Scholiker’s laptop, it was found that extremist channels were being watched, for which the mother has no explanation. Inside the apartment there are blue and yellow colors. According to Jelena Scholiker, she likes this color spectrum,” the paper says.
The inspectors came to the conclusion that Elena “projects her political views onto her daughter and does not exercise parental control over publications on social networks.”
The Saint Javelin meme shows that the ten-year-old girl “lacks knowledge of the history of her homeland and the political orientation of her country and the world”. The examiners prescribed psychological counseling for the mother and daughter.
The patriotism lessons pose a difficult choice not only for parents but also for teachers. “Whereas there used to be isolated cases of teachers being persecuted for speaking out on social media and taking part in rallies, this seems to be institutionalized now.
Propaganda lessons are now being systematically prescribed, forcing people to choose whether or not to attend them,” says Daniil Ken, chairman of the Russian Alliance of Teachers. Ken himself was classified as a “foreign agent” by authorities in September.
The Alliance of Teachers is defending Moscow teacher Tatyana Chervenko in court. She had refused to conduct “talks about important things” and had also given an interview on TV channel Dozhd, which now broadcasts from Latvia but is aimed at viewers in and from Russia. That brought her a reprimand from the school management, which she contests. Tatjana continues to teach at the school, but Daniil Ken suspects that she will be fired.
A long dispute between the history teacher Raushan Valiullin and the management of a school in Naberezhnye Chelny, a large city in the Russian republic of Tatarstan, ended with the termination of the employment relationship. In August, Rauschan had to go to a teachers’ meeting on the subject of “peculiarities of ideological educational work with children and educators”. The “discussions about important things” are also part of the ideological educational work.
Rauschan criticized state interference in his work as violating Article 13 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, which prohibits coercive ideology. A little later, Rauschan was dismissed. Rauschan was able to prove in court that the dismissal was unlawful and that he should have been reinstated as a teacher.
But Rauschan had not waited for the verdict. He could not reconcile a return to school with his conscience. He would have been required to “talk about important things” and was threatened with installing a camera in his office to monitor his statements. He decided to move to Kyrgyzstan: “All statements against the war are forbidden. I have several children and I have to act responsibly.”
Adaptation from the Russian: Markian Ostapchuk
Author: Sergey Satanovskiy
Putin wants to tighten control of the flow of funds to equip the army. Trenches in Crimea can be seen on satellite images. According to a US general, more than 100,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or injured in Ukraine so far. All current voices and developments on the Ukraine war can be found in the ticker.
The Russian army flees from the southern Ukrainian city of Cherson. Thousands of soldiers are threatened with death. Because the retreat across the Dnipro River is difficult. So many fighters are caught in a trap of their own making.
The original of this article “Discussions about important things” in Russia’s schools comes from Deutsche Welle.