11/20/2017, 11.31
RUSSIA
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Moscow, traditional religions to take part in patriotic education

by Vladimir Rozanskij

New law outlines the figure of the patriot: he loves his country; he leads a healthy lifestyle; no smoking or alcohol abuse; capable of forming a large family. The actors of such education: public authorities, third sector organizations, families, and traditional religious confessions. The law due to be launched by January 1, 2018, the beginning of the presidential election campaign (with Putin the clear favourite). The skepticism of sociologist Leontij Byzov.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Education of Russian patriots must also be cultivated by representatives of the traditional religious confessions of the country. This is apparent from the text of a draft law "On education to patriotism in the Russian Federation", presented to the State Duma on November 15th. The document not only introduces the official definition of "homeland", but outlines the necessary traits of a person who loves his country: he must maintain a healthy lifestyle that excludes smoking and alcohol abuse, and above all tend to form a large family.

The law on patriotism is being proposed by a group of members of President Putin’s "United Russia" party.  It explains that the term "patriotism" signifies "a moral principle, a social sentiment whose content expresses" love of Russia, one’s people, consciousness of one’s  inseparability from the homeland, willingness to serve the best interests of one’s homeland through one’s actions, willingness to defend the homeland. " This same term, in the Slavic version of otechestvo, indicates "Russia, native country for those who belong to it through social, national or regional community, and who consider their citizenship an indispensable precondition for their dignified existence and their full realization". "Obsincost" therefore implies a true "communion" of intent and sentiment (sober), according to the Slavic doctrine of the Orthodox Church, which indicates in the nature of the Russian people a "natural capacity" of union in spirit.

Patriotic education, according to the text of the law, is delineated on different levels of development. First of all, the moral and spiritual level is considered, which has as its purpose the ideal of service to Russia.  Then the civilian and patriotic level, which places among its aims the manifestation and consolidation of pride for the common participation of the great achievements of the forefathers and their traditions. " The third dimension is the patriotic-military one, beginning with eternal devotion to the fighters who have fallen for the defence of the country, and pride for the greatness of the Russian army.

The text also specifies the goals and qualities required for a "well-formed patriot". In particular, every good Russian citizen must have a positive relationship with his/her work, "one of the most important values ​​of existence, to be able to actively contribute to the good of the country and the state. Together, the principal aim of these educational measures is to inculcate in citizens the need for "moral and spiritual development, to lead an impeccable lifestyle, to cultivate family life, to educate as many children as possible, and care for the elderly and neighbors, helping to maintain a climate of serenity in the workers' collective."

Supporting the efforts for patriotic education are called not only public authorities at all levels, but also the organizations of the third sector, the families themselves, and the "traditional religious confessions of Russia". This commitment, according to the document, presupposes "perseverance and the spirit of initiative in the work of transforming the mentality of citizens", as well as "of their value systems, orienting them towards the interests of society, the family and the state."

The draft bill goes on to give some examples of how to apply this educational initiative such as the care of the monuments of military patriotism; the formation of national pride among adolescents for the achievements of previous generations; a widespread study of Russian military history and celebratory dates. Indeed, the recent national celebration on November 4 revealed the population’s scarce knowledge of the heroism of the Russian volunteer armies that  drove out the Polish invader in 1612,thus  saving Russia and inaugurating the Tsar Romanov dynasty.

The document also emphasizes that whatever the medium with which patriotism is inculcated, what matters is the result. The "special regional and local characteristics" should always be kept in mind as well as the "public associations of citizens and religious organizations inspired by traditional confessions", as the many patriotic fraternities and patriotic unions which are currently flourishing in the country.

Patriots and voters

It will probably take until year’s end before to approve the law, which would come into force on January 1, 2018, inaugurating President Putin's electoral campaign in view of the presidential election on March 18, in which he is widely expected to win a 4th presidential mandate ( thus in office until 2024, exceeding a quarter of a century in power). Central and regional authorities will therefore be given special powers to develop patriotic propaganda, and will introduce a formal terminology to be included at all levels regarding topics related to these issues. It will also legislate for support to organizations that excel in patriotic education, with appropriate funding and tax breaks.

Some commentators, such as sociologist Leontij Byzov, criticize the bill, considering it overzealous and an excuse for some deputies who want to attract attention. According to Byzov, the patriotic spirit of the Russians is reduced to little more than a certain widespread conformism, without great pretensions, except to obtain the approval of the authorities. There is no doubt, however, that patriotic propaganda has taken on very intense tonalities since the beginning of the conflict with Ukraine in 2013 and the annexation of the Crimea on March 18, 2014, to indicate precisely that date as "the solemn day of elections "throughout Russia, in honour of the Crimea referendum. Thus, the draft law is a further confirmation of the  presidential policy of the last few years, but also the insistence of the Orthodox Church, starting with Patriarch Kirill, to foster a moral elevation of the population through education and thus distinguish Russia from the Western secularism which is already becoming widespread.

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