Russia imposes patriotic lessons in schools
by Vladimir Rozanskij

A return to Marxism-Leninism lessons of Soviet times  updated to current imperial-orthodox ideology. Activist: the effects of war propaganda must be monitored. Many families try to switch to homeschooling.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Since the beginning of September, with the reopening of schools, lessons on patriotism, called "conversations on the most important things", have become compulsory in Russia, to be held every Monday after a solemn flag-raising ceremony, and possibly also on other days, as material to be associated with every subject, from kindergarten to university. It goes back to the Soviet habits of Marxism-Leninism lessons and anti-religious propaganda, updated to current imperial-orthodox ideology.

Many teachers look for loopholes to escape the indoctrination requirement. The chairwoman of the association for the rights of large families of the Perm province in Northern Russia, Ljudmila Eltysheva (see photo), explains to Idel.Realii that 'the legal culture for the defence of pupils' interests in Russia is not fully regulated', and for this region she decided, together with a few hundred parents, to organise a kind of 'civil society institute': a committee of parents of pupils, whose collective opinion could help to address the prosecutor's offices and the public education departments.

Recently, Eltysheva dealt with the case of a group of pupils at a school in Perm, who were subjected to the abuse of a teacher who taped their mouths shut and tied their arms behind their chairs. As a humanitarian activist, she has also dealt with social issues in the region, such as the increase in local transport prices and the cancellation of subsidies for third and fourth children, protesting via internet petitions and receiving numerous reprimands from the authorities, but also with some success.

Ljudmila explains that parents must react if their children come home from school sad and withdrawn, refuse to eat and sleep badly: "At the first signs of health consequences, you must intervene, inform yourself about what is happening in class with teachers and classmates, and still stand up for your child before the situation degenerates. The activist warns that it is increasingly necessary to defend free education and health protection in schools, and to reject the subsidy collections often imposed by headmasters and teachers.

And especially these days, one must monitor the effects of war propaganda, and in general classroom discussions about the military operation in Ukraine. There have already been many instances of conflict before the summer, between teachers and pupils, and also between pupils themselves who take opposing sides on this issue, even in primary classes. This led to parodies of Hitler and Stalin, to impromptu interventions by restless parents, who sometimes risked charges, fines and convictions up to the deprivation of parental responsibility. "Parents must be informed about the content of these patriotic lessons, and have the right to collectively intervene in regulating them," Ljudmila reiterates, "demanding that these lessons be taught with parental permission, and remain optional in any case."

Even the compulsory wearing of military uniforms, which is spreading in many schools, should not be accepted passively: 'what is happening in Ukraine is in any case not comparable to the war of 1941, whichever way you look at it, and military attributes are definitely out of place, not least because this sends the message that we are at war, which is seen as a form of discrediting the actions of the presidency and the armed forces themselves', the activist cautiously argues. School uniforms are traditional in Russia, but they should not be used as ideological tools.

Many families are trying to switch to home schooling, a possibility granted by law, but not easy to implement. It is still necessary to obtain a licence from any school, even one far from one's place of residence. Collective action is also needed here, to help families not succumb to the internal school war in Russia.