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‘True patriots are willing to defend the Motherland with arms in hand’ Russia’s ‘patriotic’ curriculum for the upcoming school year

Source: Meduza
Dmitri Lovetsky / AP / Scanpix / LETA

It's back-to-school season, and for Russian students, this semester will be a bit different from previous ones. As part of the government's mission to “protect Russian society from destructive informational and psychological influence,” the country’s Education Ministry has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop curriculum for a new weekly class called “Conversations About What’s Important.” Students in grades one through four will be taught about “patriotism” and “love for Russia,” while students in the fifth grade and above will be fed pro-Kremlin narratives about Russia's war against Ukraine. Meduza summarizes the ministry's new lesson plans.

Russia’s Education Ministry has published instructional materials, including scripts for teachers to follow, for an extracurricular lesson series titled “Conversations About What’s Important” that’s slated to begin in Russian schools in September.

The ministry’s site includes materials for lessons scheduled until the end of November. The curriculum reportedly cost the government 22 million rubles (about $361,000) to develop.

The classes designed for first and second graders are aimed at instilling in them a love for Russia's nature, which the lesson plan refers to as "one manifestation of love for one's Fatherland.” Students will look at Russian landscapes, hear recordings of sounds from nature, and listen to patriotic songs. The lesson plan suggests having students listen to the Soviet song “Where does the Motherland begin?”

Where does the Motherland begin?

Third and fourth graders' lessons will be dedicated to “fostering the idea of effective love for the Motherland.” One of their assignments will be to explain the meaning of the saying “To love the Motherland is to serve the Motherland." The curriculum suggests teachers write two definitions for the word "serve" on the board: “performing one’s military duties; participating in military service” and “working [...] for the good of something or someone.”

In fifth graders' classes, teachers will begin speaking directly about the “special military operation," which is the Russian government's euphemism for its war against Ukraine. Proposed class activities include an assignment intended to help students solve “problematic situations” based on the model of the “special military operation.” In addition to learning about the "reasons" for the “operation,” preteens will study the “heroes” and “patriots” of the Russian military.

“The goals of the special military operation include protecting the people of the Donbas, who have suffered abuse and oppression at the hands of the Kyiv regime; disarming Ukraine; and preventing NATO from putting military bases on [Ukrainian] territory. [...] The immense amount of military and other aid the collective West has given to the Ukrainian authorities is prolonging the hostilities and raising the death toll of the operation,” reads one of the lesson scripts.

The stated goals of the eighth and ninth graders' lesson on the “special military operation” include teaching students that “residents of the DNR [Donetsk People’s Republic] and LNR [Luhansk People’s Republic] are Russians, so it’s important that they return to Russia,” and that “Russian soldiers are heroes.”

Students in the tenth and eleventh grades will be tasked with comparing various signs and photographs from Russian history. For the period 2000 – 2020, the curriculum’s creators selected a picture of a Russian tank convoy and a picture of a woman crying next to a stand showing pictures of children who were killed during the terrorist attack in Beslan.

At the end of the lesson for upperclassmen, teachers are told to explain what it means to be a patriot and to love one’s motherland: “You can’t be a patriot if all you do is repeat slogans. People who are truly patriotic are willing to defend their Motherland with arms in hand, but that’s not the only way to express one’s patriotism. Patriotism is exhibited in small acts, [...] therefore each and every one of us who’s prepared to act for the benefit of his country, of his fatherland, is a patriot.”

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