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‘The West is in decay, but our future is shining’ Russian universities will soon have a new required subject — perhaps best described as ‘Studies in Russian Greatness’
Back in the USSR, graduating with a university degree required taking a course in “Scientific Communism.” Mandatory ideological education was reviled by undergraduates across the Soviet Union, and made many a student turn away from philosophy and history, mangled as those subjects were by the state’s ideological agenda. Now, ideological instruction is making a comeback in Russia’s higher education system. Meduza’s special correspondent Andrey Pertsev spoke with two Kremlin insiders about the current plans to introduce “Russian Ideology” as a required subject across universities in Russia. The new curricular model, they explain, may lead to the purging of Russian schools of all nonconformist, liberal-thinking faculty.
“Young people need to understand ideology — that is, where Russia is going, and why,” says one of our sources close to the Russian President’s Office.
Russia’s public schools have already introduced an ideological module, in the form of the required weekly “Conversations About What Matters.” The purpose of the module is to get the kids to believe that Russia was forced to begin its “special military operation” in Ukraine: the Ukrainian “nationalists” simply left it no choice.
Next, “Russian ideology” is to become a required part of university education. This new ideological curriculum is overseen by none other than Sergey Kiriyenko, first deputy head of the President’s Administration. On top of this, instead of the Kremlin’s department for social projects (which usually deals with the higher education system), it is the State Council (an advisory body that usually manages elections) that has been charged with developing the required curriculum.
The State Council is headed by a close associate of Kiriyenko’s, Alexander Kharichev. Another expert involved in the project is Andrey Polosin, the head of regional relations at Rosatom (Russia’s state nuclear-energy corporation, where Kiriyenko worked for some time in the past). The grunt work of curriculum development has been delegated to Znanie (“Knowledge”), an organization whose board of overseers, too, is headed by Kiriyenko.
The new subject will hit the higher-ed curricula next fall, at the start of a new academic year. Students specializing in STEM disciplines will be required to take a year of ideology studies. Several years of “Russian ideology” will be required of humanities students; as for history and political science majors, they’ll have to take it for the entire duration of their course of study.
The ideological curriculum will be subdivided into four modules, each of them to be developed under by a particular expert’s lead:
- The main, “historical” module is likely to be entrusted to Vladimir Medinsky, the former Russian Minister of Culture, and current assistant to the President;
- The second module, “Cultural Code,” will probably be led by Mikhail Piotrovsky, Director of the State Hermitage in St. Petersburg;
- “Russia in the World” is to be overseen by the political scientist Sergey Karaganov;
- “Envisioning a Future” might be assigned to Mikhail Kovalchuk, the current head of Russia’s leading institution for nuclear research — the Kurchatov Institute.
The exact contents of each module are still unknown. What’s clear, though, is the complete loyalty of all four of these prospective curricular leads to the current regime and its needs and preferences. Piotrovsky (“Cultural Code”) said, last summer, that “we’re all militarists and imperialists,” refusing to apologize for Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Kovalchuk (“Envisioning a Future”) is widely considered to be a member of Putin’s inner circle. Karaganov (“Russia in the World”) is a member of the president’s Human Rights Council, as well as an academic advisory body at the Russian Security Council. It was Karaganov who described the Russian invasion of Ukraine as “Russia’s fate” — Russia itself being, in his words, “destined for the avant-guard.” “We must unite, hold our own, and win,” he went on;
The huge entirety of the West is against us, but sooner or later it’ll begin to crumble. A great many countries are in our favor, because they’re pleased that we’ve undermined, and continue to undermine, the US and Western domination. Most countries in the world are ready to interact and cooperate with us.
Two Kremlin insiders have told Meduza that the main outlines of the new ideological curriculum will be established at the “Russia’s DNA” conference, held by Znanie and slated to begin on October 26 in Sochi. Sergey Kiriyenko (or possibly Alexander Kharichev) will probably speak there. The four curricular leads may also present their projects there.
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Other conference speakers include Metropolitan Tikhon of Pskov and Porkhov, and the sci-fi writer Sergey Pereslegin, known for his involvement in the Russian “methodological” movement.
Pereslegin’s views are actually quite exotic: he believes that global warming will benefit humankind, and actively promotes the theory of “inclusive capitalism,” which divides humanity into the “elites” and the “disempowered masses,” whose livelihood depends on the ruling class. Insider sources tell us that the proposed academic subject of “Russian ideology” will have none of this “fringe” quality. Instead, it’s going to stick to the outlines of the conservative ideology famously favored by Putin. Roughly, one of our sources said, it’ll amount to this message:
The West is in decay. It always hated Russia, but its time is up — while our own future is shining. We have a rich history and culture, and must take advantage of this crisis to make the most of it.
The introduction of mandatory ideological studies may help the regime “cleanse” Russian colleges and universities from liberal-minded faculty members who criticize it now. Since all faculty might be expected to pass some kind of attestation in “Russian ideology,” this requirement may turn into a de-facto “oath of allegiance,” said one of our sources. “There’s an understanding that the figurative ‘Shulmans’ and ‘Yudins’ have no place in higher ed,” he said, referring to the political scientists Ekaterina Shulman and Grigory Yudin, known for their criticism of the Kremlin.
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