How the law “On Patriotic Education” contributes to the erasure of Ukrainian civic identity among Crimean children. Detailed analysis
On December 14, 2022, the Law “On Patriotic education in the Republic of Crimea” was published on the website of the so-called “State Council of the Republic of Crimea”. The head of the so-called “State Council of Crimea” Vladimir Konstantinov stated that the law is aimed at building the “modern system of patriotic education” as one of the priority activities of the occupation administration of Crimea for “ideological cohesion and ensuring national security of the Russian Federation”. Due to the special importance of this direction in the temporarily occupied Crimea, the Committee for Patriotic Education and Veteran Affairs was created, which finalized the draft of the law, including  for preserving the memory “of heroic past of Crimea, of its inextricable connection with Russia” and for passing on these ideas to the next generations. Konstantinov’s deputy – Vladimir Bobkov – emphasized, that one of the main tasks of the newly created Committee is to develop the unified understanding of patriotism in order to prevent interpretations, which differ from what is acceptable from the state’s point of view.[3
The law was developed by the occupation prosecutor’s office, local public chamber, and the Crimean Republican Institute of Post-Diploma Pedagogical Education, as author the prosecutor of the so-called “Republic of Crimea” Oleg Kashmilov is listed. Since 2018, the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation, the so-called “Prosecutor’s Office of Crimea” and the “Artek” children’s camp have been actively cooperating in the field of patriotic education and education of children and youth. Also, in 2022, the so-called “Prosecutor’s office of Crimea” held a drawing contest “I Love Russia” among Crimean schoolchildren with the aim of patriotic education of children, their involvement in creative activities and the study of the Russian history.
In the substantiation regarding the adoption of this law there is a propaganda thesis regarding the “subversive activities of the West” against the national security of the Russian Federation, which must be opposed by the “modern system of patriotic education”. Moreover, patriotism should be cultivated since early childhood because that is when “the spiritual and moral foundations of personality are laid, the civic position and the need for dignified and selfless service to the Fatherland are formed”. Among the regional peculiarities of the law there is an emphasis of the historical, geographical and ethnographic specifics of the peninsula, related to the events of the so-called “Great Patriotic War” and the sacred role of Crimea in the history of the Russian Federation. 
We have carefully read the content of the law and emphasize that although many provisions carry on the tradition of the “Crimean scenario” of destroying the Ukrainian education  in order to instill the Russian identity among the inhabitants of the peninsula, the new law clearly demonstrates the intensification of the occupation authorities’ efforts aimed at the indoctrination  of the inhabitants of the peninsula, in particular – children and youth.
What does it mean “to love the Motherland”?
Despite the fact that the territory of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol is considered temporarily occupied, and the rules of occupation do not provide for the application of the laws of the Russian Federation in this territory, since the beginning of the occupation in 2014, the Russian legislation has been applied on the peninsula. In presidential decrees, patriotic education is defined as one of the main means for achieving the strategic goals of the Russian Federation. TheCrimean Law adopted in 2022 is based on the provisions of the Federal Law “On Education in the Russian Federation” and the Law “On Education in the Republic of Crimea”, introduced by the occupation administration in 2015. In December 2014, “The concept of patriotic, spiritual and moral education of population in the Republic of Crimea” was approved, which stipulated that the system of formal and informal education in Crimea should be aimed at the formation of the Russian identity among children and the perception of military service in the armed forces of the Russian Federation as the essential civic duty and ensuring real military training of children for future service.
In this law, “patriotic education of citizens” is understood as “systematic and purposeful activity of state authorities of the Republic of Crimea, local self-government bodies of municipal entities in the Republic of Crimea, institutions of civil society and family in order to form civilians’ sense of loyalty for their Fatherland, readiness to fulfill their civic duty and constitutional obligations to protect the interests of the Fatherland” (note. – author’s translation).
The law must create the system that will educate “patriotic consciousness, sense of loyalty for the duty to defend one’s Fatherland, honest fulfillment of civic, professional and military duties” among children and youth. Also, Crimean children should be brought up in the spirit of respect for the state symbols of the so-called “Republic of Crimea”, including historical monuments and in accordance with “traditional spiritual and moral values” of the Russian Federation – and to fulfill these tasks, a number of various subjects are used, which exert influence on children’s consciousness in different forms and in fact in all spheres of social life.
Who should teach Crimean children patriotism?
One of the most interesting clauses of this law is the list of subjects of patriotic education in the temporarily occupied Crimea. In the Concept dated 2014, it was stipulated that the state authorities, local self-government bodies, educational and scientific institutions, institutions of culture, leisure and public organizations should educate Crimean children into “true Russian Patriots”. In 2021, the new educational position was introduced – “advisor to the director on education and interaction with children’s public associations”, who should organize patriotic campaigns, involve children in the Young Army projects and facilitate “personality education based on the spiritual and moral traditions”. In other words, there is an actual return to the soviet “political instructors”, who should monitor the process of the indoctrination of children and youth in schools in accordance with the procedure approved by the state.
In 2022, mass media, veterans’ organizations, and Cossacks associations were included in the list of subjects of patriotic education. Public-state organizations are also mentioned – for example “The Movement of the First”, which was created by the state based on the Law “On Patriotic Movement of Children and Youth”, allegedly on the initiative of the Crimean schoolgirl, and should facilitate “the implementation of the state policy regarding children and youth” – and in fact is an additional instrument of brainwashing. “The Movement of the First” has a strategy: “To be with Russia, to be human, to be together, to be first”, and the values that must be protected by the members of the organization, among which “patriotism” is also mentioned, are positioned as particularly significant. “The Movement of the First” is the largest movement of children and youth in modern Russia and it now operates in the occupied Ukrainian territories.
Crimean children must also be educated by representatives of “traditional religious denominations as bearers of spiritual and moral ideals and traditions of the Russian people” and citizens of the Russian Federation, whose “patriotism and loyalty to their civil and official duty became an example and a role model”. In 2022, meetings with servicemen of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and heads of paramilitary children’s organizations  already took place in Crimea, which were aimed at the formation of the heroic image of participants of the Russian-Ukrainian war. It is important to note that at these meetings special attention was paid to preparing young people “for serving the Fatherland” (namely, the Russian Federation) and motivating them to serve in the armed forces of the Russian Federation, which has direct signs of recruitment. Clergymen are also being involved in lessons of the cycle “Conversations about the important”: for example, priests of the Russian Orthodox Church were telling Sevastopol schoolchildren about the history of the Russian state holiday “Day of the National Unity” and about the historical past of Russia.
Committees of servicemen’s parents (mothers of soldiers)should also help with the moral and psychological preparation of youth for military service. Now the propaganda of the Russian Federation is actively exploiting the image of the “soldier’s mother”, demonstratively organizing meetings of mothers of servicemen, who are currently fighting against Ukraine, with the top leadership of the Russian Federation, where supposedly “mothers” say words of gratitude and pride for the death of their own children at the Russian-Ukrainian war.
Patriotism for every Crimean schoolchild
Konstantinov noted that the law enshrines the already existing practices of patriotic education of Crimean youth – this includes holding parliamentary and thematic lessons  dedicated to the memorable and important dates in the history of Crimea and Russia, patriotic campaigns “Watch of Remembrance”, “Dictation of Victory”, support of the Young Army movement, construction and reconstruction of monuments related to the events of the “Great Patriotic War” and the Crimean war. Actually, the law systematizes this activity and significantly expands it both substantively and practically.
The Law enumerates as many as 6 directions of patriotic education: civil-patriotic, military-patriotic, social-patriotic, spiritual and moral, cultural and patriotic – in other words all spheres of children’s and youth’s lives should be thoroughly imbued with the Russian understanding of patriotism.
Education of Crimean children should be aimed at forming moral, psychological and physical qualities that ensure the ability to defend the Russian Federation, as well as increasing the prestige of serving in the Armed Forces of the Russian federation, other troops, special formations and law enforcement agencies. For this, the law provides for the interaction of educational organizations with veteran organizations and museums, as well as the establishment of superior relations with military units and units of law enforcement agencies – which is already taking place inCrimean schools.
The preservation of memory of the events of the history of Russia and the role of Crimea,witha focuson respect for military feats and the intensification of the intergenerational continuity of citizens of the Russian Federation regarding the “defense of the Fatherland” also has considerable role in patriotic education of youth and children of Crimea. The law often mentions intensification of interest for studying history, the biographies of “the heroes of the Russian Federation”, strengthening the sense of involvement in the deeds of ancestors, historical responsibility for what is happening in society and the state. Patriotic education activities should prevent “distortion and falsification of the history of the Russian Federation”, which is also used as a means of instilling one’s own ideology.
“To love a Motherland = To serve a Motherland”
In the Russian understanding of patriotism, the fulfillment of military duty is related to the historical continuity of generations in defending the “Fatherland”. Therefore, the above-mentioned subjects should carry out “propaganda of spiritual feats and patriotic heroism of people” in order to foster “pride for the Fatherland”. The state bodies of the occupied Crimea should contribute to the preparation and holding of solemn events, dedicated to the celebration of memorable dates and days of military glory of Russia, perpetuation of the memory of Russian soldiers who “distinguished themselves in battles related to the days of military glory of Russia”. As early as in 2021 the occupying authorities of Crimea installed commemorative plaques in honor of the heroes of the “Great Patriotic War” for educational purposes – to demonstrate the feats of the ancestors in the fight against Nazis in 1941-1945. In 2023 similar plaques are being installed in honor of the Crimean servicemen, who died during the Russian-Ukrainian war – also to demonstrate to the younger generations the thesis about the necessity of self-sacrifice for the benefit of the Fatherland but now against Ukraine as “Nazi state”.
Continuing the tradition of militarization of the peninsula, the law provides for the creation and development of a network of patriotic, military-patriotic, historical clubs and associations.
Another interesting innovation of the law is the formation of military-historical, ethnographic and tourist resources of the so-called “Republic of Crimea” with the development of tourism routes for children and youth to the places related to the events of the “Great Patriotic War” (museums, memorials and other places). In other words, the history of Crimea in the interpretation of the occupation administration is exclusively Russia-centric and militaristic, and Crimean children should perceive the history and ethnographic context of the peninsula in the same way.
Indoctrination and identity destruction
The inclusion of patriotic education topic in the school curriculum is indoctrination, i. e. the violent imposition of values and ideologies on children and youth by government institutions. Since 2014, representatives of the occupation administration of Crimea have exerted a strong ideological influence on Ukrainian children, which consolidates the narratives beneficial for the state in their minds. Firstly, it is the sense of affiliation with the Russian nation and secondly, associating service in the armed forces of the Russian Federation with the fulfillment of one’s “civic duty”. As Vladimir Bobkov earlier noted, there can be the only correct understanding of patriotism in Russia, which cannot differ from the acceptable one from the point of view of the state and which must be spread to Crimean children from the youngest age, which is the classic example of indoctrination.
In addition to imposing the narratives beneficial to the state through the educational system and informal educational activities, there is also a real preparation of Ukrainian children to fighting against Ukraine on the side of Russia – both mental and physical. Valentyna Potapova, the head of CCE “Almenda”, emphasizes the fact that as a result of aggressive imposition of patriotism and simultaneous erasure of the Ukrainian identity, some Crimeans found themselves in a Russian vacuum and consider themselves citizens of Russia, who should defend the Russian Federation from an attack by Ukraine. The analyzed provisions of the law demonstrate all the systematicity, inevitability and impossibility of hiding from the influence of this aggressive propaganda, which actually makes it impossible to see the other side of the situation and to develop critical thinking – therefore we must understand that Crimean children are not accomplices in this crime, but victims of indoctrination from the side of the Russian authorities and the occupation administration.
The aggravation of the Russian-Ukrainian war in 2022 has already led to the intensification of militarization of Crimea – namely, the creation of an image of supporting the so-called “special military operation”, the exploitation of myths about the heroic “Great Patriotic War” and the distortion of the image of Ukraine as “Nazi state”, against which a new generation of Crimeans must fight, continuing the work of their ancestors. The adoption of the new law on patriotic education, on the one hand, would actually consolidate and systematize the majority of illegal practices of the Russian Federation against the inhabitants of the occupied peninsula, and on the other hand it indicates the increase in ideological pressure on children and youth of Crimea, who are de-facto hostages of the Russian regime, with no access to alternative information and with a non-stop militaristic propaganda.
Unfortunately, only after the de-occupation will it be possible to assess the extent of the consequences of illegal policy of the Russian Federation towards children and youth of Crimea, however, it is already required to develop the understanding of how it will be possible to return the stolen Ukrainian identity to Crimean children.
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