July 01, 2024

Schoolchildren in Pro-War Volunteering


Schoolchildren in Pro-War Volunteering
Z symbol flash mob at Platinum Arena in Khabarovsk. City of Khabarovsk, Wikimedia Commons.

After the start of Russia's War on Ukraine, many charitable organizations chipped in to support the Russian military. Add to that the fact that Russian children and teenagers are prone to volunteering. A journalist from the independent publication Novaya Vkladka (New Tab) spoke with several student volunteers from Penza and found out that some help "because of a call from their hearts." In contrast, others do so because volunteering helps them get into university.

Tenth-grade student Alina began volunteering when she realized she could not get high marks on her final exams. Alina helped out at the organization My Vmeste (We Are Together), which supports Russian military personnel fighting in Ukraine, as well as their families. 

At the foundation, she wrote letters to the front and collected parcels for Russian soldiers. In addition, she helped families under the foundation’s care.

For each day of volunteering, she was credited with several hours in a special volunteer book. One hundred hours of such volunteering will help her get two points out of 10 for admission to university.

Another girl who volunteers for points is Emma (not her real name). She participated in the preparation of a patriotic scavenger hunt from the pro-war organization Boevoe Bratstvo (Combat Brotherhood). Emma told Novaya Vkladla that she is indifferent to the war in Ukraine and generally "outside of politics," but she needs points for admission to universities.

Two other schoolchildren had a completely different position. Tenth-grader Matvey is acting in a play that raises funds for Russians "to open people’s eyes" so that "we don’t have traitors."

Schoolgirl Polina also volunteers "for the soul." She previously wanted to move to the United States, but, after the start of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, she changed her mind.

“I scolded myself for this desire for a long time. I was just a stupid child, and that’s probably how propaganda worked,” Polina said.

In the first months of the war, Polina talked for a long time with friends and classmates who were against the war, explaining to them “obvious facts that for some reason they did not know.” In early 2023, she began regularly traveling to the office of an organization collecting humanitarian aid for Russian soldiers. Polina doesn’t understand teenagers who come to volunteer only for points. In her words, “If you don’t see what it’s like to help your country in difficult times, you will never understand life.”

Propaganda and war have long been involved in Russia's educational process. Schoolchildren from across the country report being forced by teachers and school administration to join the state-sanctioned youth organization The Movement of the First. In addition, soldiers who fought in Ukraine come to schools to lead propaganda lessons. Children themselves are taught to fly drones or even forced to participate in their production. Even the unified state exam, which serves as both a final exam and entrance exam to universities, now contains questions on the war in Ukraine and "traditional values."

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