Russia has stepped up its patriotic campaign to prepare for war amid heightened tensions between Russia and NATO over what is being described as an imminent invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Students across Russia compete in patriotic activities such as map reading, shootings and history quizzes where the competition is partly funded by the Kremlin. who made “national military” education a priority.
Over the past eight years, the Russian government has promoted the idea that the motherland is surrounded by enemies, filtering the concept through national institutions such as schools, the military, the media and the Orthodox Church. It even raised the possibility that the country might once again have to defend itself as it did against the Nazis in World War II, according to the New York Times.
And now, with Russia massing its forces on the Ukrainian border, raising Western fears of an imminent invasion, the ongoing militarization of Russian society under President Vladimir Putin continues in large part and appears to have led many to the idea that fighting could be on the way.
“The authorities are actively promoting the idea of war and people are accustomed to the idea of its permissibility,” Muratov, the editor of the Russian newspaper, who shared this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, said in his acceptance speech in Oslo this month.
Speaking to Russian military leaders on Tuesday, Putin insisted that Russia did not want bloodshed, but was ready to respond with “technical military measures” to what he described as the aggressive behavior of the West in the region.
Russian forces near the Ukraine border (Archive – Reuters)
Although there was no escalating war fever, there was plenty of evidence that the government was nurturing preparation for conflict.
The $185 million, four-year program launched by the Kremlin this year aims to dramatically increase the “national education” of Russians, including a plan to attract at least 600,000 children as young as 8 to join the uniformed youth army. . Other than that adults get a war education from state television, where the political shows are one that retells the story of a fascist coup in Ukraine and a West bent on destroying Russia. All are united by the almost sacred memory of the Soviet victory in World War II that shaped the identity of a victorious Russia that must be ready to take up arms again.
Alexei Levinson, head of social and cultural research at the Levada Center and an independent pollster in Moscow, calls this trend the “militarization of consciousness” of the Russians. And in the center’s periodic opinion polls, in 2018 the military became the country’s most trusted institution, surpassing even the president.
This year, the percentage of Russians who say they fear a world war has reached the highest level recorded in the polls, at 62 percent.
This does not mean the Russians will welcome a bloody regional invasion of Ukraine, Levinson cautioned. But this means, he said, that many have been conditioned to accept that Russia is in an existential competition with other powers in which the use of force is possible.
Celebration of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II – referred to as Russia’s Great Patriotic War – played the most important role in this adaptation.
Instead of promoting a culture commemorating Soviet heroism and the loss of 27 million lives, the Kremlin is applying the narrative of World War II to this day, putting Russia once again in the position of a country threatened by enemies bent on its destruction.