The World Today for May 29, 2023


Russian Reveille


Twenty-three years ago, respected Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen penned an op-ed in the New York Times describing the remilitarization of Russian life. She described rules and regulations to funnel boys into the service, the boosting of military spending by 50 percent, and military detachments “adopting” teen orphan boys and the sons of single-mother households.

In recent years, especially as his regime faces questions over the military’s relatively poor performance in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has explicitly injected patriotism and militarism into his country’s schools, the Economist reported. These efforts bolster the war effort in Ukraine today, prepare the next generation for war tomorrow, and foster a climate where questioning the war is forbidden.

“Schools have been ordered to conduct ‘patriotic’ classes parroting the Kremlin line on the war, and teachers who refuse have been fired,” wrote the Washington Post. “Textbooks are being purged of almost all references to Ukraine and its capital, Kyiv.”

Putin also recently reinstated military training and exercises in schools, Newsweek added. The city of St. Petersburg was compelled to buy “assault rifles and dummy grenades” for basic military training courses. A Moscow Times photo essay showed young students putting on gas masks, aiming pistols and rifles, climbing ropes, and caring for a colleague’s ankle.

Inculcating martial principles into generations of Russian youth has changed the country’s culture, argued Global Voices, describing the appearance of a “new archetype” of Russian citizen: “Homo militaris”. Told all their lives that Russia faces relentless enemies from the West and elsewhere, these Russians accept Putin’s propaganda and root for their heroes in their nation’s so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine.

But this segment of Russian society can’t convince skeptics that Putin’s plans are going swimmingly. The Russian army has been underperforming, and the Ukrainians have yet to even launch their expected spring counteroffensive. According to Reuters, Putin’s ally Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the private mercenary Wagner Group, recently warned of revolution if Russian elites didn’t start taking the war seriously. He recently pulled out the militia fighters from Bakhmut and no one is quite sure why.

Meanwhile, Homo militaris certainly doesn’t appear to be volunteering to join the fight. As Al Jazeera reported, the Russian army needs more soldiers and conscripts – but draft dodging is a major problem despite the harsh punishments meted out to those who refuse to serve. Russian recruiters have consistently failed to hit their targets since the war began in February 2022, noted Worldcrunch.

More peace seems easier in comparison.

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