Russian-Style "Re-Education": Ukrainian Children Are Cut Off from Their Roots

October 15, 2023
Forbidden to be who you truly are and being torn away from your roots - this is the agony Ukrainian children are put through after their deportation and occupation.

Russia has been carrying out a systematic, targeted policy of forced “re-education” of Ukrainian children in order to erase their identity.

Vladyslav Havrylov, Historian, Researcher, and Writer at the Where Are Our People project, and Research Fellow at Georgetown University's Collaborative on Global Children's Issues, explains to UkraineWorld how Russia implements this genocidal policy.

Ukrainian children on occupied Ukrainian territory, particularly those facing deportation, are subjected to forced "re-education" and indoctrination aimed at Russification and imposing a distorted perception of reality in which Ukraine does not exist as a state, and Russia is portrayed as a country conducting a justified mission for mankind.

These actions are genocidal in nature because, in the context of deportation, children are forcibly relocated from one ethnic group to another in order to change their identity.

Discriminatory practices are enforced on all Ukrainian children under occupation. They are reflected in the fact that they are subjected to Russian narratives. They must study Russian language, history, and culture without the Ukrainian alternative.

Thus, Ukrainian children are cut off from their normal cultural environment.

The “re-education” is conducted in several ways. These include forced enrolment in special camps, participation of Ukrainian children in Russian military-patriotic children's organizations, and direct participation of Ukrainian children in the Russian educational system.

Russia has created a network of special camps for the "re-education" of Ukrainian children. According to Dmytro Lubinets, the Ombudsman, at least 70 of these camps are currently operating in both Russia and Ukraine's occupied territories.

These camps have a pseudo-patriotic military nature. Their main aim is to ideologically indoctrinate Ukrainian children, cutting all ties with their Ukrainian identity.

The camps conduct military training with the goal of forming a potential mobilization base, consisting of Ukrainian children, in the event of further Russian aggression.

The children are actively being brainwashed. In just one season, thousands of Ukrainian children are "educated" in such camps.

It is worth noting that Russia has militarized its entire educational system.It actively indoctrinates its own children with Russian military spirit and its propaganda's main narratives.

Ukrainian children are subjected to such indoctrination because they are forced into this system.

Consequently, Ukrainian children actively participate in Russian children's ostensibly patriotic organizations. One of them is the "Orlyata Rossii" (Russian Eagles). It was established to instill the Russian patriotic spirit in children of primary school age.

Another organization is called "Dvizheniye Pervyh" (The Movement of the First), and one of its board members is Russian President Vladimir Putin. It is designed for school children.

Within its framework, the lectures "Conversations about the Important Issue" are presented with the participation of well-known Russian propagandists. They impose a distorted view of Russian aggression against Ukraine, as well as a belief in Russia's legitimacy.

The most dangerous of all is the paramilitary organization "Yunarmiya" (The Youth Army), which endeavours to educate future elements of the Russian rigid military system for participation in its war, including children deported from Ukraine.

For example, there is a documented case in which 100 children from the Donetsk region were forcibly recruited into this organization and taken to Rostov as part of "Yunarmia."

It has branches in all Russian territories, as well as in Ukraine's occupied territories, particularly in Crimea, Donetsk, Luhansk, and occupied parts of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.

Yunarmiya is managed by the Russian Ministry of Defence and led directly by Shoigu (The Minister of Defence). The organization seeks children aged 7 to 18, particularly young males.

Currently, there are 1.3 million people active in Yunarmia. Paramilitary gatherings, training and shootings are held as part of its activity.

Young Ukrainians, both deported to Russia and living in occupied territory, are forced to attend Russian schools, exposing them to a significant pro-Russian ideological influence.

School textbooks lay the ideological groundwork. One of the most dangerous is a unified textbook on Russian history for senior high school students.

It presents distorted historical facts, particularly about WWII, the 1980s, and, in particular, the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

The teachers themselves are an important component of the system. They actively present children with a distorted view of reality. This is also happening on the side of collaborating teachers in Ukraine's occupied territories.

Furthermore, the “Desk of a Hero” project is another part of Russia's paramilitary ideological school education. If a student from a particular school dies in a combat zone, their personality is mythologized by the creation of a "heroism" symbol - "a desk of a hero."

What's more, another project - “Russia is my motherland,” is implemented by the Russian Ministry of Education in collaboration with the Russian Orthodox Church.

It propagates distorted ideologemes about WWII and the cult of the 'endless war', which is formed by the participants of the so-called “special military operation.”

Thus, by actively seeking to "re-educate" Ukrainian children through a variety of methods,Russia wipes out their Ukrainian identity, depriving these children of their true personality, and Ukraine - of its future.

Anastasiia Herasymchuk, Deputy Editor-in-Chief at UkraineWorld
Vladyslav Havrylov, Historian, Researcher, and Writer at the Where Are Our People project, and Research Fellow at Georgetown University's Collaborative on Global Children's Issues