This year, basic military training will be compulsory for school students in Russia. The Ministry of Education approved the program in December last year, and it will be implemented from September 1st. Eighth graders will be fiddling around with hand grenades and Kalashnikovs. The planned program is not entirely new. The children are already taking courses on the basics of life safety. There they learn, among other things, how to survive in contaminated areas.

The program goes back to the lessons in the Soviet Union. At that time, students learned how to handle weapons. Military studies were compulsory until 1993, but ended after the collapse of the Soviet Union before being reintroduced in 2000 by a decree issued by Vladimir Putin – who was still interim president at the time. The subject was intended to arouse interest in the army. Conscription has been in force in Russia since 2008.

According to information from the Russian news agency Interfax, the previous lessons on the basics of life insurance will be expanded to include the module “Elements of the NVP”. Drill, military salute and actions in modern shooting combat are on the program for the Russian teenagers from September. In addition, the young people are trained in handling weapons. The Russian news agency Interfax lists Kalashnikovs and grenades.

The decision is another indication of how the Russian leadership is trying to bind youngsters to the country and win them over to its goals. Only in the summer of last year did the government in Moscow pass a law to be able to have a say in the education of young people. An “all-Russian youth organization” aims to bring the Kremlin’s line closer to children and young people, to convey traditional values ​​and an orthodox world view to them. (You can read more about this here.) The youth organizations from the Soviet era are the model.

“The initiatives underscore the increasingly militarized atmosphere in wartime Russia and are a (probably deliberate) invocation of the Soviet Union,” writes the British Ministry of Defense in London, referring to basic military training in schools. Opponents have criticized the plans as immoral.

Proponents such as Russian MP Sergei Mironov defend the program: “Under the current very difficult conditions, every young man should be able to handle weapons if necessary and understand what basic military training is.” Russian politicians also see it as an opportunity for former soldiers who return from the front to work as teachers. However, there are no official plans to do so.

However, the Austrian “Standard” reports on a video on the online portal “Fontanka” that is supposed to show a fighter pilot in front of a school class. He was wounded and wanted to help the army with his “patriotic work with school children.” Psychologists take a critical view of this. “Of course, there is no reason to believe that those who have returned from the front lines can successfully interact with children and impart knowledge to them; there are more reasons to fear that they can bring an unhealthy psychological atmosphere into the school,” says Psychologist Dmitry Leontiev.

In Russia, meanwhile, fears are growing that military training could encourage violence among young people. As recently as September 2022, almost 20 students were killed and many injured in a school shooting in Izhevsk, the capital of the Udmurt Republic in central Russia. MPs, however, do not believe that military training encourages such incidents.

Overall, however, experts assume that it could be less about military training and more about education in obedience, obedience and submission. At the same time, the educational program reads like a return of the state to seeing its citizens as “a resource for waging wars”. Against the background of the Ukraine war, there is some evidence that Putin is trying to prop up his authoritarian state model and generate new blood for future mass mobilizations.

According to estimates by the Federal Intelligence Service, 300,000 people were mobilized and recruited for the war in Ukraine last fall alone. Intelligence chief Bruno Kahl expects a million men who will remain with Putin.

Sources: Interfax, British Ministry of Defence, Federal Agency for Civic Education, “Der Standard”,