November 14, 2023 MEMRI Daily Brief No. 541

Putin Raises A New Generation For War

November 14, 2023 | By Dr. Olesya Zakharova*
Russia | MEMRI Daily Brief No. 541

Judging by the way the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin personally have taken up the patriotic education of young people, Russia is preparing for a protracted war. Shortly after the start of the special military operation, an urgent reform of the Russian school curriculum began. The legislative basis for the new concept of school education became the National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation. The goal of the new curriculum is to teach school students that loving one's country means readiness to sacrifice one's life whenever it is required by the State. Hence, now, the development of the Russian school education does not involve only the Ministry of Enlightenment of Russia, which until 2018 was called the the Ministry of Education of Russia, but also interests of the Ministry of Defense.

Russian President Vladimir Putin holding a "Conversations about Important Things" class, on September 1, 2023. (Source:

"Conversations About Important Things"

In April 2022, shortly after the beginning of the special military operation, the Ministry of Enlightenment of Russia announced the renewal of the school curriculum.

The first step was the introduction of the "Conversations about Important Things" lessons, in which teachers were expected to tell children talking points from the Kremlin's propaganda and teach them patriotism. Initially, children and parents tried to boycott this sudden ideological program, arguing that the lessons were extracurricular activities and hence optional.[1]

However, many schools threatened to expel students, who refused to attend.[2] Teachers, who resisted to convey the Kremlin's propaganda, either resigned or were forced to quit.[3]

Subsequently, the Ministry of Enlightenment declared that "Conversations about Important Things" became a mandatory class, and failure to participate would result in sanctions for students.[4]

In this 2023 school year,  the "Conversations about Important Things" class is run in strict accordance with the guidelines developed by the Ministry of Enlightenment and presented in the Methodological Teaching Guidelines. In addition, a website has been created to provide teachers with methodological materials for these classes.[5] Putin himself has been engaging in popularizing these lessons, and for the second year he has been holding a "Conversations about Important Things" class with students on September 1, 2023.[6]

According to the 2023 guidelines, students are going to be taught traditional core values and principles that contribute to the formation of Russian identity.

One such value is the encouragement of "active citizenship." While this may initially sound democratic, in Putin's concept, "active citizenship" is synonymous with nationalism, strongly emphasizing the importance of serving one's country and being prepared to sacrifice one's life.

In instructing about "active citizenship," teachers have to communicate to students and their parents that pursuing personal interests and a comfortable life leads to personal moral decline, while serving the country is the only true and highest value. The guidelines also mandate that teachers should incorporate the topic of heroism into every lesson of "Conversations about Important Things," instilling in children the idea of self-sacrifice.[7]

An additional value that children must learn during this course is that "to live in Russia is happiness." Happiness, according to the guidebook, consists in serving the homeland and performing creative labor for the benefit of the Motherland.[8]

Russian President Vladimir Putin holding a "Conversations about Important Things" class, on September 1, 2023. (Source:

Russian Schools As Instruments Of The Kremlin's Propaganda

The compulsory school curriculum has also been modified to align with Putin's notions of traditional values. The Law on Education was swiftly amended by the State Duma in December 2022. One of the significant changes is the creation and revision of unified state educational programs for subjects that, according to the Ministry of Enlightenment, greatly influence young minds, such as history and literature.

Under the new literature course, Russian high school students will now encounter more literature about World War II, highlighting the valor of Soviet soldiers in their fight against Nazism and their willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice. This exposure aims to cultivate a "sense of responsibility to the Motherland, readiness to serve and defend the homeland, and accountability for its destiny."[9]

On Putin's initiative, Soviet writer Alexander Fadeyev's highly ideological novel "The Young Guard,"[10] which was written under the direct supervision of Stalin, expresses the Soviet ideology of the 1940s, and tells about the exploits of very young Komsomol members who died for the Soviet state, has been included on the list of compulsory reading books since September 1, 2023. Today, Putin finds this novel to be highly beneficial for the education of the young Russian generation.[11]

The Russian language has also undergone ideologization. The required texts for the oral interview in the Unified State Exam now contain references to special operations. For instance, students are required to read and summarize a text about a nurse supporting soldiers in Lugansk, which is referred to as Russia's region.

Special attention, due to the well-known personal interest of Putin, has been given to the history course. A standardized federal history curriculum was quickly implemented this year, eliminating the freedom of teachers to choose textbooks and topics to cover. The Ministry of Enlightenment has presented a unified textbook with changes made to the school history program. For example, additional content has been added to the Second World War chapter, in particular the topics of "Attempts to distort the history of the Second World War and the role of the Soviet people in the victory over Hitler's Germany and its allies," "The Constitution of the Russian Federation on the protection of historical truth," and "Responsibility for distorting the history of the Second World War." [12]

Moreover, the new history curriculum includes a significant section dedicated to Putin's "reign," titled "Revival of the country since the 2000s: The Russian Federation's journey toward recovery and strengthening in the 21st century." Within this section, students will study Putin's socio-economic and political accomplishments.[13]

Furthermore, since beginning in September 2023, a supplementary program, called "Russia – My History," has been incorporated into the school curriculum. Within this course, teachers will expound upon recent events and their repercussions on Russia, aiming to equip students with the ability to resist "the information attacks unleashed against Russia" by the "hypocritical" West.

Raising The Ideal Citizen

Following the idea of Putin to protect the new generation from "depraved" Western culture, the course "Fundamentals of Spiritual and Moral Culture" has been implemented in the Russian school curriculum starting in September 2023. This course aims to instill a moral ideal within individuals and foster a deeper sense of patriotism toward their homeland.[14]

This course content is a complete copy of the "Presidential Decree on Spiritual and Moral Values," and blatantly reproduces Putin's regime ideology. It focuses on teaching traditional values, role models, the importance of the traditional family structure, and lessons in morality and ethics. Additionally, the teachers will teach students to identify "risks and threats" coming from the West to the spiritual and moral culture of the Russian people, and how to resist them.[15]

Patriotism and acts of heroism and self-sacrifice are recurring themes throughout the course. For instance, the program designed for sixth-grade students ages 11 and 12 includes the theme "Feat: How to Identify a Hero" This topic aims to instill in children the value of being willing to sacrifice oneself for the sake of the Motherland and society.[16]

Furthermore, schools have introduced a new position of deputy for spiritual and moral education, whose duty is to supervise the moral behavior and personal development of schoolchildren and is responsible for conducting military-patriotic activities within the school.[17]

Starting from the year 2024, the course "Basics of Homeland Security and Defense" will be integrated into the school curriculum. This addition aims to "supplement the component part of patriotic education, to expand this zone of personal results of students," as mentioned by Anna Timofeeva, the Deputy Director of the Ministry of Enlightenment.[18] However, certain aspects of this upcoming course are already covered in the existing Russian school discipline "Basics of Life Safety." These include giving students basic military training, such as assembling and disassembling a Kalashnikov assault rifle, as well as providing medical assistance in military settings, etc.[19]


Such militarization of consciousness demonstrates that it is not only about the justification of war. It has a more ambitious goal: the creation of a military society for whom a war is not a means, not a goal, but a form of life, where the main value is to die for the Motherland on the battlefield.

The new "sovereign" school curriculum is intended to achieve Putin's great dream – the establishment of unwavering loyalty among the population, which is not based on rational exchanges between the state and its citizens, but rather on an irrational allegiance to the leader, regardless of his actions. Putin believes that patriotism and the willingness to die for the country, meaning for the leader, are inherent genetic traits of the Russian people.[20]

*Dr. Olesya Zakharova is a Russian political scientist.


[1], September 1, 2023.

[2], September 5, 2022.

[3], August 21, 2023.

[4], September 19, 2022.


[6], September 1, 2023.






[12] KРП_История_5-9%20класс_2023_ЭП.pdf





[17], July 11, 2023.

[18], June 29, 2023.

[19], June 29, 2023.

[20], March 11, 2018.

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