Russia Converts Ukrainian Children Into Enemies

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 21 Issue: 36

(Source: Crimean Human Rights Group)

Executive Summary:

  • Russia has transformed the education system in the occupied territories of Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk, replacing educators and curriculum with pro-Russian, military-patriotic education aimed at militarizing Ukrainian children against their homeland.
  • The Kremlin has started to erase the Ukrainian language, rewrite history books, impose Russian-style educational standards, and promote Russian ideology within Ukraine’s educational institutions.
  • A system for the “re-education and integration” of kidnapped Ukrainian children is being actively carried out in the Russian Far East and Belarus, seeking to brainwash them against Ukraine.

Since 2014, more than one million Ukrainian children have fallen under Russian occupation and control. According to Ukrainian sources, over 19,000 children have been kidnapped and taken to Russian territory during this period (, January 8;, accessed February 19). In 2023 alone, a total of 2,442 abducted children, primarily from Mariupol and Lysychansk, were taken to Belarus (, February 22). These children have fallen prey to the Russian imperial regime, which seeks to forcibly reshape their identity through de-Ukrainization, indoctrination, re-education, and militarization (, November 20,, January 8;). These actions fully align with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s envisioned “final solution to the Ukrainian question,” aiming to eradicate the Ukrainian identity and entirely obliterate Ukraine as an independent nation.

Immediately after the illegal occupation of Crimea in 2014, Moscow swiftly initiated a comprehensive campaign to “de-Ukrainize” the education system, promoting Russian military-patriotic education. In May 2014, Putin signed legislation to assimilate Crimea into Russia’s educational framework. This legislation required implementing Russian educational standards across primary, secondary, vocational, and higher education sectors, necessitating the retraining of all educators in Crimea (, May 5, 2014).

The situation in the occupied regions of Donetsk and Luhansk mirrored that of Crimea, albeit with some nuances. The transformation of the education system was gradually implemented, initially emphasizing “independence” rather than an immediate shift to Russian standards, as seen in Crimea (, December 22, 2023). Since 2015, within the so-called Luhansk and Donetsk “People’s Republics,” Russian officials have established specialized departments dedicated to patriotic youth education (, March 14, 2023). Thus, the school system underwent a process of de-Ukrainization. By September 2016, all Ukrainian classes were closed. In 2017, the Ukrainian language was officially excluded from the list of mandatory subjects (, July 15, 2023). Cossack, cadet, and various paramilitary classes have been established in nearly every school across the occupied territories of Ukraine. It has become common to see children wearing military or Russian law enforcement uniforms on the streets (, March 17, 2021;, May 12, 2021).

Russian military-Patriotic education centers aimed at preparing youth for military service have proliferated in the occupied Ukrainian cities, including patriotic clubs, sports clubs, and orthodox military camps. In early 2022, in the Luhansk region, two Cossack cadet corps were located in Luhansk and Alchevsk, along with 62 cadet classes that emphasized military disciplines. (For more on Cossack youth militarization in Russia and the occupied territories, see EDM, January 25, February 27). Additionally, numerous representative offices of the Russian military-patriotic association “Yunarmiya” (“All-Russia Young Army”) were opened throughout the occupied territories (, March 14, 2023;, September 28, 2016;, November 13, 2023).

After the onset of the full-scale invasion, these processes began to expand into the newly occupied territories of Ukraine. To eradicate the Ukrainian identity, the Kremlin started to intensely erase the Ukrainian language, re-write history books, impose Russian educational standards, and promote Russian ideology within Ukrainian educational institutions. Given the occupiers’ emphasis on language and history as pivotal aspects of their de-Ukrainization agenda, they have recruited educators from various Russian regions to staff Ukrainian schools, effectively transforming them into primary propaganda hubs (, November 25, 2023). Additionally, 15,000 education workers from occupied territories underwent specialized retraining programs in Rostov and Crimea (, July 15, 2023). The occupiers eradicated all Ukrainian literature, falsely branding it as “neo-Nazi literature,” and replaced it with 2.5 million pieces of Russian propaganda books. These include new history books and brochures that justify and glorify the Russian invaders while disparaging the honor of Ukrainian defenders by portraying them as homosexuals and allies of Satan and the Nazis (, December 8, 2023;, March 2).

Starting September 1, 2023, Russian occupation officials mandated the inclusion of “Fundamentals of Security and Defense of the Motherland” as a mandatory subject for Ukrainian youth in the occupied territories. Students are now being instructed in various military skills, such as assembling and disassembling machine guns, donning gas masks, operating combat drones, providing first aid, grenade handling, and shooting practice. These disciplines are part of the curriculum in schools, colleges, and vocational training institutions. In the “Cossack” corps and classes, both theory and practical training are conducted by experienced military personnel. In addition to the standard curriculum, combat veterans impart specific skills to teenagers, including operating combat drones. The Russian Ministry of Education has pledged to supply schools with educational drone models (, November 13, 2023). Additionally, “dialogues with heroes” and “lessons of courage” are organized for Ukrainian children, where former criminals and terrorists from the Wagner Group glorify the Russian war against their homeland (, December 14, 2023). Furthermore, schoolchildren are set to participate in practical support for the Russian war effort in Ukraine. The State Duma has proposed implementing a lesson called “Essential Tasks,” during which students would be tasked with weaving camouflage nets and crafting trench candles to be delivered to the Russian military at the frontline. This initiative has already commenced in the occupied city of Kadiivka in the Luhansk region (, November 13, 2023).

Moscow is now implementing a comprehensive system for the “re-education and integration” of Ukrainian children. Special camps have been established from the annexed Crimea to the Russian Far East, where approximately 6 thousand children underwent ideological indoctrination and military-patriotic education in 2022–2023 (, February 15, 2023). The “recreation” in these camps is utilized for patriotic and military activities aligned with the central tenets of Russian ideology. The programming involves intensified military training, military gatherings, games, and festivals designed to assimilate Ukrainian children into Russia’s educational and cultural sphere. These activities reflect a systematic effort to instill a Russian identity in Ukrainian children, militarizing them and engaging them in supporting the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine (, accessed March 6). The occupiers also snatch Ukrainian children and take them to special children’s camps located in Belarus, where they are subjected to propaganda and indoctrination with ideas aligned with “the political interests of Russia and Belarus” and taught to hate Ukraine and love Russia (, February 22).

These comprehensive practices flagrantly breach multiple international conventions and laws, constituting an international crime against children, yet their repercussions extend further. Russia is robbing Ukraine of its future by forcibly imposing Russification and militarization on Ukrainian children, all while seeking to eradicate the Ukrainian identity. Moscow’s goal is to implant its hatred toward Ukraine and the entire civilized world in children, breeding them for its ongoing and future wars (see EDM, February 27).