Russia is Breeding for War Through Youth (Para-)Militarization

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 21 Issue: 22

(Source: The Moscow Times)

Executive Summary:

  • Russia is investing significantly in militarizing children and youth, allocating substantial funds for patriotic education programs, youth movements, and competitions.
  • Military service is glorified across all levels of education in changes to the national curriculum emphasizing the defense of the homeland and preparing students for potential conflicts.
  • Russia’s efforts reflect a comprehensive strategy to indoctrinate upcoming generations with militarization, ensuring readiness for military service and willingness to sacrifice for the country.

On November 22, 2023, Putin issued a decree designating 2024 as the Year of the Family in Russia. To address the escalating demographic challenges exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Putin is actively promoting an upsurge in childbirth, urging Russians to start families earlier and aspire to have at least three children, but ideally aim for eight. Various levels of government in Russia are also advocating early childbearing, and the State Duma is developing a school curriculum on family studies to instill disapproval of childlessness among students (, November 29, 2023;, January 3;, January 25;, February 2). Starting on February 1, there has been a substantial rise in various financial incentives designed to encourage an increase in the birth rate (, January 3). Beyond expanding its population in numbers, however, Russia seeks to raise and educate new loyal, militarized pro-war generations eager to die for the Motherland. All these actions reflect significant development in Russia. The country is preparing for a protracted conflict and needs a constantly growing number of individuals to be mobilized for the war effort (The Moscow Times, January 29).

Russia’s investments in the (para)militarization of children and youth in recent years are enormous. In 2024 alone, it plans to allocate more than $511 million to implement the federal project “Patriotic Education of Citizens of the RF,” a tenfold increase compared to 2022. Of this funding, almost $189 million will be allocated to the “Movement of the First” (a youth movement in Russia created on December 18, 2022), nearly $3 million to the “Youth Army,” and $14.5 million to the “Big Change” (an all-Russian competition for patriotic youth). Other funds will be directed to developing the “Eaglets of Russia” program for primary schools (, October 9, 2023).

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, there was a belief that Soviet propaganda and the militarization of education and culture had disappeared. This proved deceptive, however, as it became apparent that these practices had only gone underground temporarily. Since Putin took office in 2000, the Russian regime has integrated the militarization of children into its state policy agenda. There was a clear shift towards adopting the military as a source of patriotic education, reminiscent of the Tsarist and Soviet eras. On July 24, 2000, Resolution No. 551, “On military-patriotic youth and children’s associations,” was adopted. In 2001, the Russian Ministry of Defense was crucial in implementing the “Concept of Patriotic Education of Russian Citizens” (, March 25, 2023;, accessed February 7). Nowadays, it has become common in Russia to don children attending kindergartens, schools, and postsecondary institutions in military uniforms and involve them in diverse (para)military activities, such as defense sports games, trench digging, grenade throwing, and shooting with real ammunition.

In the last two decades, the country has witnessed a steady rise in youth and children’s military-patriotic organizations and pro-war patriotic activities. There was a notable spike, however, following the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and especially after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Rosmolodezh, the federal agency for young people in Russia, alone oversees approximately 36 thousand military-patriotic clubs and centers for patriotic education (, September 27, 2023). Many of these clubs have appropriated areas formerly designated for children’s creative leisure activities. They have also broadened their military training initiatives within schools, integrating weaponry such as Kalashnikov assault rifles. Shockingly, even children in some kindergartens are being instructed on how to correctly assemble a machine gun, highlighting the extent of militarization. Additionally, these organizations actively support Russia’s war in Ukraine through various means, including sending letters of support to soldiers, organizing donations for “humanitarian aid,” and even deploying members to the front lines themselves (, March 25).

Military service is being glorified across all levels of education. Informational sessions are organized with schoolchildren to discuss contract military service opportunities, and teenage “volunteer companies” have been formed nationwide (, September 24, 2023;, February 6). As per the recent proposal by State Duma Deputy Dmitry Kuznetsov, plans are underway to establish a new children’s military formation—a youth version of the Chechen battalion “Akhmat” (, February 1). The inaugural group of schoolchildren, including boys and girls, will join the children’s battalion “Akhmat” in August. The training camp program will include a military-patriotic game, meetings with “special military operation heroes,” war correspondents, and engagements with scientists and historians (, February 1).

Numerous alterations to the national curriculum highlight the importance of defending the homeland. In essence, Russian children are being trained for war. Starting September 1, 2024, students will be required to undergo combat, tactical, fire, engineering, military medical, and technical training in the new school course “Fundamentals of Security and Defense of the Motherland.” This course will replace the “Fundamentals of Life Safety” curriculum (, March 25, 2023). Additionally, students will be acquainted with general military regulations and receive training to prepare for potential nuclear conflicts (, February 6). Schools and colleges across 52 regions in Russia have also opted to incorporate unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flying courses into their educational programs. With a collective budget exceeding $11 million, these institutions are investing in UAVs as an educational tool for their students. Among the regions most interested in adopting the Ministry of Education’s new educational program are Bashkiria, Moscow, and Chechnya (, January 19).

On an initiative from Putin’s political scientist Sergey Karaganov, who advocated for a pre-emptive nuclear strike on Europe, Moscow established the Institute of World Military Economics and Strategy at the Higher School of Economics. Retired Admiral Sergei Avakyants, who commanded the Pacific Fleet until April 2023 and whose marines engaged in the massacre of civilians during the occupation of the Kyiv region and participated in battles for Pavlovka and Vuhledar, heads the institute. In the scope of the new program, students will learn about nuclear deterrence, the societal impacts of prolonged conflicts, and Russia’s role in Central Asia. Avakyants plans to collaborate with institutions in India, the United Arab Emirates, China, and post-Soviet nations, along with Rostec, Rosatom, and other domestic entities (Istories, February 6).

The lasting effects of this militaristic propaganda drive remain to be fully understood. It is already evident, however, that millions of Russian children and adolescents are being deliberately bred for warfare. Young boys are being molded into future soldiers, while young girls are urged to contribute to the birth of the next generation of combatants. These efforts reflect a comprehensive strategy of the Russian Federation: to indoctrinate upcoming generations with militarization, ensuring they are consistently primed for military service and willing to sacrifice themselves unquestioningly for the Motherland.