Report: Russia is training high schoolers for war

Logan Nye
Sep 8, 2023 12:28 PM PDT
2 minute read
russian military training

Photo by Contributor/Getty Images.


Russian high schools now include military training as part of their curriculum, maybe increasing the quality of cannon fodder.

According to new, unclassified reports from the British Ministry of Defence, Russia instituted a new curriculum. In schools across Russia, students now learn Russian theories of Crimean reunification and other pro-war propaganda. And one class aimed at high school seniors is straight-up Russian military training.

The report

The Defence Intelligence updates from the MoD give a clear and often frank assessment of the war in Ukraine. In one September 6 update on Twitter, Defense Intelligence shared details of a new Russian school curriculum that Vladimir Putin himself helped teach.

The intelligence update featured four major bullets about the new classes. Emphasis ours:

Russia’s new school year has begun with a new curriculum incorporating both military skills and the Kremlin’s view of the history of Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin personally held an open lesson with 30 schoolchildren on the first day of term. Topics in the updated national history exam include Crimean reunification with Russia and the ‘Special Military Operation’ in Ukraine.

Russia’s parliament approved the curriculum last year. One element, the "Basics of Life Safety", is aimed towards senior students and includes a basic military training module. This will include handling Kalashnikovs, the use of hand grenades, uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV) operations, and battlefield first aid. Pupils may also be visited by Ukraine veterans.

The new curriculum serves three objectives: to indoctrinate students with the Kremlin rationale for the ‘Special Military Operation’, instil [sic] students with a martial mindset, and reduce training timelines for onwards mobilisation and deployment.

The introduction of UAV operations indicates their evolving importance on the battlefield and the lessons learnt about these systems directly from the conflict in Ukraine.

What this means

Russia is facing a critical shortage of people. Obviously, Putin feels the pain on the frontlines. He's already doubled pay, extended the conscription and volunteer ages, and gone shopping overseas for talent. But the economic sectors struggle for people, too.

If Russia is training schoolchildren for combat, then Putin likely thinks he can drag the war out a little longer and that his best use of graduates entering military age is to try to deploy them. Ukraine obviously prefers for Putin to give in much sooner than that. But absent that, signs that Russia's manning crisis is continuously getting worse is sure to lift some Ukrainian spirits.

And, as Putin scrapes the barrel, that leaves even less people to turn around the Russian economy. And the Russian economy desperately needs the boost. Already, Putin has faced a coup that may have been linked to the changing fortunes in Russia. Russia pays grossly more money for some weapon parts to get around sanctions. And a top Ukrainian spy says Russia is at risk of a collapse into civil war.

Russian military cadets wait for an excursion at Manezhnaya Square just outside the Kremlin in Moscow on September 26, 2022. (Photo by NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP via Getty Images)

Possible fallout of Russian military training in schools

It remains to be seen how good the next batch of conscripts or trainees are. A little training of soldiers before they arrive at basic is great for the Russians, bad for everyone else. Increased Russian competence could make line soldiers more dangerous.

But if Russian families protest their children being sacrificed for Putin's war, it may help with the drip drip drip of recruiting as an issue. And, as Ukrainian attacks bring the war home to Russians, families may feel themselves besieged. Putin's special military operation was supposed to have little impact on the average Russian, but damage in the streets, military lessons in schools, and a crippled economy put the lie to Putin's competence.

But there's no certainty when it comes to Russia. Some social media posts from there seem to show Russian people actually confused why the international community wasn't rushing to their aid when drones reached their neighborhoods.


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