June 28, 2022

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In the Russian anti-war campaign, students turn over teachers who express their opposition

In the Russian anti-war campaign, students turn over teachers who express their opposition

RIGA, Latvia – When Irina Jane’s students in western Russia asked why they had banned a European sports competition from attending, the 55-year-old teacher launched his sermon against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“As long as Russia does not behave in a civilized way, this will go on forever,” she exasperated, adding that she supports the European embargo. Russia wanted to get to Kyiv, to bring down Zelensky and the government. “This is a sovereign country,” she said. “There is a sovereign government there.”

Little did she know that her students were recording her anger and that a copy of it would make its way to law enforcement, who opened a criminal investigation under a new national law banning false information about the military.

Jane is one of at least four teachers recently handed over by students or parents for anti-war rhetoric, in some stark examples of the government’s quest to identify and punish individuals critical of the invasion.

It’s a campaign with grim Soviet echoes, inspired last month by President Vladimir Putin, who praised Russians for their ability to identify “scum and traitors” and “spit them out like a fly.”

“I am convinced that this necessary and self-cleansing of society will only strengthen our country,” Putin said on March 16 in a televised address, accusing the West of wanting to use a “fifth column” to destroy Russia.

In the past several weeks, a list of “Traitors and enemiesIt appeared on the Internet, and was published by the Committee for the Protection of National Interests, a shadowy group that claims a duty to expose public figures who support “anti-Russian” sanctions and political pressure.

The Kaliningrad regional government has sent text messages to local residents urging them to report on “agitators and fraudsters” who are undermining “the special operation in Ukraine,” according to the Russian newspaper. Novaya Gazeta. A string of activists, journalists and opposition politicians found the word “traitor” and despicable graffiti painted on their doors.

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Putin’s war propaganda has become “patriotic” lessons in Russian schools

said Nikita Petrov, a long-time historian at Memorial Human Rights Group, a tennis court from Moscow canceled In December, after years of government pressure on the group.

War opponents can easily break the law in the new light Control rules. Recent additions to the Criminal Code make it illegal to denigrate the armed forces or to publish “false” information about the military – which means in practice anything that contradicts official government reports.

The cases of children reported to teachers recall the young Soviet folk hero Pavlik Morozov, whose father, legend has betrayed the authorities for his anti-Soviet activism. Generations of Soviet children were encouraged to be like Pavlik, to show loyalty to the state above all else.

Today’s Russian propaganda emphasizes similar themes. “To be a human being, to be a good citizen, to be moral, is to identify yourself with the state and to be specially acquainted with the language of the state,” said Ian Garner, a historian of Russian propaganda. “This is especially the case when it comes to young people,” he said, whom the Kremlin hopes to turn into obedient citizens.

In the weeks after the invasion, so was Russian social media immersed in pictures Schoolchildren attending special patriotic lessons or posing for pictures as they form the letter Z – a symbol of support for the war.

Education Minister Sergei Kravtsov said in early March that more than 5 million children across Russia had watched a lesson called Defenders of Peace. was part of Series of government production It was reviewed by the Washington Post, which promotes many of the Kremlin’s arguments and justifications for the attack on Ukraine.

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Until her resignation under pressure this month, Jane taught English to eighth-graders in the city of Penza, 400 miles southeast of Moscow, according to Pavel Chekhov, president of the Human Rights Lawyers Association that now represents the general. Comment requests.

Chekhov said Jen’s answer to students’ questions about why they couldn’t compete in the sporting event was “emotional.” “Someone recorded this conversation and then reported it to the police.” The recording was handed over to the federal authorities, who on March 30 opened a criminal investigation under the new censorship law.

a Copy of the registration It spreads quickly on the Internet. In it, Gen can be heard arguing with her students. One of the girls seems to take issue with the teacher’s criticism of the invasion, saying “we don’t know all the details”.

“Exactly, you don’t know anything. The general answers.” Look at 100, 200 different independent sources… We have a totalitarian regime. Any dissent is considered an intellectual crime.”

“We are a rogue country! We are North Korea.” “We are not accepted anywhere now.”

Informants turned over a variety of war critics, including a deacon who shared his views with parishioners and colleagues, according to a Russian media report.

A 17-year-old in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk is under investigation over a war news report he shared in a chat group on the social media platform Telegram, according to his lawyer, Stanislav Seleznev. He said it was possible that law enforcement was monitoring the group or that one of the 400 participants had reported his client.

Several other teachers have also been targeted, including a university lecturer in Siberian Amur region, who was fined for spreading “false information” to her students about Russian military actions in Ukraine, according to District Court. The court added that witnesses to the offending lecture gave testimony that helped prove the teacher’s guilt.

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On Sakhalin Island, off the Pacific coast of Russia, another English teacher was secretly registered by a student last month. She was fired from her job and fined 30,000 rubles, about $375, by a court that said she had discredited the Russian forces.

The teacher, Marina Dubrova, said to Siberian news site An affiliate of the US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty described the war as a mistake during discussions after the dismissal. Dubrova said the tape of the student’s comments ended up with the police — possibly through the parents, though she wasn’t sure. It did not respond to Washington Post requests for comment.

“On Monday morning at school I was greeted with the words: ‘Marina Gusmanovna, the police are here for you,'” Dubrova said in the interview, using her formal name with the surname.

A report was drawn up against me, and the trial took place on the same day. I explained my position that the president of our country is just a person who, like everyone else, can make mistakes. And I think this decision is wrong, Dubrova continued.

“I was told, as a teacher, that I could not say such things to the students. But I do not agree,” she said. “Teaching is a human profession, first of all, to teach people to hear different opinions, to form situations based on different points of view. Is this really a bad thing?”