Russian authorities are building the “largest” military-patriotic youth education center in the country’s northwest amid a wider militarization of young Russians that has accelerated since Russia invaded Ukraine, pro-Kremlin media has reported.
The Avangard teaching center in the Vologda region is expected to hold its first training camp in 2023, with 5,000 children and teens expected to go through its doors every year, according to the World War II-themed news website pobedarf.ru.
High school and college students there will practice shooting sports, learn navigation skills and gain knowledge in robotics and the use of drones, Vologda region Governor Oleg Kuvshinnikov was quoted as saying.
“We’ve started to create the largest training and methodological center of military-patriotic education [in northwest Russia] on the instructions of President Vladimir Putin and with the support of the Russian Defense Ministry,” he said.
“We will prepare high school and college students for military service, military-patriotic education and physical development,” Kuvshinnikov said at a teachers’ council this week.
The first Avangard teaching center opened at a sprawling military-themed park outside Moscow in 2020.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in May of this year that the Avangard military-patriotic youth education centers would be built in other Russian cities with populations of more than 100,000.
The education centers are part of Kremlin efforts to raise a new generation of loyal citizens which include a fast-growing Youth Army, youth-oriented television programming, and patriotism and war history in Russia’s education law.
Polls have said younger Russians are generally less likely to support their country’s so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine than older generations.
Since the invasion began, Russian authorities have extended compulsory patriotic history education to include 7-year-olds, ordered the appointment of “patriotic” school advisers and tweaked the curriculum to teach high schoolers about Ukraine from a viewpoint favorable to the Kremlin.
Putin enshrined patriotic education in Russia’s school curriculum in 2020, part of controversial constitutional reforms which allowed the president to extend his 20-year rule into 2036.