Concluding my triptych of posts on the new Donbass school curriculum, with this piece from last March, written by Elena Ostryakova. At its founding conference in March, the Russia-Donbass Committee announced a project to “rehabilitate” and re-introduce into the school curriculum of Donetsk/Luhansk the great Soviet-era novel “Young Guard” by Alexander Fadeev. Fadeev wrote this book in 1945, in the heat of the moment, based on real characters and real events. The PolitNavigator piece starts with an unfortunate typo in the very first sentence: 2017 does NOT mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Young Guard, but rather the 75th anniversary. The Молодая гвардия. (“Molodaya Gvardiya”) was a cell of Communist Youth activists operating behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied occupied Krasnodon. This network was established very soon after the town was occupied by German troops on 20 July 1942. The Communist Party had put into place certain contingency plans, whereby selected Komsomol (Communist Youth) activists, instead of evacuating from occupied areas, stayed behind to operate as underground resistance against the Nazis.
According to the English-language wiki: There were about 100 members of the Young Guard, all young boys and girls – workers, 8th-10th form schoolboys and schoolgirls from Krasnodon and surrounding villages and settlements. Due to the secret nature of the Young Guard, only people well-known to other organization members, and who took the special oath of faithfulness, could become members. Most of them either belonged to the Komsomol or were accepted into Komsomol upon joining the Young Guard. 15 were members of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The most active members and founders of the organization made up the Staff of the Young Guard: Juliana Gromova, Oleg Koshevoy, Vasily Levashov, Lyubov Shevtsova, Viktor Tretyakevich, Ivan Turkenich, Sergei Tyulenin, and Ivan Zemnukhov.
What does any of this have to do with today’s Krasnodon, or the Donbass region? Well, many political activists of the Donbass see themselves as the heirs of those young heroes who resisted the Nazis of their time. They are a new generation of anti-Nazis, resisting a new generation of Nazis, whose “Anti-Terrorist” militias happen to be parked just a couple of towns over, to the West.
Unlike the original Young Guard, who had the support of a mighty (albeit beleaguered) government and army, today’s Donbass residents enjoy very little support from a Russian government which could barely lift a finger to help them. Well, times are different… One of the few lifelines enjoyed by the current Donbass resistors is the Russia-Donbass Committee, which continues to meet regularly in Rostov-on-Don.
The people of Donbass continue to suffer from shellings, terrorist attacks, and military assaults. But even worse than this is the incessant ideological warfare. Ukrainian rewriting of history has attained such ludicrous proportions it’s almost like a comedy special in itself. This process affects school textbooks and school curricula most of all. When you think about it, it is impossible to write even the most objective textbook — well, maybe in math or pure science, but certainly not in social studies, history or literature — that does not have a political slant and a view of history.
In the “new post-Maidan Ukraine”, textbooks are rewritten, and children are taught, a completely different version of history; who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. Ukrainian children living under the new totalitarianism imposed by the political parties in Kiev, are being brainwashed daily with fanciful stories and fake histories, masquerading as fact. Most of the children will eventually reject this B.S. when they grow up, but still, this is a lot of wasted time which they will have to make up later if they decide they want a real education.
The majority of the residents of the Eastern Donbass region have proved in words and deeds that they do not want to have anything to do with this totalitarian brainwashing. Whether they are ethnic Russian or Ukrainian, either way, they don’t want to see their children kneeling to Stepan Bandera and saluting Adolph Hitler. They feel themselves to be part of the Russian historical and civilizational heritage. Their ancestors were put out here on the borderlands for a reason: To defend Russia. They don’t believe that Catherine the Great was an occupier, nor that Ivan Mazepa was a hero. They don’t believe that Stalin deliberately tried to starve them during the famine years. Their grandfathers fought on the winning, not the losing side, of the Great Patriotic War. They want their children to continue honoring the heroes who brought down the Nazi war machine; and also to receive a real education, not have their heads stuffed with fairy tales that are both silly and vicious at the same time.
Rehabilitating the Young Guard
There is legitimate historical debate as to the effectiveness of the Young Guard Resistance cell, which was eventually broken up and destroyed by German army intelligence. The young Communists were identified, captured, tortured, and executed by the Germans. Generally, underground resistance movements are not effective unless they are used as conduits of factual intelligence to the supporting army. This youth cell was believed to have delivered good intelligence to the Red Army, but in the end their lives may well have been wasted on fruitless diversionary tactics.
All of this factual history is open to debate — but nobody can deny the sheer heroism of these youngsters, nor can the literary merit of Fadeev’s book be denied; nor its rightful place in the school curriculum, as a classic work of Soviet literature. It is understandable why the Ukrainian government has banned this book — in a frenzy of anti-Russian and “de-communization” policies. And, after all, the Ukrainian government says that these kids fought on the wrong side, they should have fought alongside Bandera and the pro-Hitler collaborators. Less understandable is why this book was removed from the regular curriculum of the pro-Russian side. Well, same reason, I reckon: Too communistic.
A man named Nikolai Zaporozhtsev wants to set this right. Zaporozhtsev heads a socially activist organization called “Peace For Luhanshchina”, and he spoke at that same forum back in March: “An open letter in support of this initiative [to put the novel back in the school curriculum] was published by the Union of Writers of the Russian Federation. In the LPR this issue has already been decided: Starting on September 1 this book will be taught in the schools and high schools. In the year which marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of this [underground] organization, it would be highly appropriate to re-publish this book for mass circulation. It would also be appropriate to re-release on (state TV) channels the film version by Sergei Gerasimov.”
Another supporter of this project to rehabilate the “Young Guard” and put them back in the school curriculum, is a man named Rem Olegovich Kiselev, Rem is a political leader of the “youth” branch of the United Russia Party, active in the Crimea branch of the party and recently elected to the Crimean governing council, where he focuses on the issues of the youth.
Will There Be A “Young Guard” Summer Camp?
Kiselev (pronounced Kis-e-LYOV, with stress on the last syllable) is an interesting fellow in his own right. He was born in 1986 in Simferopol, Crimea, is currently 30 years old, and has a wife and son. As in Communist times, the definition of “youth” can be fluid and such a state of being can possibly extend into one’s 30’s, if one is an outstanding “youth leader” as Kiselev appears to be.
Rem got his college degree in something called “Informational-Polygraphic” technology, with a specialty in using computers to automate production systems. He got his first job as an engraver in 2003, in a company called “Krymchanka”. He soon went into business for himself as a private entrepreneur. You know how it is when you’re in your 20’s, still trying to figure out what you want to do. Starting in 2015 Rem’s life took a more political turn, as he took a management position at the Crimean Federal University named after V.I. Vernadsky. Rem worked as a social and political activist, engaged in issues of youth education, in a department acronymed as ФГАОУ ВО — which I had to look up, and it stands for Федеральное государственное автономное образовательное учреждение высшего образования — Federal State Autonomous Educational Institution of Higher Education. Whew! Not even sure what such a job does.
Around the end of 2015 Rem switched to the private sector and worked for companies named “Fitafarm” and “Region”. Then, in 2017 he moved up the ranks in the political structures of the Crimean Republic, heading committees that specialize in education, youth politics, and sports.
One of Kiselev’s projects is to organize a political youth summer camp in Crimea. This will be a theme camp, devoted to the anti-Nazi exploits of Fadeev’s “Young Guard”. Kiselev says he wants to see ALL the Luhansk youth attend this new (as-yet unbuilt) summer camp.
This project obviously has echoes of the Soviet Komsomol and their youth camps, which were key to developing new cadres for the Communist Party. Political youth summer camps, by the way, are nothing new, and not as sinister as people might imagine. Just about every political party in every country in the world, has them. Despite whatever teeth gnashings about “Nashisti” and “Putinistas”, the United Russia Party will no doubt have its youth camps too, and will attempt to indoctrinate a new generation while playing volleyball.
The only interesting question here, is how Rem Kiselev can square the circle of the Luhansk “Young Guard” being devoted Communists, while he himself is a functionary in a party which is devoted to the ideological principles of capitalism. Obviously (in answer to my own question) the circle is squared by the Great Patriotic War. Something that everybody can agree upon — who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. Unless, of course, one is a Ukrainian nationalist, in which case the sides are switched.