Today I have this piece from the Russian newspaper “Military-Industrial Courier” (VPK). The click-baity title is:
Yakutia Has Followed In the Footsteps of the U.S.A.
The title made me click, natch, I was going “Wha…?” But all they mean is that the Russian Republic of Yakutia (=Sakha) has decreed that schoolchildren must sing the national anthem every day. Just like schoolchildren in the U.S. The Russian national anthem, that is to say.
Some backstory: Yakutia is a Republic at the Federal level, geographically huge but population-tiny (just under a million souls, mainly ethnic Yakuts and Russians). Yakuts call themselves the “Sakha” people, speaking a language belonging to the Siberian branch of the Turkic languages. There are roughly half a million of them living in Yakutia. They mainly engage in animal husbandry: horses, reindeers and cattle. Russian fur-traders started to move in around the 1620’s, and the Tsarist Muscovy government was not far behind, imposing taxes on pelts. Russians and Yakuts proceeded to inter-marry and live together, sometimes fighting and sometimes getting along. Over the centuries, many Yakuts converted to Russian Orthodoxy, while still retaining their shamanist practices. In 1922 the Soviet government created the Yakut Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, and the Yakuts have been loyal Soviet/Russian citizens every since….
Except that there are some “nationalist” tendencies among them. For example, last March there were some anti-immigrant riots directed against ethnic Kyrgyz. What happened was that a local Yakut woman was raped by a citizen of Kyrgyzstan. Yakut Nationalists whipped up protest meetings attended by thousands. Police had to work very hard to prevent pogroms and lynchings of ethnic Kyrgyz at the hands of the Yakuts. After this, the Yakut government, along with the Federal government, decided to try to do something to counter this ethnic nationalism. And it also fits into the Putin government plan to try to downplay ethnicities and just have everybody being more or less Russian.
The Yakut government is headed by a man named Aisen Sergeevich Nikolaev, who has a really nice smile, and likes to wear red ties. Nikolaev was born in 1972, in Leningrad. An intellectual prodigy, he graduated from Higher Math School at the age of 16 and was accepted into the Physics Faculty of Moscow State University. Since 1997 he has been representing Yakutia in the Duma.
Anyhow, Nikolaev, who is a fully integrated ethnic Yakut, decided it would be a good thing for Yakuts to feel more patriotic about Russia. Therefore, in response to the riots, he published this decree on the Yakut government portal:
The Administration of the Head of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), and the government of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) […] together with the organs of local administration of the municipal formations of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) have agreed to introduce the practice into the education institutions of the Republic, of daily singing of the State Hymn of the Russian Federation.
With this singing of the national anthem in school, it is hoped that the children will become more patriotic and see themselves as a part of Russia, and not just some local ethnic outpost. The Sakha government is also unrolling a similar project called “We are the future of Russia!” This project is envisioned to encompass collaboration between the government, scientific and educational institutions as well as ordinary citizens “to educate the personality, create digital resources, and socially meaningful content designed to guide children and youth towards spiritual and moral values, towards the national goals for Russian development, Russian history and culture; and to support innovational forms of professionally oriented work and professional development.”
All sounds great, because a professionally educated and morally developed youth is the future of any great country. Just a final comment from myself, as one who lives in the U.S. and observes American life. Are American children more patriotic for the fact that they are forced to sing the national anthem and salute the flag every day? I reckon they are. Surprising as it sounds (especially coming from a cynic like myself, immune to such devices), just a simple trick seems to work like a charm. Thus bringing us full circle to the title of this piece….