Ukraine War Day #150: Magnet School In Energodar

Dear Readers:

Today we have another “educational” story, this time about a school in Energodar. The reporter is Anton Nikitin. Setting the scene: Recall that Zaporozhie Oblast is split in two horizontally, by the Dnepr River, with the Ukrainians controlling the area on the Right Bank, and the Russians the Left Bank This map shows Energodar (“Enerhodar”), and its relation to other major cities such as Nikolaev, Kherson, Krivoi Rog, Melitopol, and Zaporozhie itself. And, by the way, I am giving notice to my readers that I will none of this North, South, East, West thing when it comes to discussing the River. So many bloggers are using those words, instead of the traditional “Right Bank”, “Left Bank”, thing. Maybe they think their readers will be confused (thinking “Left” must mean West, when it’s usually the opposite), and I admit it can be confusing, but all it takes is a simple explanation: Right/Left is from the point of view of the River itself, as it barrels down the countryside. It began its journey way up North somewhere as a Russian stream. Imagine that the River has a head and arms as it swims along. As it flows towards the Black Sea, everything on its “right hand” is the Right Bank, and everything on its “left hand” is the Left Bank. Got that?

The reason why this is important, and I’m not just being a doofus about it, is because this River winds a lot, sometimes it runs horizontal North/South and then it turns vertical again, so East/West, and sometimes it’s diagonal. I found it awfully confusing, trying to follow some of the battles, when internet bloggers/mappers were talking about “Russians trying to cross river north to south”, say, when a little further away, the River is more vertical, so what is north and what is south? Which is the whole reason why people invented the “Right/Left” bank terminology in the first place, because the orientation is completely independent of the topography or windings of the water, it is guided only by the vector of direction. QED.

School #2 is #1

But on to our story. The city of Energodar literally means “Gift of Energy”, it is obviously a Soviet city, founded in 1970, and built to service the Thermal Power Station. A decade later, the Zaporozhie Nuclear Power Plant was built side by side with the older Thermal Plant. Both power plants are still functional (although the Ukrainians keep trying to blow them up now) and serve as the major employers for a city of some 50,000 people.

Energodar is the kind of town that glows in the dark!

Given that power-plant employees frequently have children, there is a need for schools. The discussion turns to School #2, whose Principal is a man named Vadim Karetnikov.

Mr. Karetnikov is busy preparing his school, and the teachers under his command, for the start of the new school year, which arrives on September 1: “We are going through an accreditation process which will bring our school up to Russian standards. We are currently preparing our statute (mission statement? Russian устав) and other required documentation. We are also selecting pedagogues who are appropriate for the Russian system of education.” Some of the new pedagogues may be transferring in from Crimea. Every day new teachers are arriving, who are willing to teach according to the Russian curriculum.

According to Karetnikov, the Russians have promised to deliver all the necessary textbooks in the first half of August; this will give the teachers a couple of weeks to write up their lesson plans, and the aministrations to organize staff schedules. “The school is built to handle 1030 pupils, and I think we will pull in that many during the school year. At the current moment, in Energodar, we, School #2, are the leader, we were the first to start the accreditation process, we were also the first to organize a summer school for 140 children, and we already had two sessions. The instructors are looking to us first [for possible employment]. The situation is this: in the Ukrainian system of education there were many teachers who were true specialists and pedagogues of the highest order; and yet they were sacked by the [Ukrainian] authorities because their Ukrainian was not good enough to teach in the Ukrainian language. These teachers are coming to us, and we are very happy to have them.”

Children in Zaporozhie are eager to learn.

Karetnikov clarified, that starting with this year, instruction itself will resume in the Russian language. However, children may choose to continue learning Ukrainian, under the rubric “native language”. Those teachers whose Ukrainian is good enough to instruct in it, will remain in the institution, as necessary specialists.

Karetnikov is proud to claim that School #2 will be a “magnet” school of sorts. Well, the Russian word is опорная which means “foundation” or “reference”. The term “magnet” is probably an Americanism, but I think it sounds funny because electricty and magnetism… well, you know… Anyhow, Karetnikov is a pioneer, he says other schools in the area will follow the example of School #2: “The system will be much as it is in Moscow where, frequently the entire [school] administration sits in one building, and then there are several corpuses, each of which is a fully-functional school, spread around around the region. This format was suggested to us by our Russian colleagues, during a visit to Energodar in July by the Russian Minister of Education Sergei Kravtsov. [yalensis: He’s the guy with the Beatle haircut who looks sort of like Engisn Chekov from Star Trek.] At the current moment we have the situation where we are the base school, and the other schools [in Energodar] will be our filials.”

In conclusion: Way to go! Nice piece of Office Politics there, Vadim. You just got yourself promoted over all the other school principals in the city. Well played, heh heh!

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15 Responses to Ukraine War Day #150: Magnet School In Energodar

  1. michaeldroy says:

    I used to have a friend in 1992 who left Crimea because she couldn’t work as an English teacher because she couldn’t pass the Ukrainian exams. So she taught in Poland despite her Polish being worse than her Ukrainian (which is largely a melange between Russian and Polish).

    Is it really true that Schools have been all Ukrainian everywhere in Ukraine since 1992? It makes one wonder how come all the population under 35 doesn’t speak exclusively Ukrainian?


    • yalensis says:

      michael, I don’t want to state something inaccurate, because I don’t know the exact answer to your question. But my impression is that there were still a lot of Russian schools in the Ukraine up until 2014. That the government kept cutting back on them, as Ukrainization process increased, specially after the Orange Revolution (Maidan #1). And then Ukrainization on steroids after Maidan #2 in 2014.
      At this point in time, Russian is almost completely banned in that part of the Ukraine still under control of the Kiev government.

      Despite increasing Ukrainization of the schools and public life in general, a majority of people there still regard Russian as their native tongue, from what I understand. Zelensky himself is a native Russian speaker and had to learn Ukrainian as an adult (once he got into politics). Reason being, this is the language people speak inside their homes. So imagine that you are a 5-year-old kid and you haven’t started school yet, but you speak Russian fluently with your parents, your siblings, and your neighborhood friends.

      The only problem with this so-called “kitchen Russian” is that it is not standardized, and kids have to rely on their parents to correct their grammatical mistakes. Children learn to speak a language before they learn to read it, and they learn their native tongue empirically, by just blurting stuff out and having parents correct their pronunciation and grammar mistakes. The value of studying a language in school, is that one learns to speak, read, and write a standardized dialect with standardized pronunciation, spelling, and grammar.


      • moon says:

        Despite increasing Ukrainization of the schools and public life in general, a majority of people there still regard Russian as their native tongue, from what I understand.

        It’s a strong ‘minority’ but not a majority., it feels. 😉


        • peter moritz says:

          “According to a 2004 public opinion poll by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, the number of people using Russian language in their homes considerably exceeds the number of those who declared Russian as their native language in the census. According to the survey, Russian is used at home by 43–46% of the population of the country (in other words a similar proportion to Ukrainian) and Russophones make a majority of the population in Eastern and Southern regions of Ukraine”


          • yalensis says:

            Yeah, the numbers are a bit mushy. It varies by region, taking into account migration patterns in recent decades (there was a lot of migration from West to East, Lvov to Kiev in other words). Then all the political pressure to speak Ukrainian or declare/pretend it’s your native. I have also read some anecdotal accounts when people thought they were speaking Ukrainian (if they threw in a few Ukrainian words), but were actually speaking Russian. It’s like in my local supermarket (where much of the staff and customers are Spanish-speaking), if I say “Buenos dias” to the cashier, I am very proud of myself and believe that I am a Spanish speaker now.


            • Cortes says:

              Any English speaker can communicate in Spanish by just randomly adding “o” or “a” to the end of words – easy-o. And if they don’t understand, just shout and wave your arms around.

              Always works…

              Liked by 1 person

            • That’s Gravatar’s swastika not mine says:

              All this time I thought it was bonus dios. Anyway, this got me to wondering about those people who let the fake ‘Russian’ soldiers take selfies with them (OF them, obviously) that you mentioned earlier. Wouldn’t any of them have noticed a difference in accent? Or did the fakers just not say anything?


              • yalensis says:

                The fakers might have been speaking perfect Russian, without an accent. Or possibly with the same Donbass accent that the locals have. One feature of which is, Donbass Russians pronounce the letter /g/ as a breathy /h/. In other words, the “fakes” could have been from a neighboring town, just on the different side of the war. Just speculating…


      • michaeldroy says:

        Interesting (as are the other comments).
        I can’t say I have too much sympathy for the 5 year olds. My kids grew up bi-lingual and I started learning Polish at 32. At 5 my first daughter had fun with her pre-school friends (sons of a Scot and a Ghanaian) by deliberately talking in English knowing the teacher couldn’t understand a word – their English advanced rapidly but with too many American words – I had to intervene and get her playing with her cousins in London.
        And certainly English and Polish is a lot harder to combine than Russian and Ukrainian.

        Surzhyk is another hybrid dialect which confuses the matter. It used to be some 15% spoke Surzhyk and I suspect that the claims for Ukrainian majority include Surzhyk speakers.
        There was a Survey by an international polling group in Ukraine – some 80% requested to receive the questionnaire in Russian. This I believe was about 2008. Given all the pro-Ukrainian propaganda I do suspect strongly that Russian is (or at lease pre-2014 was) by far the more popular language. And perhaps because Ukrainian/Surzhyk is so malleable, perhaps people feel more comfortable in Russian when there is a need to be exact.
        In my experience Slavic languages are incredibly fluid in meaning, perhaps because for centuries it has been convenient to say something where all my friends know what I mean but my enemies can pin me down as saying something explicitly wrong.

        I’m reminded of this every time I see captions to vox pop interviews on the streets of E Ukraine and with POWs. The caption writers really struggle. Much like talking to my Polish mother-in-law.


        • yalensis says:

          I think you are right that Surzhyk gets counted as Ukrainian. Frankly, I don’t know the difference myself, and I am a trained Linguist (back in the day), however, I never studied Eastern Slavic dialects in any depth, unfortunately.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. buratino says:

    Hey there! Been reading your blog of a while now, and Your takes are valued.
    I have a request. I speak Russian to an extent, but the nuances escape me, plus to learn the social landscape presently in Russia is beyond me. Or that of even my own country… 😉

    Since You are more at home, would you do a deep dive on this guy for us(me…really)?

    If the project is some interest to You, it would be appreciated.


    • yalensis says:

      Oh my, you have entered into the wonderful world of Igor Strelkov! Quite an interesting fellow. Started his career as a cosplay war reenactor, and then actually conquered Slavyansk. I did actually write a few posts about him, back in the days of Donbass War #1 (2014-2015) when Strelkov had set himself up in Slavyansk as a pro-Russian warlord. I vaguely recall that I compared his administration with the English comedy show Fawlty Towers. With people sneaking around, upstairs and downstairs, and locking each other up in the dungeon.
      Strelkov will go down in history as either a prophetic hero, or an unsuccessful loser. After he pulled his militia out of Slavyansk and retreated to Donetsk, his Russian curators (led by Surkov) pushed him aside and then put him out to pasture.

      Would have to dig way back in my archives to find some stuff…
      Okay, how about this one?

      Damn, I was a good writer, even back then!


      • buratino says:

        “prophetic hero”
        As a cautious fella, that is the outcome, that concerns me. He resonates with some of the genuine voices, that are out there, with some of the more hands-on talent. And he is not alone. Hard to know, though in me he has for an audience of a conspiracy theorist extraordinaire…😌

        Unfortunate, though prolly unavoidable, that russofiles in the west are wearing their rose colored magic glasses day and night.

        Hey, thanx for the response. Will check out your archive for a better feel. I myself have quite a library of the festivities of back when someplace. Mozgovoy, Givi, Motorola – da Kieva.

        A real estate to b had for a song compared to today`s exchange rates…


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