In all the excitement of the Zaporozhie commando raid, we almost forgot that September 1 was the start of the school year, as is the tradition in Russian countries. That was Thursday, two days ago. I had even wondered if maybe school had been cancelled in the Kherson Oblast. But no, happily I saw this video, which shows heart-warming scenes of children arriving at school for the “First Bell”, as they call it in Russia. There are a few clips, you see the parents dropping their progeny off at the gates of the school; then cute kids all dolled up in their little uniforms, marching two by two, the little girls with those amazing ribbons in their hair. Some kids carrying the Russian tricolor flag, others carrying bouquets of flowers for teacher, as is also the Russian custom. The children are greeted by the kindly Principal as they head off to their first class.
Meanwhile, the courage of these Kherson kids, and especially of their parents, cannot be overstated. To stroll into a schoolhouse in a province that is under constant bombardment by American HIMARS rockets, and in the middle of a military counter-offensive…
But wait! It’s even more dodgy than that. I couldn’t believe my own eyes when I saw this piece on August 31, a day before school-opening. The reporter is Olga Ivanova. This would have been the source material for my blogpost on Thursday, if not for that little business with the commando raid. The headline reads:
Russia Communicated To the UN And to Ukraine The Coordinates Of The Schools On The Liberated Territories
My initial reaction on reading this was the same as some of the commenters to the piece: Is Putin nuts? He just painted targets on the backs of those innocent children. Ukrainian Nazis be, like, “Thanks, dudes, we’ll just plug those GPS coordinates into our HIMARS…” Because one can never overstate just how very much the Ukrainian Nationalists hate those children, like they hate all ethnic Russians. With every fiber of their being. One starts to wonder if Putin still nurtures delusional (Liberal) beliefs in the neutrality or intristic humanitarianism of international institutions.
In other words, this is one of those gambits that was either brilliant or insane, depending on the outcome. Well, it’s Saturday now, I reckon there were two days of school, and I didn’t read about any bombs falling on those schools. So maybe the gambit worked…?
The reporter goes into more detail: The Russian government made a list of all schools and other educational facilities which were scheduled to open on September 1, in the territories of the DPR, LPR and other “liberated” territories, such as Kherson, Zaporozhie, and Kharkov. They included in the list the exact GPS coordinates of these institutions, and forwarded copies to the Ukrainian government, the UN, and several other international humanitarian agencies.
In doing so, the Russian Ministry of Defense demanded of the UN that they guarantee the safety of these schools from Ukrainian artillery shelling. The Kiev regime shows an eager propensity to shell such civilian infrastructures, but never likes to be held accountable. I saw this piece by reporter Yury Vasiliev, who lives in Kherson.
The Schools Need To Be Fearless
Vasiliev: The Ukrainian armed forces, with great determination, have already destroyed a portion of our schools. They have also threatened teachers with repercussions if they choose to work under the new conditions. He interviews a woman named Tatyana Kuzmich, who heads the Department of Education and Science of the Military-Civilian Administration of Kherson Oblast [the portion that is under Russian control]. Here is her “mug shot” on the Ukrainian kill-list website. Underneath her face it reads “Traitor to the Motherland”. (It bears noting, once again, as Russian hackers discovered, that the Ukrainian Mirotvorec kill-list site is hosted on a NATO server. In other words, NATO formally endorses the notion of committing acts of terror and even assassinating ordinary civilian people, like educators, in this case.) I found a different image of her where she looks quite nice, with the hair-do and pearl necklace; not at all like a criminal.
Vasiliev: Many people know Tatyana Alexandrovna as a great teacher and pedagogue, some know her as an activist in the field of Russian culture and literature. Only a few people know her as a “traitor and collaborator”, according to the Ukrainians.
The SBU has been chased out of Kherson. But the continued presence of “partisans” and other terrorists makes Tatyana feel like she shouldn’t name any Kherson teachers or administrators by name — too dangerous. “They find their windows broken [in their homes]. People set their cars on fire. Pedagogues are not given bodyguards or protection, even though the conditions are … what you see. The fact is, we are starting to rebuild our educational system from the ground up.”
“My name is Savina. Elena Viktorovna,” a woman introduces herself. “I am the Director of School #55 in Kherson. I hope that Tatyana Alexandrovna will forgive me for revealing myself, but I refuse to hide. Besides, in this place every neighborhood dog knows me, not to mention the people.”
Right as she is talking, she gets a new text message on her screen. “Look, it’s another death threat: We know where you are, we know where you go…” Savina shrugs and tells the reporter: “In Kherson we used to have 64 schools, but now we are merging and consolidating into fewer. We want to make sure we have enough teachers for the number of children. We factor in, whether the school is in walking distance so that the parents can bring and fetch their children on foot.”
Savina admits that some of the parents have been resistant to the new order. Ukrainian propaganda still works. Some of the parents wouldn’t allow their kids to go to summer camp in the Crimea, because they were told that the Russians were taking the Ukrainian kids and harvesting them for organs. But then they saw their neighbors’ children returning from summer camp happy, tanned, and still with all their organs. Another talking point of Ukrainian propaganda is that “Russian schools teach only reading, writing and arithmetic.” The reality is that the Russian schools teach many more topics than the Ukrainian schools.
Next, assuming these Kherson children survive the next few days and weeks, we need to look at what they will be studying. I have this piece recounting the return of Russian History to the Kherson curriculum. These are older kids that we are looking at, they are not quite as cute or well-groomed as the little ones, and judging by the empty bookshelves, they don’t have much in the way of instructional aides. But nonetheless they are trying to make up for lost time in their young lives.
In fact the Kherson schools had to add extra hours to the curriculum, since some of these kids went for years without learning any real history; only the fictional fairy tales which Kiev passes off as Ukrainian and world history. Leaders of the Kherson Oblast have stressed that one of the critical missions of the new Kherson school system is to “de-Nazify” History. According to a communique of the Kherson Educational authorities:
“The Ukrainian regime broke the previous curriculum. It was customary for children to start learning about the Ancient World, and then gradually work their way forward to contemporary times. This is how we continue to teach it in Russia. But in the Ukrainian textbooks they only learn about the Ukraine.”
One of the Kherson teachers explained how, in normal times, History is taught for two hours per week. But the Kherson kids are so far behind the Russian kids, that they had to add two additional hours per week, to allow them to catch up: “This entire school year is going to be devoted to catch-up. In Classes 6-8 we are adding additional hours in order to catch up to the Russian standards. And in the schools with a Humanities specialization, it is necessary to add even more, up to 3 extra hours of History.”
This teachers adds that the Ukrainian schools have been teaching fake history, therefore it is necessary to de-Nazify it. They are hoping to immunize the kids against the Nazi ideology. After 8 years of persistent Ukrainian Nationalist propaganda, the road to clarity will be a very tough slog.