BASEES Annual Conference 2022

Raising citizen soldiers in Donbas: Russia’s role in promoting patriotic education programmes and history teaching in the ‘Donetsk and Luhansk Peoples’ Republics’

Sun10  Apr11:00am(10 mins)
Games Room
Miss Jaroslava Barbieri


Jaroslava Barbieri


This paper examines the implementation of patriotic education programmes and the use of Russian and local history school textbooks in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk Peoples’ Republics (DPR/LPR) in Eastern Ukraine. Parallels (often verbatim) between Russian legislation and ‘state programmes’ in the DPR/LPR suggest if not direct coordination with, at least acquiescence by the Russian leadership. With the assistance of Russian military and state officials, veterans, and nationalists, patriotic education programmes serve as an instrument of mass indoctrination, a source of legitimisation and a recruitment tool for the republics' armed forces and security apparatus. The statehood of the DPR/LPR is portrayed as a historical fait accompli to be defended at all costs, while Ukraine is presented as the aggressor. This narrative is reinforced in history textbooks, which glorify the war in 2014 as an act of national liberation and claim that the historical evolution of Donbas is inextricably linked to that of the Russian state and nation. These programmes facilitate the consolidation of ‘republican’ identities as a destabilising mechanism the Russian leadership could capitalise on should the region be reintegrated into Ukraine. Yet, if successful, paradoxically they risk discrediting this option as ‘unpatriotic’ and thus a non-viable alternative to independence or further integration with Russia, ultimately sabotaging Russia's political goals in the long term.