Russian parents have expressed their anger at the news that Soviet-era basic military training will be reinstated in high schools amidst the war in Ukraine.
The so-called “initial military training” program, which teaches children how to assemble and disassemble firearms, how to provide first aid, and how to respond to a nuclear or chemical attack, was abolished in 1993.
Russia’s Education Minister Sergey Kravtsov said on Wednesday that the course will be added to the Russian school curricula in the next academic year, state-run news agency TASS reported.
“It will be introduced in schools starting from the next academic year. Now it is being drafted and after January 1, it will begin to be tested,” Kravtsov told reporters after a meeting with the honorary jury panel of the Znaniye (Knowledge) educational award.
The news comes as Sergei Mironov, the head of the A Just Russia party, told Russian media that rolling out the course “would systematically prepare citizens for a possible confrontation with the enemy.”
The Russian education ministry responded to Mironov by saying that work was underway to develop a course for basic military training in schools and colleges.
An article in the Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, titled “Schoolchildren will get to grips with assault rifles,” cites an unhappy parent as saying that they are opposed to the move to roll out the Soviet-era school class.
“We must prepare our children, especially in school, not for war, but for a peaceful happy life,” a Muscovite named Galina said. “There is no place for basic military training and militarized physical education in the 21st century,” she added.
The article notes that when the classes were in place, schoolchildren would have to assemble and disassemble assault rifles at speed. They would also have shooting practice and put on gas masks.
It noted that parents are divided on the “militarization” of schools.
Another parent, Olga Turenko, who has 10children, said she believes that “kids must be prepared for the reality of today.”
Prior to Kravtsov’s announcement, Mironov said he had gained the support of deputy defense minister Valery Gerasimov, who said his ministry would back legislative proposals to reinstate the military training, The Moscow Times reported, citing pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia.
Gerasimov had proposed that the courses, taught by combat veterans, consist of at least 140 hours of basic training for 10th and 11th graders.
Kravtsov said Wednesday that the classes will be extracurricular.
Students will learn about personal protective equipment, first aid, weapons and how to handle them, the basics of shooting, and the use and construction of hand grenades.
High school students will also learn how to operate in modern combined arms combat, and what a single trench is. They will also study the composition and armament of a motorized rifle squad on an infantry fighting vehicle, and the engineering equipment of a soldier’s position, the official said.
Newsweek reached out to Russian authorities for comment.