Russia is known to send relatively young men to fight in the war in Ukraine. Among other things, Putin is said to have recruited students from the country’s universities and colleges.
Many Nordic media reported that the Russian youth army “Junarmija” will grow at record speed. The group is now said to have reached around 1.2 million members, but what does the group actually do?
– Junarmija was founded six or seven years ago and was based on already existing military-patriotic clubs in Russia, so it is a kind of mass organization of military-patriotic upbringing. You could say they stand on two legs. The first is an ideological work on the development of patriots, and in this case the history of the Second World War is actively used. In addition, they participate in military training. Combining the two is critical for business, Harvard-Becken tells Nettavisen.
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Bækken led the Junarmija Department of Defense Studies project and is one of the experts who has done most of the research on the group. He is still closely following the group’s development.
Much of what they practice is based on the history of war. The goal is to create a youth and generation that will be loyal to the homeland through thick and thin, and be practically loyal to the regime as well. Values such as discipline, respect for elders, and decency are very strong.
According to Beijing, the organization must grow continuously since its inception.
They have over a million members today. By Russian standards, Junarmija is not extreme. There are more radical groups, which also focus more on military training than Gunarmiga. In Junarmija, they don’t become full soldiers, but they do have a positive relationship to war, which is a much bigger problem if you ask me.
High school students
British Watchman He writes that the group aims to recruit 20 percent of Russia’s youth by 2030, which equates to about four million young people.
– Most of them are of high school age, but they are open to children up to the age of eight. At the same time, there is no upper age limit, and many members stay until college age, Pekin says, adding:
– Until recently, the number of members was very limited, while in the USSR these were almost mandatory mass organizations. Now that is about to change. The fact that you have military patriotic camps is not a rarity in itself in other countries either.
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Although the war in Ukraine has been cited as one of the reasons the group is growing as quickly as it is, that doesn’t mean that growing membership isn’t something new.
– Junarmija has grown all the way since its foundation and has been highly promoted. There is too much pressure on schools, parents and children, so not every participation is completely voluntary. It became a different kind of organization than it was, because Russia plunged into a war situation.
– Can you compare Junarmija to something you’ve seen throughout history in the past?
– If I had to compare them with something, I want to compare them with the former Soviet ones. They have many of the same slogans, practices, and symbols, but today’s group has nothing to do with Marxism.
Putin is behind it
Although the group is not supposed to be as popular as Soviet rallies at the time, the Russian state and Putin’s Kremlin remain one of the main actors behind the group. Brækken says schools sometimes send a notice that students should join the group.
– The Ministry of Defense is the most important actor, so the state has a very direct role there. It is not necessarily a matter of coercion, but pressure from top to bottom. Taking that as a starting point, it’s really surprising that there aren’t more members.
In most of the images reported by Western media of the group, the children appear to be wearing military uniforms and doing military exercises. But is Junarmija a kind of military training?
– It is partly so, and the question is whether the training is appropriate as a kind of military education, which is doubtful. They may get an edge when they go into normal conscription, but the training is very basic, with obstacle courses, walks, pits and the like. But they ride and shoot, and maybe even throw a grenade.
Be more suspicious
Brækken did a lot of research in the area, and also conducted surveys among those who took part in Junarmija. He is not convinced that the young men who are part of the group will be as loyal as the Russian authorities hope.
What we know now is that the young people who have lived under this for many years are the most skeptical of Putin’s militarization and his ideological project. There is little evidence that this actually works. During the Soviet Union, this was a problem that everyone played with, but it didn’t really work out. Briefly; He adds, “Brainwashing does not work, as we sometimes fear,” and adds:
– Citizens will not allow themselves to be brainwashed, at least not to the same extent as during Soviet power. The population has significantly more access to information than it did at the time. It’s scary, but that doesn’t mean it’s fully functional. There is no suggestion that members swallow raw advertising.
However, it is likely that in the coming time there will be no fewer members, and Junarmija will be part of the pro-war propaganda in Russia.
– The need to create internal support from the population appears in the increase in the number of members. Junarmija actively supports the war in Ukraine through daily activities. These children and youth are a target group for propaganda, but they are also carriers of it. In a way, they show that young people support Putin’s approach to Russia.
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