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Get Them While They’re Young

mishki021508.jpgHow young can a child be before the state begins to incorporate them in political indoctrination programs? Well in Russia, it seems that age has dropped down to just seven. Everyone is well aware of the Nashi’s activities organized by the state, and the recruitment of teens and pre-teens from the regions to come into Moscow to worship the president, celebrate his birthday, or even throw rotten fruit at foreign diplomats. But the latest youth group demonstration organized in front of the Estonian Embassy drops to a new level. RFE/RL reports on a new group known as the Mishki (teddy bears), made up of thousands of Russian children aged 7 to 15. At this particular protest, there were about 20 of these children coloring a giant picture of the Bronze Soldier, in reference to the diplomatic fiasco between Estonia and Russia (which most people thought was over and done with months ago). The utter confusion among the “politically active” children was sadly transparent:

At the Mishki gathering outside the Estonian Embassy last week, few of the children appeared to know what they were doing there, or what the Bronze Soldier in the poster they were coloring represented.One Mishka told RFE/RL his name was Vanya and that he’d just wanted to come to Moscow on the bus. When asked why he had joined the Mishki, he said he didn’t know.Overall, the Nashi members shepherding the Mishki appeared reluctant to let journalists speak to the children in the group. At one point, a minder shouted at a correspondent not to “hold up” the children, then brusquely elicited a group farewell from the Mishki and urged them back on the bus to Vladimir.Given the trip to the Estonian Embassy, the Bronze Soldier poster, and the Nashi connection, the choice for Mishki’s ideological leader is hardly surprising. For Zimova, Russian President Vladimir Putin was the obvious candidate.”We’ve asked Putin to be the leader of the Mishki movement, firstly because he’s our national leader, and secondly because he’s a respected figurehead who is the perfect example for children to follow,” Zimova says. “One isn’t ashamed of him — he’s the president, and the pride of the nation, not just from the political perspective, but from the human perspective.”

So now we have thousands of kids in an indoctrination program known as the “teddy bears” while the next president’s name, Medvedev, also means bear. Seems just too perfect.For more reading, Scraps of Moscow and Publius Pundit were all over this story back in early December, and here is an earlier curious post about anti-Western tirades and children in the media.