In Russia, Kids Swap Classroom for Shooting Range Amid Ongoing War

VLADIKAVKAZ, Russia – Fourteen-year-old Russian schoolboy David recently learned that firing a Kalashnikov accurately is more challenging than using a pistol. He and his classmates experienced basic military training as part of their school curriculum, a practice reintroduced since the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

In the southern city of Vladikavkaz, teenage boys in camouflage uniforms took turns firing weapons and practicing first aid under the supervision of instructors. “It’s easier to fire a pistol. And it’s more difficult to take aim with an assault rifle,” said David, a tall boy with black hair and glasses. He noted that this firearms practice would “make life easier” for him in the future, referencing Russia’s compulsory military service for young men.

Sergei Menyailo, a retired vice-admiral and current leader of Russia’s North Ossetia region, addressed the youngsters, linking their training to the ongoing conflict. He emphasized that the skills they were learning would help them “to fulfill your military duty within a team” if they were called to fight.

The reintroduction of basic military training into the school curriculum was formalized by a decree from the education ministry in late 2022. This training is now part of a subject called “basics of life safety,” reflecting what critics see as the increasing militarization of Russian society since the war began.

Boris Kantemirov, the local head of a volunteer organization supporting the armed forces, stated that the training imparts essential skills for any soldier. “Everybody must be able to save lives, handle weapons, and be physically fit,” he told Reuters, with gunshots echoing from the nearby training range.

As Russia’s war in Ukraine extends into its third year, the country’s educational system is increasingly incorporating military preparedness, preparing its youth for the realities of compulsory service and potential future conflicts.