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Russia Plans 'Patriotic' TV Channel For Children

  • Tom Balmforth

Since he came to power, Russian President Vladimir Putin has tightened the government's grip on the media and used television to seek to consolidate control over the country. (file photo)

Since he came to power, Russian President Vladimir Putin has tightened the government's grip on the media and used television to seek to consolidate control over the country. (file photo)

MOSCOW -- Every day, Russian state television serves up adult-sized doses of programming designed to inspire love for the motherland.

Soon, the TV dial may include a "patriotic" channel made just for kids.

The government has given the green light for the creation of a state-financed TV company that would seek to inculcate patriotism in teens and younger children, the pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia reported on May 20.

President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly stressed that young people should be encouraged to love their country, suggesting patriotism is a powerful antidote to what he calls Western efforts to undermine Russia.

Since he came to power 15 years ago, Putin has tightened the government's grip on the media and used television to seek to consolidate control over the country -- efforts that have prompted opponents to refer to the TV set as the "zombie box."

The idea of a channel that would help raise Russians as patriots has been advocated publicly by Viktor Vodolatsky, a lawmaker for the ruling United Russia party.

Specialists are preparing concrete proposals on the issue of correctly conducting informational-patriotic work with teenagers."

Vodolatsky told Izvestia that Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko has instructed the Education Ministry to form a working group that will bring the TV station on air.

"The working group is already at the stage of being formed; it will soon start work," Vodolatsky said. "Specialists are preparing concrete proposals on the issue of correctly conducting informational-patriotic work with teenagers."

The channel will broadcast youth-oriented talk shows and programs on education, news, and other issues, according to Izvestia.

Volodatsky proposes calling it ROSsvet.

According to Izvestia, the channel may be funded from the federal budget and draw on money earmarked for a broader five-year plan from 2016-20 to instill patriotism in Russia’s youth.

That national program, touted on the website of the Education Ministry on April 3, describes patriotism as "love for the Motherland, loyalty to the Fatherland, the striving to serve its interests and the readiness to defend it."

The national program will receive an estimated 1.8 billion rubles in funding.

Russia’s liberal opposition has accused the Kremlin of using appeals to patriotism to boost support for Putin and paper over what they say is the government's failure to address pressing economic and social problems.

Putin's government has stepped up its emphasisis on the need for patriotism amid a confrontation with Kyiv and the West over Russia's annexation of Crimea and support for separatists rebels in a deadly conflict in eastern Ukraine.

But the Kremlin has been seeking to instill patriotism in young Russians and win their support since Putin's previous stint as president in 2000-08.

After the 2004 Orange Revolution brought a pro-Western leader to power in Ukraine, the Kremlin formed a youth group, Nashi (Ours), that was seen as a way to harness mainly provincial youth as a power base for Putin and mobilize them against the opposition.

Nashi is now defunct, but the Kremlin has continued to form or support youth groups such as Stopkham and MediaGvardiya, which aims to purge the Internet of "dangerous" content.

Another group, Network, last year produced a "patriotic" learning tool that tells children P is for Putin, R is for Russia, and T is for Topol -- a long-range missile that is a mainstay of Moscow's nuclear arsenal.

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    Tom Balmforth

    Tom Balmforth covers Russia and other former Soviet republics. He can be reached at balmfortht@rferl.org

     

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