Russia has a glaring vulnerability and it's rooted in childhood, according to celebrated film director Nikita Mikhalkov.
The country's children are faced with a "never-ending current of patchy, often false information" about Russia's history, cultural values, and its overall place in the world, he says.
And with that in mind, the chairman of the Russian Union of Cinematographers has proposed the establishment of a Ministry of Children and Adolescents to "deal with issues of childhood, our young generation, their upbringing and education."
During an August 17 interview at the Tavrida youth forum in occupied Crimea, Mikhalkov claimed that young Russians interpret news on their own, leading them to do "whatever they please" with Russia in the future.
"What did we leave and where did we arrive, having exchanged the Soviet education system -- which had proved its efficiency for decades -- for the Western analogue?" asked the widely celebrated winner of the 1995 Academy Award for best foreign-language film. "If we put aside all the embellishments and illusions, what is left? The following -- our education system was deprived of its main function -- upbringing. Upbringing has been erased and removed from the entire system."
Mikhalkov, an ardent supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said the upbringing of Russian children should "be reflected in a governmental program."
Russia's (frequently embattled) children's rights commissioner, Pavel Astakhov, criticized the idea of such a ministry on Twitter, claiming that "everyone and everything" must be concerned with how children are raised.
"To create a wholesome system of upbringing, we don't need a ministry or simply a strategy and a concept, we need IDEOLOGY," he tweeted.
Mikhalkov's claim comes a day after Vitaly Milonov, a controversial lawmaker from St. Petersburg and a vocal proponent of laws punishing gay "propaganda," addressed the Education Ministry with a request to include a chapter on traitors against Russian national interests in history books.
"We owe it to Russia's future generations not only to preserve a dry historical canvas," he told the pro-Kremlin Izvestia newspaper on August 16. "We must pass on to our children a correct evaluation of all historical processes and personalities that had influence on our present day."
Milonov says he considers anyone who rejects Russia's "unification" with Crimea, which the country forcibly annexed from Ukraine in 2014, to be traitors.