A pro-Kremlin group called Project Network has created a new primer to help children master the 33 letters of the Russian alphabet. The primer walks students through the letters from "A" -- for "Anti-Maidan," Ukraine's pro-Russian groups -- to "Ya" for "Yalta," with predictable stops along the way to note that "P" is for "Putin" and "R" is for "Russia."
But toddlers may wonder who is the dour man whose portrait illustrates the concept "firmness" (Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov).
Or why the word "berkut" (golden eagle) is illustrated with the emblem of the disbanded Ukrainian riot police of the same name rather than a picture of a majestic bird in flight.
Or why the letter "D" is associated with the Ukrainian city of Donetsk rather than a basic Russian word like "dom" (home) or "doch" (daughter).
It is an alphabet for the moment for sure. The letter "G" stands for the Russian word for "border," illustrated by a seemingly flimsy striped border post. While the Russian letter "V" stands for the word "politeness" which is incongruously illustrated by a masked soldier, seemingly without insignias but wearing an automatic rifle over his shoulder, handing a cat to a grateful little girl.
According to the group that is distributing the posters, it is a "Polite Alphabet," named after the "polite" forces that brought about Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea in March. Project Network plans to distribute the primers to schools throughout Irkutsk this spring and bring them to other cities soon.
"Children will be taught to love the motherland, respect its people and culture," the group asserts. The letter "I" stands for the Russian word for "history" and is illustrated by a Red Army soldier hoisting the Soviet flag over the Reichstag in Berlin in the closing days of World War II.
At the same time, children will learn to recognize the logo for the Yotaphone, Russia's self-produced smart phone and that the letter "Yu" stands for the Russian name for the South Stream natural-gas pipeline.
The effort seems to mirror a campaign headed by the ruling United Russia party to develop a school course called "We Are Together" to explain the "reunification of Crimea with Russia" to schoolchildren.
-- Robert Coalson