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Teachers In Tatarstan 'Asked' To Sponsor WWII Events

According to one education watchdog requests from little-known foundations are sent every year to teachers in Tatarstan, who already complain about their meager salaries. (file photo)

Teachers and babysitters at schools and daycare centers in the town of Yelabuga in Russia’s oil-rich Tatarstan region are being asked to donate one-day's salary to a foundation run by a local city councilman for events to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.

Oksana Yermakova, the head of an education watchdog in the town, showed RFE/RL what she says is a request from the Foundation for the Development of the Yelabuga Municipal Area asking teachers to donate money for the "organization and conduct of the 75th anniversary of Victory Day."

The foundation’s director is Aleksandr Zakirov, who is in the restaurant and food business as well as a local city councilman from the United Russia party loyal to President Vladimir Putin.

The non-profit foundation was established four years ago and its financial figures for 2018, the last year for which they are available, show that the value of its assets were roughly equal to the amount of debt it had: 680,000 rubles ($10,409).

Yermakova of the School Control group said that such requests from little-known foundations are sent every year to teachers who already complain about their meager salaries.

"And it’s not difficult to notice that the money isn’t specifically for helping WWII veterans," she said, adding that there are less than 30 surviving veterans in the local district.

Yermakova said it was "an open question of how the money will be used and what is meant by 'organizing and conducting' events."

She said the amount asked each year has risen and "forced upon the will" of teachers who local officials know "don't have strong spines" to withstand the pressure and threats of "dismissal or other forms of retribution."

According to Yermakova, teachers have told her that a few years back they were asked to give "what they could," and last year 500 rubles ($7.65) was requested, while this year the equivalent of a day's salary was solicited.

The average monthly teacher’s salary in Tatarstan, one of the richest regions in Russia, is 30,000 rubles ($459) and in Yelabuga it's lower -- 28,000 rubles ($429).

The watchdog director said that so-called nannies or babysitters at daycare centers start off by making the minimum wage -- around 12,000 rubles ($183) and they get asked to donate a day’s worth of their salaries as well.

According to online employment portal Trud (Labor), Yelabuga has the most vacancies for teachers in the Tatarstan region, at 20 percent.

Putin has been devoting a lot of attention to events commemorating the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII in May.

It was the only forthcoming event mentioned in the president’s New Year’s address to the nation. Putin has also regularly spoken about the event informally and formally, including at meetings with post-Soviet leaders, during his end-of-year news conference, and in a meeting with Russian tycoons.

Invitations have been extended to world leaders for ceremonies marking the anniversary in Moscow as well.