While street battles may have quieted down in Ukraine’s occupied region of Kherson, there appears to be another fight brewing in its halls of education.
Russian troops overran the Kherson region in Ukraine’s south in the early days of its invasion, charging north from annexed Crimea and installing a pro-Moscow occupational government.
Now, as the Kremlin contemplates annexing the region or recognizing it as an “independent republic” -- should its troops not be driven out in the meantime by Ukrainian forces -- it is moving ahead with plans to impose “Russian standards” in local schools, and finding plenty of resistance.
Kherson’s occupational government said earlier this month that its plans to launch “Russian standards” in local schools after May 10 stumbled when many Ukrainian teachers refused to accept the changes.
“Everywhere they say that they continue to teach [according to the Ukrainian program],” Kirill Stremousov, the Kremlin protege installed by the occupying forces as the deputy head of the Kherson regional administration, complained earlier this month.
To combat what he called “sabotage,” Stremousov said Russia will send teachers from nearby Crimea to Kherson to help the Ukrainian teachers “adapt.”
Crimea's Moscow-imposed governor, Sergei Aksyonov, said teachers from other regions of Ukraine that Russia has seized since it launched its invasion in February -- including parts of the Donbas and Zaporizhzhya -- may be “retrained” on the peninsula.
If there is further resistance in Kherson, then Russia will send a “landing force” of volunteer teachers, said Vladimir Konstantinov, the speaker of the Russian parliament of Crimea.
He said Crimea has already started "collecting literature for students of schools in the liberated territories."
Konstantinov did not give details on the “literature” Crimea is preparing to give to teachers and students in the newly occupied territories but an analysis of educational practices since Russia seized the peninsula indicates it is likely to focus on history, literature, and language.
Russia had been forcing educators in Crimea to teach Ukrainian students Russian history, not Ukrainian. Russian history books paper over the starvation of millions of Ukrainians in the 1930s by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, an event known as the 'Holodomor,' which Ukraine and several other nations consider to be genocide. Russian school books have also replaced the historical term 'Kievan Rus,' the ancient state that gave rise to both Ukraine and Russia, with just 'Rus.'
Russia has also cut back on teaching Ukrainian language and literature in Crimea while expanding Russian "patriotic" indoctrination, including promoting youth paramilitary organizations.
Prominent Crimean Tatar leader Ilmi Umerov said the education system is a "very important" tool for Russia as it seeks to hold on to the occupied regions.
He said he expects the "rewriting of history" to come next.
Russia has rewritten its history over the past two decades as President Vladimir Putin looks to sugarcoat his nation's past and defend his policies. Putin last year published a long essay claiming that Russians and Ukrainians are historically one people, a move seen to justify his unprovoked war seven months later.
Russian schools are now being inundated with pro-war propaganda.
Crimean public figure Sergei Akimov warned that nothing good would come of Russia’s “retraining” of Ukrainian teachers, citing the experience on the peninsula over the past eight years.
"I don't know what else Crimean teachers can teach their Kherson colleagues, except to sing the national anthem of the Russian Federation and other so-called ‘Russian standards,’” he said.
“They will definitely not teach them anything new and progressive,” Akimov said.