Growing concern about mass protests organized from outside the country have prompted officials to propose new education programs.
Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov told the press that new courses will be drawn up to prepare college students to combat foreign-sponsored coups. The phenomenon is of growing importance in Russia, where such events are known as color revolutions, according to Prensa Latina.
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Growing concern about color revolutions in Russia
Proposals include courses on how to combat the kind of coups supported by the West in Georgia and Ukraine, according to the Izvestia newspaper. Pankov believes that students should be taught how to prevent such soft coups taking place in Russia, and proposes educating them in legal, administrative, economic, cultural and informative ways of doing so.
Russian officials believe that the United States is responsible for encouraging soft coups against governments which it opposes. Izvestia cites a letter from Pankov to Duma deputy Kirill Schitov, which outlines plans for the courses to be taught to all college students in Russia.
Pankov proposed the program in response to a letter from Schitov, in which the lawmaker claimed that an “anti-revolutionary” course should be taught to students enrolled in military education programs. Pankov apparently decided that all Russian students should be taught the course.
No consensus on utility of plans
According to Izvestia, Alexei Krapukhin, leader of a Russian students’ association, claimed that courses involving “propaganda” could end up having undesirable effects on the student population.
“I don’t think universities should be excessively politicized,” Krapukhin reportedly said. “This could cause protests among students.”
However Irina Abankina, head of the educational research institute at the Higher School of Economics, claimed that the programs should start at a younger age because college students may have already been influenced by foreign ideas.
“[University] students are already fully shaped individuals with their own points of view. This work would be more effective if it begins in [high or middle] school,” said Abankina.
Russian institutions mobilizing to combat threat
Various Russian institutions are working on methods of combating color revolutions. According to reports in Kommersant, Russia’s largest newspaper, the Military Academy of General Staff is investigating methods of counteracting mass protests incited by foreign actors.
It is believed that the Defense Ministry will work in conjunction with the Academy on the task of analyzing security threats to the nation. Kommersant reports that such a program will involve training military personnel, politicians, officials, businessmen and civil servants.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu used a recent speech at the Army 2015 forum to reveal that the Army will commission a study into ways of combating any attempt to overthrow Russian institutions.
“Some say that the military should be sidelined and not included in political processes; others say the contrary. We will fund a study,” said Shoigu.
President Vladimir Putin has previously spoken of the increasing threat of foreign-supported protests in Russia. According to Putin, various tactics are used to foment discontent among the population, including mass protests and the diffusion of false information on social media.
Russia sees color revolutions everywhere
Russia believes that foreign governments were responsible for sponsoring color revolutions in a number of states, including Georgia and Ukraine. The recent unrest in Armenia, where protesters have taken to the streets of the capital for the past week, are also of great concern to officials in Moscow.
The current government of Armenia enjoys close relations with Moscow, and has even joined the Eurasian project. Russian politicians have decried the influence of foreign actors on the current situation in Armenia.
“Taking advantage of the social sphere problems, which seem to be not that big, the leaders of the opposition parties have brought demonstrators to the streets. Unfortunately, foreign instructing is clearly observed here. Since the very beginning, there has been a political color here,” said Leonid Slutsky, head of the Duma committee on Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) affairs.
Russia takes any perceived foreign involvement in its sphere of influence very seriously, and Vladimir Putin has been accused of attempting to reconstruct the Soviet Union under a different name. The Kremlin appears to believe that it should enjoy control over states such as Armenia, and that any opposition to national governments is controlled and directed by foreign interests hostile to Russia.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also accused “Western organizers” of provoking protests in Macedonia last month.
Educating college students, and perhaps younger children, about the dangers of foreign influences in Russia are a worrying sign of the increasingly tight control which the Kremlin holds on information in Russia.