In the latest sign that megalomaniac Russian despot Vladimir Putin is losing his grip on reality, the country's leader has re-instituted Soviet era children's militias. Despite no enemy to fight the groups have been re-launched across the country with heavy government funding.
Inhabitants of Moscow’s Yaroslavsky district have largely grown accustomed to their activities, which include throwing knives and polishing Kalashnikov rifles, which take place in the area on weekday evenings. While they’re out walking their dogs or returning home from work, their neighborhood transforms into a training ground for the local military-patriotic club Avant-garde. It's members are all children.
The clubs provide army preparation and training in military techniques to children of both sexes, preserving a centuries-old tactic of instilling patriotic values and awareness of Russia’s history among the country’s youth. It remains to be seen just what history the clubs teach, as much of the country's recent history, such as the Stalin ear, would best be forgotten. Dredging up antiquated imperial dreams seems counterproductive for the increasingly isolated country as the world moves to more collaborative governance models.
The nationwide network of clubs has been decentralized since the Soviet Union’s collapse and now answers to no single authority, meaning that like Putin's biker armies, there is likely radical overtones to many of the so-called clubs. Official statistics are unavailable, though most club leaders place membership at around 200,000. That would make the child soldiers in their ranks a considerable percentage of Russia's standing army.
In 2010 Putin implemented a 10 year “federal system of military preparation for Russian citizens” that directed resources toward and expanded the network of military-patriotic clubs.
Several prominent public figures addressed an open letter to the president, denouncing the initiative as an attempt to create “an ideology based on a cult of government, nation, and army.” The letter was posted on an Internet forum after being published on Grani.ru, a news site that was blocked in 2014.
The rebirth of the clubs indicate Mr. Putin is mentally stuck in old times. He seeks both personal and national grandeur yet does not understand how this can be achieved in the modern world. He continues to practice politics the way his forefathers did yet they were never effective then and will certainly not be effective now.
Russia has been cut off from the world financial community and is struggling to feed its people even as it invests ever more in its military. It is obvious that Mr Putin is becoming increasingly erratic, looking back on history and his legacy as he grows older, trying desperately to solidify his place in the hall of great Russian leaders.
For the world, and citizens of Russia, this is scary. He behavior looks increasingly deluded and aggressive. Child soldiers are, after all, the hallmark of violent, deranged and desparate leaders. The world must take note of his mental state and be careful in dealing with his quest to achieve immortality and re-build the Soviet Union.