Moscow’s war against neighboring Ukraine is increasingly finding its way into Russian schools, as schoolchildren and preschoolers have been recruited to publicly demonstrate support for the invasion.

In March, kindergartens and schools began posting various pro-war activities on social media in a mass campaign that gave every appearance of having been coordinated. The Latin letter Z, which has become the Kremlin’s unofficial symbol of support for the war and which has been lambasted by war critics as a “zwastika,” has appeared on school doors and windows. Photographs of letters written by students to Russian soldiers in Ukraine dotted social media.

In mid-March, students in the Karelian town of Elinsenvaara stood in the snow in the form of the Z symbol to mark the eighth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region, many of them holding paper Russian flags.

The building of the Yunost sports center in the middle of Kaliningrad was adorned by a two-story-high Z in the black-and-orange stripes of the St. George ribbon, a symbol that President Vladimir Putin’s government has promoted heavily in connection with the commemorations of the Soviet contributions to victory in World War II.
The building of the Yunost sports center in the middle of Kaliningrad was adorned by a two-story-high Z in the black-and-orange stripes of the St. George ribbon, a symbol that President Vladimir Putin’s government has promoted heavily in connection with the commemorations of the Soviet contributions to victory in World War II.

“If the kids stand with the flag is that really bad?” the director of the school told. “It isn’t a fascist swastika…. Yes, it is supporting the army, but I think we have to support the army. We have to raise patriots.”

On March 31, the ruling United Russia party in Yoshkar-Ola, the capital of the Mari El Republic, posted that a national demonstration called For The Defenders Of The Fatherland was under way.

On March 23, students and preschoolers in the Irkutsk region village of Maisk were photographed marching in the snow in a “flash mob” called We Don’t Abandon Our Own.

The administration of the village of Glinkino in Siberia’s Omsk region wrote on March 29 that “inculcating patriotism is one of the most pressing problems of the present day.”