Abducting children is Russia’s crime which often goes unnoticed due to daily shellings of Ukrainian cities. While stopping at nothing to destroy Ukrainians as a nation, the terrorist country Russia is re-educating Ukraine’s young representatives to become Russian citizens. Thus, Ukrainian children not only become hostages of the empire, but also its victims. The methods of russification are diverse and include “reprogramming” through education, culture and religion.
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Children as prisoners of empires
The things Russia is doing to Ukrainian children these days have already happened in history. Nazi Germany and modern China are examples of how assimilating children became government policy.
Germanisation no matter the cost
Gradually catching its breath from WWI, in the mid-1930s, Germany was experiencing a declining birthrate, since a great many men had died, and the economy had not recovered yet. In order for new Wehrmacht (Armed Forces of Nazi Germany) soldiers to be born, propaganda was aimed at women, requiring them to focus on motherhood. The following organisations were created to provide support to families: “Mother and Child” and “Lebensborn” translated from German as “Fount of Life”. Single women could give birth in shelters, and after delivery they, together with their children, were patronized by the state.
However, the basis of the activity of these organisations was by no means charity. First of all, they served the racial ideas of Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler (Reichsführer of the SS, i.e. the imperial leaders of military units). Thus, both parents had to meet all the “criteria of the Nordic race”. Pregnancy was encouraged by members of the SS defence units (from the German abbreviation Schutzstaffel), who were encouraged to perform the “honorable mission” of inseminators.
Racial ideology of the NazisThe ideology of the Nazis involved the shaping of a "first-rate" race of people that included Germans of the Nordic type (Caucasian, fair-haired and without "impurities" from other races) while striving to recreate alleged historical justice to make them dominant in the world.
One of the “Lebensborn” main activities was Germanisation of minor children from other countries. In the occupied states, children with Aryan appearance were selected, sent to Germany and given to the Germans to get educated.
For instance, they deported children from Slovenia whose parents were executed by shooting for assisting the local partisans, and they deported those children whose mothers were sent to concentration camps. But Polish children were tormented the most, since Heinrich Himmler yearned for completely destroying the identity of the Poles.The thing is that after the occupation of Poland, the Poles continuously resisted, becoming a “burr in the saddle” for the Reich. The children were given new German names. The date of birth in documents was set at the occupants’ own discretion. The Polish city of Poznan was indicated as the children’s place of birth, since that’s where “Lebensborn” had been taking children from most often. This is how their true origins were concealed.
Consequences of this operation’s crimes are investigated, in particular, by the modern association “Stolen children. Forgotten victims” (German: Geraubte Kinder – Vergessene Opfer). Along with other organisations, it provides the following data regarding the number of abducted and “re-educated” children:
– Poland, over 200 000;
– Bohemia and Moravia (the territory of modern day Czech Republic), 1000;
– Slovenia, 1100;
– USSR, 20 000.
Since 2014, the Chinese government administered by the Secretary General of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Xi Jinping, has been imprisoning Turkic Muslims (Uighurs and Kazakhs) without any trial.These are indigenous people of China striving to preserve their authenticity. They do not speak the national language, and they keep their religion safe in an atheistic state. Obviously, such a position is unacceptable for the ruling elite that is trying to “steamroll” them in every possible way.
Over 1 million people were imprisoned from 2017 to 2022. This is the largest detention of ethnic and religious communities since WWII. The Chinese government denies such camps exist, calling them voluntary “centres for transformation through education” instead. Yet people who get put there do not have the right to appeal against this decision.
The government arbitrarily detains Uighurs in camps, abuses them, inculcates its political views, punishes them with forced labour, suppresses religious rites, implements forced sterilisation, contraception, and abortions. Consequently, from 2017 to 2019 the birth rate in Khotan and Kashgar, primarily Uighur regions, fell by almost 60%. Thousands of mosques have been destroyed or damaged, and hundreds of thousands of children have been forcibly separated from their parents and sent to boarding schools.
Many Uighur parents have been studying or earning their living abroad, leaving their children in the care of family members in their native region or in Xinjiang. This very region “fell from grace” in 2014 when China publicly declared a “people’s war on terror” and related activities to fight “religious extremism”. The mass detentions and systematic repressions campaign has banned Uighur parents from returning to China in order to take care of their children on their own. Likewise, their children cannot leave China in order to be reunited with them abroad.
The tragedy of families in Xinjiang who were forcibly separated is just one of China’s ethnic crimes. Gradual assimilation of Uighur and other Muslim ethnic groups is the imperial policy of destruction of oppressed peoples. We have been observing similar stories for centuries in Ukraine as well, just involving another aggressor country.
Russification of Ukrainians
The policy of russifying Ukrainians has been becoming systematic since the second half of the 18th century. The Russian Empire launched active centralisation: it strived to integrate all the “small” nations within its territory into a single country.
Due to this, “Great Russian” manufacturers and traders started to receive preferences and formed a state monopoly. Later on Russians started to impose their forms of management and land tenure in Ukraine, and a great many Russian peasants ended up on its Eastern borders. Moreover, Russian Orthodoxy was declared the dominant religion, while Ukrainian law and justice were also excluded little by little. In such a manner the Russian language, reinforced by bans and censorship decrees against Ukrainian, has flooded all spheres of public life. In higher education Russian has been studied since its knowledge became mandatory for civil servants.
On 18 July 1863, a secret “Valuev” Circular was signed that banned publishing scientific studies in Ukrainian, censored works of fiction, and banned Sunday schools.
Thirteen years later, in 1876, the Ems Ukaz followed. It was a secret decree that displaced Ukrainian from church life, music, theatre, and book publishing.
Under the rule of Alexander III (1881–1894), the policy of destroying all that is Ukrainian reached its peak. It was at this time that a decree was issued to prohibit baptising children with Ukrainian names. Newborns were deprived of their right for Ukrainian identity ahead of time. The policy of controlling a person from a very early age will remain in the Soviet times as well.
Soviet era: homo soveticus
Even though assimilation into a united Russian nation began back in imperial times, its idea and name finally took a definite shape during the Soviet occupation. The term “Soviet people” appeared in the mid-1930s. During this period, the Stalinist regime actively fought against “bourgeois nationalism”, but in fact, continued to deprive non-Russian peoples of their rights. Since then, the concept of “Soviet people” has become the leading one in the practical activities of public authorities. In the 1970s, it was repeated more and more often.
The idea of the "Soviet people""A new historical community of people of different nationalities has been formed in the USSR. They have common characteristic features, a common socialist Motherland - the USSR, a common economic basis, a socialist economy, a common social and class structure, a common worldview - Marxism-Leninism, a common goal - building communism, many common features in their spiritual nature, in psychology". (Excerpt from the speech of Mykyta Khrushchev at the XXII Congress of the CPSU, 1961).
In order to mix different peoples, the Soviet authorities stimulated migration, created multinational work teams, and instilled a common language. The only international language of communication in such a society was Russian. Therefore children born during this period had no alternatives at all.
Yet in 1958–1959, an absolute minority of children studied in their native language in major Ukrainian cities: Ivano-Frankivsk — 39.4%, Kyiv — 26.8%, Dnipropetrovsk — 17.4%, Odesa — 8.1%, Luhansk — 6 .5%, Kharkiv — 4.1%, and Donetsk — 1.2%. As a result, granted that only 7.4% of the residents did not speak Russian, 30.6% did not speak Ukrainian in the cities of the Ukrainian SSR in 1970. There were 1.5 times more Ukrainians who lived in cities and considered Russian their native language than Russians (45.1% and 30.2%, respectively).
After WWII, assimilation happened due to millions of orphans sent to orphanages in different republics, registered as Russians, they’ve also been given typical surnames – “Ivanov”, “Petrov”, “Sidorov” etc.
American psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner, the author of the book “Two Worlds of Childhood: US and USSR” (1976), described the Soviet methods of education as “powerful, effective and elaborate”. He noted that this education has a clear goal — to form the communist morality. “Discipline in the community is accepted unconditionally, no matter how strict, from the point of view of Western standards, it is,” he admired the behavior of Soviet children.
The Soviet authorities have created such a system that raised children as devoted patriots, active builders of the communist society and internationalists. This was considered the most important and honourable duty of the Soviet family to the people and the country. Truth be told, internationalism in this concept equaled the total predominance of Russian.
In 1958, in Moscow, the Communist Party adopted a resolution on the transition of Ukrainian schools to the Russian language as the medium of instruction. A year later, the Supreme Council of the Ukrainian SSR adopted a corresponding resolution and passed the law “On the Strengthening of the Bond between School and Life and on the Further Development of the System of Public Education in the Ukrainian SSR”. Since then learning Ukrainian in schools has become optional. The Party explained this as “the demands of parents and children”, but as a matter of fact it deliberately eradicated all that is Ukrainian. The number of schools with Ukrainian as a medium of instruction decreased, studying Ukrainian language and literature in Russian schools was ignored, and the number of teaching hours for Ukrainian literature and language in secondary specialized educational institutions was decreased.
The Ukrainian language was studied in the Ukrainian SSR. During the 1959–1960 academic year Ukrainian was studied by 70.6% of students, in 1970–1971 by 60.4%, and in 1976–1977 by 57.8%. Russian was increasingly studied by students during those same years (28.6%, 38.8%, and 41.3%). Larger numbers of Russian-language schools were in regional and industrial centres. In particular, in 1974 in Voroshilovgrad teaching was conducted in Russian in 51 out of 54 schools; in Zaporizhzhia in 80 out of 99; in Kharkiv in 139 out of 144; and in Kyiv in 106 out of 222. In Zhdanov, Makiivka, Rubizhne and some other cities, teaching was conducted in Russian in every school. And as of 1987, 73.7% of schools in regional centres taught in the language of the northern neighbour.
The situation was the same with higher and secondary special education. According to the rules of that time, one of the competitive exams was Russian language and literature, which put graduates of Ukrainian schools in an unequal position as opposed to those who studied in Russian. Exams on specialized subjects were also taken only in this language.
After WWII socialist countries also were subject to russification to a greater or lesser extent, especially those that were a part of the entities controlled by Moscow: the Warsaw Treaty Organisation (WTO) and the Council of Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON). In the majority of them, the Russian language was introduced as a compulsory school subject.
Years of independence. Deportation of children
With the beginning of Russia’s war against Ukraine, information on the forced deportation of children to the territory of the aggressor country started to appear. The first attempts began back in 2014, and from 24 February 2022, this phenomenon became widespread.
The numbers of deported children vary widely in different news reports, as such relocations cannot be monitored or even tracked. Thus, human rights ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets in an interview with “Voice of America” has stated that 7,000 children were deported as of September 2022. However, this is only a verified number, and in fact there may be much more. The Russians claim that about 119,000 children “have fled” to their country. The fact of abduction is also confirmed by Pavlo Sushko, the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Interim Inquiry Commission that deals with cases of violation of children’s rights. He reports that there are about 557,000 kidnapped Ukrainian children.
Russia approaches the issue of russification and “appropriation” of children quite strategically. In May 2022, Russia fast-tracked citizenship for children who found themselves under occupation. This facilitates the process of their adoption on the territory of the aggressor country.
Simplified Russian legislation on adoption facilitates Russia’s crimes against humanity. Every case of deportation of Ukrainians — children and their parents or relatives — is a violation of international documents: The 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, The 1949 GCIV, The Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, and The 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In order to encourage Russians to adopt forcibly deported children, Russians are offered a “one-time payment of maternity capital and welfare payment.” They obtain RUB 20,000 (approximately UAH 12,000 or USD 320) per year for each adopted child, and they obtain even more, about RUB 150,000 (approximately UAH 91,000 or USD 2 400) for a child with a disability, a child older than 7 years, or for the “adoption” of siblings.
It is known that over 1,000 Ukrainian children deported from Mariupol were put up for “adoption” in the Krasnodar Krai of Russia alone. The Department for Family and Childhood Affairs of Krasnodar Krai reports that the children who were taken out of the bombed-out Ukrainian city by the Russian occupiers will now live in Tiumen, Irkutsk, Kemerovo and Altai Krai.
The Russian authorities are involved. On October 26, Maria Lvova-Belova, the President’s ombudsman for children’s rights, announced that she had “adopted” a boy taken from Mariupol. In addition to him, according to her, 350 orphans from the East of Ukraine “have already been placed in foster families in 16 regions of Russia.”
According to Ukrainian mass media,the occupation authorities have illegally deported a huge number of minors from Tavria and Zaporizhzhia. Thus, as of October 25, in Feodosia there were more than 2,000 children aged 4 to 17 forcibly deported from the south.
Russian occupiers consider the abduction of children from Ukrainian families a way of precisely punishing their parents. One can see a certain trend – that among the abducted young Ukrainians – there are many of those whose parents have participated in the ATO (anti-terrorist operation) and publicly expressed their pro-Ukrainian position. Many of these adults were tortured, some were executed by shooting, and their children were sent to Russia for “re-education”.
While constantly sending its indigenous peoples and national minorities to wars, Russia faced a demographic crisis. The huge loss of manpower that Russia is suffering in the full-scale war with Ukraine only worsens the situation. Therefore, such replenishment of the population with new “Slavic” blood can be considered both as a way to at least lightly compensate for these losses, and as another way to destroy Ukrainians. This is a silent genocide which is very difficult to track, much less punish those responsible. Furthermore, Russia uses abducted children for propaganda purposes for its domestic “patriotic” audience. For instance, in June, Aide to Mariupol Mayor Petro Andryushchenko in his Telegram channel wrote that the occupiers forced young Mariupol residents and education representatives to appear in a propaganda video where they had to sing the anthem of Russia and the “young republics”, the coming of which they had allegedly been expecting since 2014.
A new phase of the war. Russification of children on the occupied territories
Russian authorities had been gradually destroying the Ukrainian language since they’ve started the war in the East of Ukraine. I.e. they basically commit linguicide. For instance, only 0.1% of students in Crimea can receive education in Ukrainian. There is one nominally Ukrainian school on the peninsula, but even in that very school there are no textbooks in Ukrainian. Respectively, the number of study hours spent for Ukrainian language and literature learning is less than for Russian. Moreover, textbooks that have been used until 2014 were massively destroyed. And in the history lesson, 70% of the time they study the history of Russia and 30% — world history. In other words, the history of Ukraine is not taught to children at all.
The situation is similar in the occupied territories of Donechchyna (Donetsk Oblast) as well. In primary schools there, the Ukrainian language lesson has been substituted with a lesson called “Language of the peoples of Donbas”, and Ukrainian literature has been replaced with “Literary reading of the peoples of Donbas”. These changes were officially accepted by the occupation authorities. Children have such lessons once a week, while other similar Russian subjects are studied daily. Instead of the history of Ukraine, they study the history of the Russian empire and Donechchyna in the lesson titled “Homeland history”. Geography of Donechchyna is studied instead of “Geography of Ukraine”. The fact is excluded that the territory of Donechchyna is artificially separated from Ukraine. Considering how deliberately Russia has been russifiying the East of Ukraine, it is almost the same as constantly teaching only the history of the invading country.
Ukrainian teachers can keep their jobs only if they become collaborators. Oftentimes there are not enough volunteers for the schools to keep functioning, therefore people not related to education are appointed instead. They hoist Russian flags in Ukrainian schools, bring Russian textbooks, and classes are commenced with the Russian national anthem. At the same time so-called Crimean authorities are actively cooperating with the occupiers. Аmong other things, they are involved in “retraining educators from the schools of ‘LPR’, ‘DPR’, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson Oblasts”. They have been sending teachers from Crimea to Kherson to “help with adaptation to the Russian education system” etc.
The main feature of the “new school, the Russian way” is militarisation of the schoolchildren. The largest “cadet” corps (400 students) in the temporarily occupied territory of Luhanshchina (Luhansk Oblast) was opened in Starobilsk almost right after the occupation of the city. Actually, these children are being trained for future participation in the war on the part of Russia.
“Lessons of Donbas citizenship” are another example of “military” education in the so-called DPR and LPR for all grade levels. At such “lessons”, children are told about the “great rulers of the Russian empire”, about “Donbas – the heart of Russia”, etc.
Ukrainian teachers still mostly refuse to work with the occupiers, so the Russians bring in their own staff. More than 250 teachers agreed to come from different regions of Russia to the occupied Ukrainian territories. These teachers will conduct lessons in Russian and “indoctrinate” Ukrainian children with Kremlin propaganda, in other words will also russify them. Teachers who do not consent to such a job due to the resistance of Ukrainians and the “unstable” situation are offered a combatant status and a higher salary than they get at home. Furthermore, they are even blackmailed with problems at work.
Yet Ukrainian teachers who find themselves under occupation sometimes cooperate with the occupiers too (voluntarily or subject to pressure because their lives are at risk). Thus, as of 1 September 2022, there were about 1,000 teachers left in Mariupol, most of whom have agreed to complete the “advanced training”, to switch from the Ukrainian curriculum to the Russian one. As of September 1, a new subject was introduced in all schools in Mariupol called “Conversations about important things” aimed at “re-educating” Ukrainian children. Love for Russia and hatred for Ukraine are forced on children during these lessons.
According to Article 111-1 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, a teacher who voluntarily implements Russian education standards, thus serving the aggressor, is a collaborator. Punishment is the following: corrective labour for up to 2 years, or arrest for up to 6 months, or imprisonment for up to 3 years along with deprivation of the right to hold certain positions and work in the educational field for 10-15 years.
Almost immediately after the occupation of Ukrainian territories, Russians are actively implementing russification policy and urging collaborationism. To investigate how Ukrainian schoolchildren are educated there, Cedos think tank did a study “Education in the occupied territories of Ukraine (for the period from 24 February to 30 April 2022).” In those places where fighting continues or where the great majority of school-age children have been evacuated, schools are not working at all. Russian troops place their command and control centres and other units on some school premises. At the same time, once active hostilities are stopped, occupiers actively start russifying the local schoolchildren.
Russification is a case of destroying the national identity, and it is also a part of genocide. A crucial element of this crime is the intention to fully or partially destroy Ukrainians as a national group. Under such circumstances, children are the least protected and the most vulnerable category of people, therefore they need the most protection.
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