When Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, students were taught each day how to assemble and dismantle an AK-47, the celebrated Kalashnikov assault rifle. The country needed to be defended from the Americans and everyone had to be ready for an emergency.
Referred to as lessons in “Defending the fatherland” at the time of the Cold War, this form of education has continued also in independent Ukraine and goes on to this day. Nowadays, however, the enemy is no longer located to the west beyond the Iron Curtain: the war is along Ukraine’s eastern border and is not a potential threat but a sad reality. That is why in Ukraine in recent years the number of military training courses for civilians has burgeoned. One such example is that of the military division linked to the extreme right wing “Azov Battalion”, which organizes military summer camps for children and teens.
During the courses participants learn about various aspects of combat, undergo physical training, learn to use firearms and develop a sense of camaraderie. Furthermore, in line with the nationalistic patriotism of Azov, instructors also endeavour to instil a sense of belonging, identity and national pride.
( 2018 )