Russian teachers against the war


An article published by the Russian website Meduza (translation by CPNN)

(Editor’s note: The original petition has been withdrawn from all media because of threats to the teachers that have signed it. Only a few lines are published on the Google Doc with the names of the first thousand signatures.

Google explains that 1000 is their limit for signatures but from February 24 to March 4 it had been signed by 5000 people including teachers from almost all regions of Russia: Adygea, Altai Territory, Altai, Arkhangelsk Region, Bashkortostan, Belgorod Region, Bryansk Region, Buryatia, Vladimir Region, Volgograd Region, Vologda Region, Voronezh Region, Dagestan , Trans-Baikal Territory, Ivanovo Region, Irkutsk Region, Kabardino-Balkarian Republic, Kaliningrad Region, Kaluga Region, Kamchatka Territory, Karelia, Komi, Kemerovo Region, Kirov Region, Kostroma Region, Krasnodar Territory, Krasnoyarsk Territory, Kurgan Region, Kursk Region, Leningrad Region region, Lipetsk region, Mari El, Mordovia, Moscow, Moscow region, Murmansk region, Nizhny Novgorod region, Novgorod region, Novosibirsk region, Omsk region, Orenburg region, Perm region,Primorsky Territory, Pskov Region, Rostov Region, Ryazan Region, Samara Region, Saratov Region, St. Petersburg, Sakhalin Region, Sverdlovsk Region, Sevastopol, Smolensk Region, Tambov Region, Tatarstan, Tver Region, Tomsk Region, Tula Region , Udmurtia, Ulyanovsk Region, Chelyabinsk Region, Chuvashia, Chukotka, Yakutia, Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Yaroslavl Region, Khabarovsk Territory, Khakassia).

As follows, the Russian website Meduza gets around the problem by publishing interviews with 5 of the signatories along with the note imposed by Russian authorities that in doing so they are acting as a foreign agent.

“In this situation, it is more terrible to remain silent. It’s a shame to be silent.” More than a thousand Russian teachers openly spoke out against the war with Ukraine. Here is what they say about the invasion – and how they explain what is happening to the students

12:48, February 26, 2022Source: Meduza

This message (material) was created and (or) distributed by a foreign media outlet acting as a foreign agent and (or) a Russian legal entity acting as a foreign agent.

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On February 25, the day after the start of the war with Ukraine, Russian teachers published a petition in which they openly supported the anti-war protests and demanded a ceasefire. At the time of publication, it was signed by more than 1200 teachers from 65 regions of Russia, as well as from other countries: Italy, USA, France, Estonia, Israel, Sweden and Germany. Meduza has contacted the five faculty members who signed the document and is publishing their monologues.

Ivan Menshikov,mathematics teacher from Moscow, one of the authors of the petition

On the morning of February 24, my colleagues and I had the feeling that something needed to be done. You can’t just sit back and watch such a disaster unfold. The country is heading for the abyss, trying to capture the neighboring country by barbaric methods. I wanted to say that we think it’s terrible. The petition is the first thing that came to my mind.

I wrote the original text , then my colleagues corrected it. On the one hand, I wanted it to be as honest and sincere as possible. On the other hand, we did not want to repel doubting people with too emotional words. It was a complex procedure that took most of the day.

It was an interesting experience for me. When I wrote the petition, I had the feeling that I myself and the minimum number of people around me who also want to speak out need it. But as soon as it appeared [on the network], people immediately began to send it to each other in chat rooms. It began to spread at an insane rate. The link to it was sent to me by people with whom I don’t even have common acquaintances, and literally 15 minutes later [after publication], despite the fact that it was around 11 pm. I quickly realized that people have an urgent need to speak up and make their voices heard in some way.

Of course, students ask us questions [about the war], and each teacher chooses words at his own peril and risk. But we cannot discuss political issues with them . We can only say that war is bad and peace is good. Children, of course, agree with this thesis.

For many children, their parents try to protect them from this information [about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine]. Not all students understand what is happening, and not all are interested. Those who understand, basically broadcast the position of their parents.

Some teachers watch TV and support the current government – and, unfortunately, even this war that our state unleashed. But in my circle, the vast majority considers war unacceptable. I would like to believe that this is the case in our country as a whole.

Of course, I’m afraid to express my protest. But given the hell that’s going on in Kyiv right now – literally a day’s drive away – it’s just a shame to be led by your own fear.

Konstantin, a mathematics teacher from Moscow, asked not to indicate his last name

There is nothing worse than war. As a teacher, I experience this even more acutely. It is important to explain to students that war is bad, and to convey this as clearly and boldly as possible.

Colleagues fully agree with me. There may be disagreements about the reasons [for the invasion] and how clear everything is, but almost everyone agrees that there should be no war and that it is in the power of Russia to stop it.

I discussed the war with the students. I said almost nothing myself, but I felt how important it was for the children to discuss it. My lesson was the first on Thursday [February 24], so I was the first adult they could discuss it with. We did not speak purely about politics, but I tried to convince them that a nightmare was happening, that it was important to talk about it and support each other.

The students themselves talked a lot. Everyone is scared. Some people want to study abroad. Someone because they have families in other regions, and someone in Ukraine. To some, simply because they understand that a gloomy and unpredictable future lies ahead. Some people are worried about other people. Confusion manifests itself in different ways for everyone: someone tries to laugh it off.

I’m talking about high school students. Younger children are more likely not to understand what is happening, but they still feel that something is wrong. I heard about cases when children mocked at this [war with Ukraine]. Even at our school, children said: “We will trample, we will crush.” But I don’t know them personally.

I’m not afraid to voice my protest. Even before this story [with the petition], I wrote a post on VK asking them not to congratulate me on February 23, because it is offensive. Some parents at my last school said it tarnished the image of the teacher worse than the swimsuit photos. But I’m definitely not afraid.

(Continued in right column)

Questions related to this article:
Can the peace movement help stop the war in the Ukraine?

(Continued from left column)

Dmitry Kazakov, history teacher from the Nizhny Novgorod region

In terms of my political convictions and worldview, I am an internationalist and a Marxist. I believe that this war is a war of two capitalist powers [Russia and Ukraine]. The result of this confrontation is the death of people, which is categorically unacceptable for me.

Besides, I am a history teacher and I know what wars lead to. Especially imperialist, aimed at satisfying the self-interest of capital. That’s why I signed [the petition].

The profession of a teacher implies the promotion of peace, kindness, mutual understanding and the search for compromises. War is contrary to such a phenomenon as pedagogical work.

All the explanations of this war that our state has given are not explanations. If more specific arguments were given, and not a story of 100 years ago , then maybe I would take a more neutral position. I categorically do not take sides – I do not know much about this confrontation. Why did the war start? Who is right and who is more to blame? But I am sure that any conflict can be resolved peacefully. A bad peace is better than a good war.

The students showed keen interest and asked me questions about the war. I tried not to answer. Not because I’m scared, but because nothing is clear yet. I did not want to endanger those who could misunderstand me, form their opinion, make it public and suffer from it. I said that now you need to have not a hot, but a cold head and hope that the war will end as quickly as possible.

If I was afraid that I would be fired, I would not be a trade union activist. And why be afraid of being fired if the consequences of this war come to us? Then no work will allow you to feel calm.

Anna Sternberg, teacher of Russian language and literature from Izhevsk

I am against war. This is the position of a teacher who teaches literature, universal values, the value of life. It seems to me that everything is logical.

The moods of my colleagues are different, but, of course, there are those who agree with me. I didn’t find out from everyone. I speak with those people who understand me, with whom I am on the same wavelength.

It is not customary for us to talk about these topics with our students. The children asked me how I feel about the war. I said that it was sharply negative, but I did not continue.

This is not the first time I have declared my protest, so I am no longer afraid. In this situation, it is more terrible to remain silent. It’s embarrassing to be silent.

Kirill, geography teacher from St. Petersburg, name changed

These events were divided into before and after both the world and people. I am not a supporter of polar opinions, “black” and “white”, but here everyone should already decide.

The problem of relations with the fraternal country is especially acute for me: my relatives live in Ukraine. Since 2014, it seemed to me that absolute obscurantism was happening.

Now you can no longer stand aside and be silent. We teach children the patriotism that pervades our entire school education system. We always speak with pride about the victories of the past and note the contribution and sacrifices that our country had to endure in the fight against the aggressor [in the Great Patriotic War]. Today we are acting – I don’t want to say “we”, but formally Russia is acting on behalf of the people – the aggressor in this “special operation”.

[After signing the petition,] I spoke as best I could. I can’t go outside: if the case goes to court, I will be forbidden to work [as a teacher]. A teacher cannot have a criminal record. As long as I have the opportunity, at least on the Internet, to express my position without violating the laws (even if they are clumsily made), I will do it to the last.

If the teacher is not bad – and I consider myself a fairly good teacher – he definitely has contact with the children. At the moment I have five ninth grades. And it is on these days that I have to go through the topic of the European south [of Russia] with the guys. Not only do I have to answer [questions] about the disputed borders with Abkhazia and South Ossetia from the point of view of international law, I also have to comment on the presence of Crimea within Russia.

Children in the ninth grade are already adults, they are 15-16 years old, and they ask questions. Of course, when we discuss this region and say that the Donetsk coal basin is part of the Rostov region, they [cling to the word] Donbass. Of course, it is very dangerous to talk about this in class. I can’t lie, but I can’t say much of what I really think either. One has to either remain silent or comment exclusively within the framework of economic geography. And children perfectly feel lies and falsehood.

Students have different attitudes towards war. In many ways, their attitude forms the informational background in the family. Whatever we say about the role of school and society in shaping a child, the role of the family is the leading one. I know many parents and often see that children broadcast their thoughts. Of course, I don’t let them [students’ conversations about politics] develop into a dialogue in a raised voice: after all, the key task of the lesson is to provide subject knowledge and basic competencies. But children still hear different opinions.

I am definitely afraid. That is why I did not go yesterday [February 24] to Nevsky [Prospect, where the protesters in St. Petersburg went]. Can I be fired? According to modern legislation, it is extremely difficult to dismiss a teacher who works according to the rules and performs his functions well. At the same time, any system (primarily the school administration) can create unbearable working conditions. But since this is not the first time in my time at school—and indeed in the history of our country—that I have had to make jeopardizing choices, I rely on a certain amount of rationality in the higher-ups who make decisions about my working conditions.

So far, I have not broken any law: no one forbade us to sign public petitions. The text of the petition does not contain any insults or calls – except for the call to stop the war, which, regardless of the position of the person, cannot be questioned. At least I still have that hope.

Teachers are not ready to do everything the state tells them to do. Teachers not only teach critical thinking, but also master it themselves.