Troops in Russia’s High Arctic undergo “military-patriotic” training

Russian soldiers at the Nagurskoye military base in Alexandra Land, on the remote Arctic islands of Franz Josef Land, Russia, March 29, 2017. (Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters)
The new political department of the Russian Armed Forces has its first training session for soldiers serving in High Arctic bases.

It was Northern Fleet Head Commander Nikolay Yevmenov that himself in early December gave a lecture to officers and soldiers serving in the bases of Nagurskoye in Franz Josef Land and Kotelny in the New Siberian Islands.

The lecture was transmitted by video conference and more than 300 soldiers took part. It was the first-ever training session of its kind held in the new bases, the Russian Armed Forces inform (in Russian).

In the lecture, Yevmenov spoke about key development trends in today’s Armed Forces, as well as specifics of the current world order, including issues of economic, political and military-technical character.

Similar training has over the last months been held for soldiers all over the country. It is organised by the Armed Forces’ Military-Political Department, a new entity officially established in July 2018. The objective of the new department is to organise military-political and military-patriotic activities in the Armed Forces, the decree signed by Vladimir Putin reads (in Russian).

Soviet echoes

The new entity carries resemblance with the Main Political Department of the Soviet Armed Forces, the unit that was to make sure Army personnel stayed true to Soviet ideology.

In today’s Russia, it is patriotism that is the key ideological driver of the Kremlin. And the Armed Forces is a main target group.

According to sources in the Armed Forces, the new department will engage in military-political propaganda, prevent and fight extremism and work with the media. The department will be in charge of Zvezda, the military TV channel, and also engage in publishing print materials and patriotic movie and video-making, RBC reports (in Russian).

Department staff will initiate so-called “military-sociological studies of the moral-political and psychological state of the army staff” and interact with federal and regional media. It will also actively engage in activities that help prevent “diverging behaviour” among military personnel, RBC reports (in Russian).

Boosting patriotism

The importance of patriotism was highlighted by Vladimir Putin in late 2018 when he held several meetings with top military leaders. According to the President, “new weapons, combat preparedness and the spirit and patriotism of the troops are the top military priorities of Armed Forces.”

Patriotism is integrated on several levels in contemporary Russian society.

In 2016, a state program for patriotic education was adopted, and in 2017 a new patriotism law was hammered through parliament.

New Kremlin-supported patriotic organizations are mushrooming, among them Yunarmia (Young Army) children’s organization, which is directly subordinated the Armed Forces. And so-called military-patriotic parks are under construction all over the country, including in Murmansk.

Controversial leader heads department
Andrey Kartapolov (back left), then Commander of Russia’s Western military district, stands with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, President Vladimir Putin and Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy Vladimir Korolev while arriving to attend the Navy Day parade in St. Petersburg, Russia, July 30, 2017. Kartapolov now heads Russia’s Military-Political Department. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/Reuters/Pool)

The new Military-Political Department is headed by Lieutenant General Andrey Kartapolov, the man who was in charge of the Russian military presence in Syria in early 2017. Kartapolov was put on the EU sanctions list in 2015 following his suspected involvement in the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine in March 2014.

In a meeting in late 2018, Kartapolov lashed out against so-called “falsifiers of history.”

“I am confidently sure that it is our common duty to support the great national demand for correct, objective information about the military history of our country”, he underlined (in Russian).

According to the lieutenant general, Russia should, in its fight for historical common sense of its people, move “from defensive protection to strategic attack.”

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canadian military to build multi-million dollar facility in Northern city, CBC News

Finland: Will to defend nation, support for NATO membership slides among Finns: survey, Yle News

Norway: NATO’s Arctic dilemma, Eye on the Arctic special report

Russia: Patriotic Russian environmental group gathers in Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sweden issues first brochure on war and crisis preparedness since Cold War, Radio Sweden

United States: New symposium brings U.S. military’s attention to the Arctic, Alaska Public Media

Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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