top of page

How Military-Patriotic Clubs in Belarus Mold Children into "Russian World" Adherents

Pavel Latushka: Deputy Head of the United Transitional Cabinet of Belarus, Head of the National Anti-Crisis Management, Ambassador

In 2020, Lukashenko witnessed the sheer number of young Belarusians who stood up for change, for a Belarus with new leadership. These young people strive to be part of the free world, wanting to determine their own futures and that of their country.

This frightened him. He fears a new, free generation of Belarusians he cannot understand. Therefore, after violently suppressing the protests, significant funds were funneled into creating so-called “military-patriotic” clubs.

But is there even a shred of genuine patriotism within them? A closer examination of the ideas and “values” these clubs instill in Belarusian children reveals little connection to Belarus itself. The ideology underpinning them is that of the so-called “Russian world.” How so?

The answer is simple. Having clung to power and existing essentially at Russia's expense, Lukashenko systematically dismantled almost all Belarusian civil society organizations. He possesses no alternative ideology of his own upon which to build new pseudo-civil organizations. This vacuum was naturally filled by Lukashenko’s “big brothers” and their “Russian world” ideology—a destructive concept for Belarus, as it implies the cultural and political unity of the East Slavic peoples under Russian dominance.

Essentially, Lukashenko’s “military-patriotic” clubs have become carbon copies of their Russian counterparts.

Their surge in popularity, unsurprisingly, coincided with Russia's aggression against Ukraine, in which Lukashenko has become a co-aggressor.

Specifically, in May 2022, a mere two months after the war began, Lukashenko signed Decree No. 160 on the development of “military-patriotic” clubs. This document regulates the activities of clubs for children and youth based within units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs' internal troops, the Armed Forces, and emergency agencies.

As you can see, these are primarily security and punitive agencies that gained notoriety during the suppression of peaceful protests. It's important to remember that these agencies harbor a high concentration of individuals with demonstrably pro-Russian views. The locations of these “military-patriotic” clubs speak volumes about their objectives: to mold children into instruments of propaganda and aggressive expansion for the “Russian world.”

New “military-patriotic clubs” emerge in Belarus almost monthly. There is no definitive count available in open sources. Some reports estimate that over 950 may already exist, officially boasting nearly five thousand participants. However, the actual number of children entangled in their activities remains unknown.

Why do these clubs pose a grave danger to our children?

Propaganda presents these clubs as harmless entities that simply teach history, promote sports, and encourage a healthy lifestyle. Let's dissect this façade.

These clubs were established with the purported aim of providing young people with a “patriotic” education, studying the history of past wars, enhancing the prestige of military service, and instilling in young people a readiness to fulfill their “civic duty” and defend the current political system. The cult of victory and the cult of death form the cornerstones of this education.

They boast their own uniforms and symbols, awards and anthems. Children are engaged in monument preservation, participate in sports competitions, and receive weapons training. Sound familiar? This chillingly accurate description also fits Hitler Youth organization. The terrifying reality is that it aligns perfectly with Lukashenko’s “military-patriotic” clubs.

What kind of history do the ideologues of these military-patriotic clubs teach our children? Is it the history of the Principality of Polotsk, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Belarusian People's Republic, the pan-European heritage, or the rightful place of Belarusians within European history? No. Their version is far simpler. For them, Belarusian history begins with the Great Patriotic War and ends with the so-called “Special military operation."

These ideologues emphasize cultural and historical ties between Belarus and Russia. They indoctrinate children with notions of a shared identity, a single people. They equate Belarusians with Russians. This propaganda seeks to ingrain a sense of belonging to the “Russian world” in the minds of children.

It is crucial to examine the links between Belarusian “military-patriotic” clubs and the Russian JUNARMY. These connections run deep, encompassing a shared ideological foundation, joint events, and an exchange of experience. But what exactly is JUNARMY?

JUNARMY is an all-Russian militaristic movement for children and teenagers, established at the behest of the Russian Ministry of Defense. Graduates of this movement are currently fighting within the ranks of the Russian occupation forces in Ukraine. It is noteworthy that JUNARMY has been placed on sanctions lists by the EU, USA, and Canada for its active support of Putin and Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Lukashenko’s ideologues, operating within Belarusian “military-patriotic” clubs, look up to JUNARMY as a model. This is evidenced by joint events held both in Belarus and Russia, encompassing not only sporting competitions but also those of an ideological nature.

Who are the individuals involved in educating children within these clubs?

Primarily, they are Lukashenko’s ideologues, the so-called officers, with Nikolai Karpenkov spearheading the implementation of this project.

Yes, the very same Karpenkov, the chief proponent of the “Russian world” within the Belarusian security forces, is at the helm of all children’s military-patriotic clubs in Belarus. This is a man who openly supports Russian aggression in Ukraine, speaks of a united and invincible Belarusian-Russian army, establishes special units within the internal troops (trained by Wagner mercenaries who are accountable to him), and consistently appears in public sporting the insignia of the Wagner Group — an organization recognized as a terrorist entity by several civilized nations.

It is worth remembering that this same Karpenkov recently established the Young Guard Foundation. One of the primary objectives of this foundation is the systematic militarization and indoctrination of Belarusian children with the ideology of the “Russian world."

The indoctrination of young minds within Belarus’ “military-patriotic” clubs runs disturbingly parallel to Karpenkov's special forces, with former Wagner PMC mercenaries often serving as instructors.

These mercenaries, individuals implicated in war crimes in Ukraine, Syria, and Africa, are now tasked with teaching Belarusian children "patriotism." They train children in urban warfare tactics, firearm handling, and even award them with Wagner PMC badges. This is not speculation; it is a disturbing reality widely publicized by propagandists, as exemplified by the children's military-patriotic club "Lynx," operating under the auspices of military unit 3214 of the internal troops.

Equally alarming is the role of the Belarusian Orthodox Church in this process of ideological manipulation.

Church clergymen frequently appear at “military-patriotic” club events, emphasizing a fabricated spiritual connection and shared history between Belarus and Russia. They conduct prayer services, bless participants for fulfilling their distorted notion of "patriotic tasks," and partake in ceremonies honoring Soviet and Russian historical events, conveniently neglecting Belarusian history. Through these actions, the Church reinforces a sense of belonging to the "Russian world," relegating Belarus to a secondary position and effectively erasing its unique identity. This subtle yet insidious approach can be categorized as soft power.

It is deeply disheartening to witness the Church, an institution meant to provide moral guidance, advocate for justice, and protect human rights, become a tool of pro-Russian propaganda.

Let’s summarize what has been said here.

To preserve his grip on power, Lukashenko has surrendered not only our sovereignty to Russia but also our children. These so-called “military-patriotic” clubs are systematically attempting to eradicate Belarusian identity from our youth.

These clubs are nothing more than brainwashing centers, designed to mold an obedient and loyal generation subservient to Russia and the Lukashenko regime. They operate with complete disregard for Belarus and our national interests. Children are subjected to ideological indoctrination, discouraged from developing critical thinking skills, and taught to blindly accept and support Lukashenko’s dictatorship and Russian narratives. Furthermore, they are instilled with hatred towards Ukrainians and our other Western neighbors. Instead of nurturing their Belarusian identity, these clubs are attempting to mold them into Russian.

Lukashenko and his Kremlin sponsors have already robbed us of 30 years of progress. Now, they seek to steal our future by transforming Belarusian youth into devotees of the “Russian world." We cannot allow this to happen.

Engage in open and honest conversations with your children. Answer their difficult questions. Do not allow ideologues to provide them with pre-packaged answers. Instill in them a strong sense of national identity, humanism, respect for other cultures and nations, and, above all, critical thinking. They are our future, and we cannot afford to surrender them to the likes of Lukashenko and Karpenkov.



bottom of page