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Hey Nikita is it Cold?
Feature Report by Tim King Salem-News.com
Photos: huanqiu.com, AFP and other sources
(SALEM) - Dubbed “the Little Spies of Putin” by a French publication after photographer Sergey Kozmin documented these 'girl soldiers' in Russia for the first time, the young female cadets in Russia look serious.
Attending facilities like the Moscow Female Cadet Boarding School No. 9, these kids have functional military skills. For example, they can "strip down an AK-47 Kalashnikov in the time it takes most kids to send an S.M.S.," Mr. Kozmin wrote.
These are the offspring of a hard place. Mother Russia has not always been kind to her young, it's just a fact; Joseph Stalin killed more of his own people than Hitler exterminated in concentration camps.
There were the purges; terrible periods of starvation and suffering, even cannibalism. But that happens in all places where people go hungry for extended periods.
Those days are far in the past, but the former USSR has plenty of remaining challenges.
The Russian military has always been highly trained and strong, but losing the war in Afghanistan was a real blow to the morale of Russian people, the war was truly that country's Vietnam as they say, and it led to the fall of Communism and sweeping change.
The departure from Communism as an exclusive political party has also seen the departure of many of the 'old ways' and that is very good for today's Russian Federation.
The AFP video, Guns and cookery: The Russian military school for girls, reveals interesting facts about female military schools in Russia.
There are girls as young as 11 attending these military schools, learning to shoot the Kalashnikov AK-47 as well as other weapons. It is part of the normal curriculum for all of the girls who attend these highly respected schools.
One student, Ola Okeiko, says they get a bit nervous when it comes time to pick up a weapon and shoot it, but she doesn't seem too deterred and keeps on firing.
History has a strong voice in Russia and few there forget that the female Soviet soldier was an integral part of the red victory against the Germans in the bloody, grueling, tragic and in the case of Russia, freezing Second World War. They were a key component for reasons that would make many American males blush.
Those who have seen the film, "The Beast" about a Russian tanker crew lost in the Kandahar Valley of Afghanistan in the early 80's, might recall the crazed Russian commander who talked about how as a child, they would lower him onto passing German tanks from overpasses and he would plant bombs.
Indeed, not only the female, but the child also, was an important part of the WWII Soviet military machine.
"It's no coincidence that most of the snipers during WWII were snipers," said Mikhail Mikolachuk, a shooting instructor who explains the finer points of the process to the young students. "Girls are better, they're more patient, calmer, and they have more will to do well," he added.
The Sun in the UK covered the Russian Girl's Military Schools in November 2009 in an article titled: I love machine guns and dream of joining the secret services – says Olya, 12
In keeping with the historical theme, their article cited a visit from a group of Second World War veterans, who came to the school to take a look at what was taking place.
Students interviewed as part of the article, said the Vets were interested to see what they study, and they shared stories about their time in the military, with the students.
The girls who attend these programs undergo aptitude tests aimed at selecting leaders of the future. During their education here, they will also learn about first-aid, self-defense and they will even receive anti-terrorism training.
11-year old Nastya, a Policeman’s daughter, is barely taller than her Kalashnikov rifle which she is extremely proud of.
She told The Sun, “I just finished learning how to strip down and put back together the AK-47. She added, "It’s so heavy. I need to make my arms stronger and get more muscles to use it. I need two fingers to pull the trigger."
The rules for these students are strict and the expectations high. Nastya explains: “There are no short skirts and swear words, no smoking and drinking, and no walking about unattended.”
Nastya then took aim with a deadly Makarov pistol. "I want to be a customs officer when I grow up," she says. “I want to catch criminals. But I hope I won’t need to hurt them with a gun.
Anastasia Kayrova is a student at the Moscow Cadet's School. She looks forward to a career in the secret services like her father.
She is extremely patriotic, saying, "I think everyone should serve and defend their country. It's our mission from the day we're born. We have to love our homeland, never betray it and be faithful to it".
Interestingly, the AFP report reveals that most of the girls attending the school will not go on to military service. For this reason, girls are taught many other valuable skills, like embroidery, cookery and dance.
But it is a new day in this place now called the Russian Federation and as that country has moved toward democracy over recent time, the United States has taken on qualities that those in the east have managed to shed.
The young students at Boarding School No. 9 attend what Mr. Kozmin calls "one of the elite military academies in Russia." It is a state school and there is no tuition for students, however competition for attendance is considered "intense".
So who are these girls and why on earth are they oriented toward the military?
Maybe because the chances for kids making it successfully to adulthood in Russia, depending particularly on their family economic structures, aren't often good.
There are documentaries about the widespread poverty and housing issues. One program examines through the eyes of a handful of young kids, a life thousands of children share in squalor, in a train station in Moscow.
These heavily disadvantaged youth prostitute their immature bodies and lose their childhoods when they should be in their prime and in school. One little girl the program focuses on, actually dies from an overdose in the shooting of the program.
An Academy Award® Nominee for Best Documentary, Short Subject, the 35-minute documentary The Children of Leningradsky, "takes an unblinking look at the reality of homeless children living in Russia today - in particular the ones who call the underground Leningradsky train station in Moscow home."
Utilizing verité footage of more than a dozen Moscow kids speaking candidly about their lives, routines and lost dreams, the epic and unforgettable film captures the sobering reality of post-Soviet Russia.
These kids are left behind, tossed their homes, frequently turn to prostitution, are abused, and run away.
It absolutely has been trying to implement efforts to overcome this dire situation, but the Russian government has no grasp on the problem and many young children, generally ranging in age from 8-16, continue to be swept into the abyss.
This seems like one clear reason that children, perhaps particularly girls, would opt for an institution that represents strength and unity.
In looking at the photos included with this article, my mind raced immediately to the old Elton John Song 'Nikita' which portrayed the Russian female soldier possibly attracted to the western man, but unable to cross that old line between east and west; the iron curtain that ran through the very soul of some people.
This is not the case today and Russia, while always questionable in politics, is absolutely accompanied by the U.S. in regard to its history of colossal political and military errors.
Are these girls better off than their counterparts? It seems likely that they will benefit largely from this time if they seek military and political careers.
There are no mini-skirts, purity is instead symbolized by the wearing of oversized white ribbons in the girl's hair.
Many of the girls come from military families and dream of careers serving Russia, whether in the army, the police force or the Federal Security Service. A museum inside the school celebrates famous Russian women, beginning with the era of the czars. The students want to be like them, Mr. Kozmin said, as well as other prominent Russian women like Alina Kabaeva, the Olympic medal-winning rhythmic gymnast and member of the Russian parliament.
This whole scenario seems far less than threatening to the Russian youth, whereas child soldiers trained to use a military weapon and used to fight a war are an entirely different matter, and a very, very serious one. There is no question that children reached at the right age can have their conscience literally stripped away, much like their childhoods. Back in the western world, remember that in the Vietnam War, the average of the combat soldier was 19.
There do not seem to be any objections to these female military schools in Russia, and if there was, a group called Child Soldiers International would let us know, as they concentrate a great deal of energy on this subject and write at length about the international problems of children being allowed and sometimes forced to serve in the military.
Citing years of dark history with regard to child soldiers, the group explains many of the immediate problems associated with this practice that amounts to a serious Human Rights violation under international law:
As of 2007, as many as 26 countries continued to recruit 16- and 17-year-olds into their peacetime armies. They included Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Canada, Cuba, DRC, Myanmar, the Netherlands, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
Child Soldiers International is opposed to the military recruitment or use of any girl or boy under the age of 18. A large number of states have pledged to abide by a range of international human rights treaties, but much remains to be done for their full and effective implementation. (See international standards page.)
In March 2004 Child Soldiers International made a submission to the UN study on Violence against Children, with specific reference to children in military schools and to children in peacetime government forces. - Government Armed Forces
It is true that military groups use child soldiers, and it is also true that they are generally resistance forces in places like Sri Lanka and Balochistan, while Israel forces all teenagers into either military service or prison if they refuse, though not until they are 18. The U.S. allows 17-year old kids to go to war, but not to vote or drink legally.
Other groups in the limelight for the use of child soldiers include the pseudo-religious fanatic Joseph Kony in Uganda. The stories of what he has gotten away with are beyond shocking and appalling. There is no comparable value between Kony and the girls in Russian military schools.
In this case, it looks like the girls in Russia are receiving a disciplined but reasonable education in a setting that is hopelessly attractive in many cases to young people; though generally boys, but never forget that this is an entirely different culture and women are not relegated to a lesser role in society under the Communist system.
In searching for images for this article, I found a photo piece online titled, How Children Spent This Summer from August 2011. This was also published by englishrussia.com. I had expectations that were very different from what I found.
"Mind numbing" and "infuriating" are both words that come to mind for me after looking at this photo spread of what appear to be, drunken Russian children just festing it up at a nightclub. They're behaving in ways that would make most parents cringe.
It is really far from what is legally allowed or morally accepted in this society, which doesn't necessarily mean much when referencing vastly different cultures, but I believe it does in this case because kids are vulnerable.
You can read the comments on the page and see a mixture of reactions,. While some people defend the behavior and claim no alcohol or drugs are involved, most are simply horrified.
And regardless of what people claim, it still seems hard to believe that the kids are anything close to sober, they look like they are using alcohol in several of the pictures. I included two, to offer an idea of what is going on there.
They are all a bunch of kids in this photo spread, they are "sexed up" as the British say, and nobody can convince me that kids of this age; preteen adolescents, are going to benefit by acting as adults at such a young age. Some of the kids look like they are well under ten!
And the only the only detectable theme is these images appears to be heavy sexuality. The idea that the girls in a Russian military boarding school are sheltered from this type of culture, and the broken poverty of the Moscow train station referenced earlier in the story.
The military schools with their rules are by contrast, a very positive thing. It's a shocking world, military education for girls in Mother Russia doesn't appear to be at the root of this country's problems affecting youth.
Special thanks to Xinhua News
Little girl soldiers of Putin Xinhua News
Of course with the title of the story it would be unfair to not include the Elton John song, 'Nikita' which those from the 80's likely remember. It truly symbolizes a time not long ago when the east and west were divided by the 'Iron Curtain' in a period known as the Cold War.
Tim King has more than twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. Tim is Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. His background includes covering the war in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, and reporting from the Iraq war in 2008. Tim is a former U.S. Marine.
Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing from The Associated Press the National Coalition of Motorcyclists, the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs, Electronic Media Association and The Red Cross In a personal capacity, Tim has written 2,026 articles as of March 2012 for Salem-News.com since the new format designed by Matt Lintz was launched in December, 2005.
Serving readers with news from all over the globe, Tim's life is literally encircled by the endless news flow published by Salem-News.com, where more than 100 writers contribute stories from 20+ countries and regions.
Tim specializes in writing about political and military developments worldwide with an emphasis on Palestine and Sri Lanka, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the U.S. Marines. You can write to Tim at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Tim's Facebook page (facebook.com/TimKing.Reporter)