Nuland’s Cookies & the Future of Russia

The phrase “children are our future” is banal, but true (like, however, any banality). Another banality, repeated many times by different politicians in different variants, is the statement that I do not need to win your wars and take your lands if I can take the souls of your children. In this case, your future will simply not take place, it will become mine.

When Victoria Nuland, a former assistant Secretary of State known for handing out cookies on Kiev’s Maidan, recently said that America should recruit Russian youth in order to defeat our country in the new cold war, this was also a banality. Just like all banalities. And an extremely dangerous one at that, because, despite not sliding, but falling into the pit of a crisis, the United States still has good opportunities to implement this program.

Russia is growing stronger, richer, and the welfare of its people is growing, and much is being done for the younger generation. There are thousands of free clubs and sections, talented children are accepted by Artek, Sirius, and up to a dozen similar structures in the country (and there will be more). Our teams of schoolchildren and students win world scientific olympiads. Access to a fast “Internet” largely equalises the chances and opportunities of big cities and the backwaters. Everyone, of course, will never be in absolutely equal conditions (there are still more opportunities in capitals and megacities), but a modern Lomonosov no longer needs to pursue science in a horse and carriage — the state itself is diligently looking for them.

Many believe that this is enough. Russia will become an example for the whole world not only today or tomorrow. We will be envied. Americans will stand in line for Russian citizenship, and European countries will ask to join Russia. Accordingly, young people will be proud of their country.

This is possible. But not all of it. There is always a certain percentage of “dissident revolutionaries”. And what this percentage will be depends on the fine and balanced work of the state authorities both with young people and with the whole society.

In Russia, twice (in 1917 and in 1991) a more prosperous and emancipated generation than the previous ones revolutionised and broke the country.

Post-war Soviet generations grew up in conditions that not only their grandfathers and great-grandfathers, but even their fathers and mothers did not dream of. By the mid-70s, the population as a whole was provided with decent housing, farmers received passports, and with them the opportunity to realise themselves not only in the collective farm fields. The rigidity of Soviet governance came to naught. There was no abundance in shops, but there was no starvation either. Roe, red fish, American jeans, and eastern European furniture and clothing were “procured”, but those who wanted them, had them. There were queues for buying cars. Thus, many people had the money to buy them, because in the 1970s, a personal car was not something extraordinary. Those who wanted more could always enlist “for a long ruble” in the Far North or the Far East. Even school children stopped being kept behind a year.

And it was this generation of American jeans that broke up the USSR, to their own cheers.

Do you think it was different in 1917? Let me remind you that the revolution was done by the first emancipated generation after the abolition of serfdom. A generation for which grammar schools, real schools, higher primary schools, and a mass of rural schools were opened. A generation in which peasant children were given the opportunity to go to universities and make a career up to the highest positions.

An example is one biography.

Ilya Nikolaevich Ulyanov (father of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin). He was born in the family of an Astrakhan (deep province) petty bourgeoise (tailor), a former serf. He was orphaned early and raised by his older brother.

All of this did not prevent him from graduating with a silver medal from the Astrakhan gymnasium, and then with honours and with the degree of a candidate of mathematical sciences from the Kazan University of Physics. Then for 32 years he taught and held senior positions (inspector, and then director of public schools) in the education system of the Simbirsk province. He served three times in the hereditary nobility: by rank (full state councillor) in 1877, by the order of St. Vladimir 3rd class in 1882, and by the order of Saint Stanislaus, 1st class in 1886. From 1881, while continuing to serve, he received (in addition to a salary) a full pension salary in the amount of his salary (1,000 rubles per year, which at that time was a lot of money).

The wife of Ilya Nikolaevich, Mariya Aleksandrovna (Lenin’s mother), from a family of doctors-raznochintsys, owned part of the village of Kokushkino. After the death of Ilya Nikolaevich, the family lived on his widow’s pension (which the “damned tsarism” paid her for her husband), as well as on the income from the village.

It seems that this family had no reason to fight the leadership. Ilya Nikolaevich went up in the social elevator organised by this leadership from the very bottom of society to the very top. Since he did not become a scientist (and clearly did not intend to), it seems that his main (if not only) talent was innate industriousness.

Nevertheless, all the children of the hereditary nobleman and real state councillor Ulyanov, became revolutionaries, and their mother supported them in this hobby. If Ilya Nikolaevich brought up his own children in this way, we can only guess how the process of educating other people’s children in the Simbirsk province’s public schools, which for many years were completely under his control, was under his leadership. And after all, this is not some exception – a family that is quite characteristic for its time.

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This is the son of the marginalised foreign shoemaker and unsuccessful seminarian Dzhugashvili – an uncharacteristic figure for the revolutionary movement. And the son of a large landowner (from the Jewish colonists of Novorossiya) Trotsky, the son of a land assessor in the district police Department Krasin, the son of a real state councillor Lenin — more than characteristic. Their parents made their careers thanks to the reforms of the last three tsars, and they decided in gratitude to “completely” break the governance that provided them with a safe, well-fed, carefree childhood.

By the way, and in the United States, a generation of social dependents is now shaking the country. They, too, unlike previous generations, did not know what work was, since most of the actual production left the United States before they were born. Many simply lived on welfare all their lives and did not even try to do anything socially useful. Now they are taking apart the very America that provided them with this opportunity.

So most often the country is broken by the first carefree generation.

This is because the state, accustomed to the fact that the population traditionally understands the price of stability, at some point loses sight of the changed circumstances and is late in organising educational work with the new generation.

Before the reforms of Alexander II, high-quality education, which allowed them to occupy higher positions, was received by the vast majority of people from the upper nobility. Generations of ancestors who served Russia developed a kind of unwritten code of conduct for a civil servant, which did not allow them to be in serious opposition to the throne. Something could not be liked, something criticised, but beside the phenomenon of the Decembrists (who fell too much in love with “French freedom”), a serious elite Fronde was not observed in the empire.

And then, within a few years, people from the bottom of society at that time began to receive education en masse, and with it access to higher positions. At the same time, they did not have a sense of absolute social equality with the Stolbovoy nobility, with whom they suddenly found themselves in an equal official position. Therefore, confusion of minds and revolutionary fermentation immediately began. They did not fit into the traditional class structure of the empire. They broke away from their class, did not join the higher class, and did not feel that they belonged to it. They didn’t want to wait for evolutionary changes. They did not feel any gratitude to the authorities for their own ascension, because they considered themselves much more intelligent and worthy than the authorities.

I call this the “student complex”. Students and young scientists often think that they are talented enough and have already learned enough about all the secrets of the world to turn the planet around and make humanity happy. They see teachers as obscurants, and the authorities as reactionaries. That is why the contagion of the revolution usually breeds in universities (in any society). A person does not get patriotism along with education or even with talent. You can be a genius, but still hate your own state. The USSR was also broken by the most educated and most Soviet of all generations — the generation of junior researchers — the first generation to come to power in the person of Gorbachev, who was born and grew up in the USSR and saw no other reality — flesh of flesh, blood of blood of the Soviet system.

If something is repeated regularly, it means that this phenomenon is systemic. If from century to century in various countries the destabilising force is a generation that, firstly, has received expanded access to education and, secondly, has not faced the difficulties that made life difficult for previous generations, then the situation must repeat itself at a new turn of history.

Meanwhile, in Russia, the generation that has never seen the horror of the 90s is already studying at universities, and the generation that did not reach school age in the 90s has graduated from universities. Yes, for another 20 years, the public consciousness will be formed by previous generations, but then very quickly the power in the country will be in the hands of those who are now propelling Navalny.

I would like to emphasise that they can be beautiful, talented, well-behaved children, excellent students, clever girls, and the joy of parents and teachers. But their souls will be in the hands of our enemies, and we won’t even know it until hour “x” strikes.

Yes, today’s fifth column (not the opposition, but the fifth column) does not work very successfully with the younger generation. It is hindered by two things: the narcissism and dogmatism of the leaders of this very fifth column. But there are also two things that don’t allow us to rest on our laurels.

The first is the eternal problem of fathers and children. Young people always want to improve the world they inherited. At the same time, without having enough life experience, which makes older generations treat changes carefully, to repeatedly measure before cutting off, it (the youth) is radical, ambitious and self-confident. The new generation always believes that it can solve all problems with a single cavalry attack, and it is easy to push it to this attack.. This is a characteristic of human nature. The new generation always tries to prove to the older generation that it is already completely independent and knows better what to do. In short, the new generation is always somewhat opposed to the older one.

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The second: young people unconsciously focus on success stories. The same Navalny, without straining himself, flies for vacation to exotic countries, eats lobsters, and does not lack not only money, but also public attention. And his work only consists of scolding the authorities. So someone always scolds the authorities for something. The only risk is two suspended sentences. Why not follow his path? After all, other roads are not so fast and not so guaranteed to lead to such a pathos of life and public fame.

It would seem that the solution to the problem is simple. It is, by the way, often proposed. Cut off the oxygen to those scientists, artists, as well as those politicians and public figures who do not show a sufficient level of loyalty to the existing system. Provide loyal employees with career growth and other bonuses. After that, the majority should choose the right line of behaviour.

Well, the experiment has already been done. The USSR followed this path, and it no longer exists. Most Soviet people did show loyalty for the sake of their careers. But this made the system more dogmatic, less flexible, and therefore unable to respond to unexpected challenges. As a result, the country crumbled over the five-year period in the course of not the worst crisis, which the reformers themselves (looking for an answer to new challenges) initiated.

Suppressing the initiative, imposing a pre-prescribed loyalty scheme is more expensive for yourself. At best, there is a generation of hypocritical, cynical careerists who declare one thing and dream of another and easily sell the country for the sake of realising their dreams.

So, we can not completely close or even seriously restrict the path of representatives of new generations to the elite, regardless of their views and beliefs. This is a sure path to nowhere. At the same time, we cannot allow a repeat of the events of 1917 and 1991, when the carefree generation bred by the state also carelessly broke its own state in its quest for the best. And we know that our enemies are already making plans for our children, already paving the way for them “to a better future”, at the end of which the existence of Russia is not envisaged.

The method of “organised patriotism” and “lessons of patriotism” in schools with the corresponding lectures in universities also has significant limitations. Not many teachers/lecturers are able to make from this an exciting activity, and not just to serve a programme. In addition, the youth will consider such activities as something external, imposed by the older generation. Thus, for many, patriotism can become an unfit appendage to the hated “lessons of patriotism”. In principle, any good deed is emasculated if it becomes universal and mandatory.

I think that first we need to purge education of unnecessary people. The people’s teacher was once a very respected person, and when we were studying at the university, we were told: “If you do not study well, you will go to work at school”. In other words, people who do not want to or cannot study should not clog up an education system that focuses on the average level of the student (and thus lowers the bar).

In schools, it is necessary to return the “two” [a marking score of 2 out of 5 in the Russian education system, meaning “unsatisfactory” – ed] and repetitions of the school year. If a person has not been able to learn the program for two years, then they should be expelled. Starting from the age of 14 (partial criminal liability and emancipation), the child must decide for themselves whether they want to continue their studies or whether the knowledge they have received is sufficient. At the same time, people should be able to make up for lost time in childhood and get an education at any age (but for money).

Fulfilling this first condition will allow us to purge the ranks of educated people from the huge number who have a diploma but do not have knowledge. The quality of education will improve, and most importantly, those who receive it will already know the price of labour. Their work experience will be gained not in “technology lessons”, which are more likely to profane work than teach it, but on the basis of their own efforts to acquire knowledge. Having received a generation of scientists/workers who consider work in science not as a mechanism for obtaining academic titles, grants and other rewards, but as a satisfaction of their desire to learn new things, we can also clear scientific institutions of ambitious dross who can do nothing but blame the authorities for their own professional impotence.

In principle, in order to reduce the stress (due to the fact that I did not get something or I lost the competition), you can leave everything as it is in education and science. Only this will cost more, because you will have to create separate clusters of elite education for talented children (Castalia), as well as real science within a fictitious science. But such formats create difficulties for control, which means that there is scope for corruption.

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However, returning prestige to education and science as areas of activity “not for everyone” will not solve the problem. The above-stated opposition of young people to the older generation will still remain, and with the competent work of our enemies, it will easily grow into revolutionism. To avoid this, two things are necessary. First, patriotic education should begin not in school, but in the family and in pre-school institutions. Until about 7-8 years old, the child still feels like a cub that requires the care of elders, and learns from them (the elders) to survive. This is also an instinct. The principles and prohibitions learned at this age are usually preserved for life, and they are very difficult to break.

But this is also not enough, because then the child falls into the collective, and the collective mind is different from the individual one. A hundred individual pacifists who are registered as an army unit, armed and trained, become a collective killer whose effectiveness depends on the quality of weapons and training, rather than on the personal views of each person.

For young collectives it is necessary to have a deed. Not one for all, like Timurites or trips “for the fog and for the smell of the taiga”. Things should be different, depending on the region and locality (a rural school and a school in a megalopolis can not attract their students with the same thing). In the Humanities, and mathematicians may have different interests. The main thing is that the work that young people are interested in is not an antithesis, but a continuation of the work of their fathers and grandfathers.

If you want to prove that you are better, you don’t have to break what you created. You improve what you have. You build a new house or redo an old one. If you think the legislation is unfair, then study it and make suggestions for improvement. If you are not satisfied with the technological level of your native country, then start developing technologies in the area that interests you. By developing this approach, we kill two birds with one stone. Firstly, the new generation defines for themselves their professional and scientific preferences earlier, and earlier establishes contacts with peers who have the same interests. In other words, future teams are formed at an earlier stage.

Second, through their own experience, without the boring suggestions of their elders, young people are gradually getting used to the fact that a conservative, evolutionary approach is a surer path to success than a revolutionary cavalry attack that leaves the ruins of the old world behind, and the new one has not even been designed yet.

This approach requires the active development of the inter-school and inter-university education system. An excellent mathematician, historian, biologist, physicist, geographer, or philologist often has no one to compete with, not only in their school, but also for hundreds or even thousands of kilometres around. Getting used to their exclusivity, not getting experience of competing with their peers, they at best stop in their professional growth, and they at worst form a belief of their absolute superiority over all people. In real life, disappointment comes sooner or later. It turns out that the person is not only not the best, but very far from perfect. Many break down and completely leave the profession — we lose our talents. Some overcome difficulties and prove to themselves and others that they are still one of the best (precisely one of them, not the only one). Some feel disadvantaged, do not believe that they could give in to someone, suspect injustice, fraud, become angry at people, society, and the state. The first and third groups are suppliers of personnel for the opposition.

Today’s developed Internet makes it easy to connect interest groups across the country. It will be much better if a young mathematician from Chukotka will discuss mathematical problems on the Internet with the same young mathematicians from Crimea and Kaliningrad than if he will discuss his desire for revolutionary changes on the same Internet with the same mathematicians.

Any professional activity is conservative and teaches an evolutionary approach. If a person becomes a professional in their field, they transfer professional conservatism to all spheres of public life, including politics. The younger a person begins their professional growth, the earlier they will become a conservative-evolutionist.

Of course, there will be exceptions. But we are interested in the position of the generation, not its individual representatives. There are always 5% of revolutionaries in any society. But if the society is stable and conservative, their fate is to get angry in the kitchen and fight among themselves in the marginal revolutionary media, finding out who is to blame for the fact that they are so smart and beautiful, but there is still no revolution.

Otherwise, there will always be someone who will deliver the cookies in time.


Rostislav Ishchenko

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