Close to a thousand years ago, when sultans of the Ottoman Empire were looking for obedient soldiers to execute their wars, they started enslaving young Christian boys from conquered lands into their military. Some of these boys lost their fathers to Ottoman swords and their mothers to Ottoman slave markets, while some were taken from their living parents. The boys were kept and trained in war arts at army barracks under 24-hour supervision by eunuchs who subjected them to brutal discipline. They were called the Janissary Corps. In contrast to other slaves, they were paid salaries and pensions, and were allowed to marry. With time, they became a highly-trained and loyal to the sultan group of slave soldiers. These slaves loyally fought wars of conquest for the Ottoman Empire, wars where they ofthen killed, enslaved, and oppressed people of their own nations.
Although the Ottoman Empire and its Janissaries are long gone, the concept of using indoctrination and money to turn people of occupied territories into obedient emperial soldiers fighting against their own nations is far from dead in Putin’s Russia.
Kremlin-controlled Russian TV networks have been broadcasting their poisonous propaganda of invented Russian superiority and anti-Westernism into Ukraine for years. Their TV pictures show the “Potemkin villages” of Moscow and St. Petersburg that became affluent off exploiting the wealth of Siberian oil and gas. What is not in their TV pictures is the rest of Russia, Russia that is suffering from Moscow’s total neglect and corruption. The Russia of crime, alcohol and drug-ridden cities, crumbling buildings, muddy roads, trashed streets, cancelled trains, non-existent medical care, closing factories, unemployed, impoverished and striking people living in inhumane conditions. That Russia is never on TV.
Moreover, Kremlin pays well to fight and spill blood of the people being conquered. Mercenaries from Russia are paid over US$ 2,000 a month, which is a lot of money for Russia. Moscow offers people living in the occupied territories much less, just enough for them and their families to survive, but some of them see service in “LNR” and “DNR” troops as their only option for survival. The Russian occupation destroyed the local economy. Putin’s locusts stripped large enterprises that used to employ tens of thousands of people of their industrial assets.
So, in addition to criminals, hunger and poverty made some regular Ukrainians take Kalashnikovs from the trucks of Russia’s so-called “humanitarian convoys,” but the Kremlin has never trusted their loyalty and for a reason. To ensure the Ukrainians really fight against their compatriots, they sent Chechen troops, which is another kind of Putin’s “Janissaries,” also traitors to their own nation.
Now it seems it is Ukrainian preschoolers’ turn to get indoctrinated. Neither the Donbas “militia,” nor the Chechens are enough. Vladimir Putin needs more and younger “Janissaries.”
The above photograph was made at a children’s day care in the occupied Donbas where adults dressed kids into military-looking camouflage “uniforms” complete with Russian nationalist St. George’s ribbons and “military awards.” Then adult instructors guided the preschoolers through “military exercises” at a jungle gym.
Just look at the kids’ faces. They are kind and trusting, although not particularly excited about the games the adults make them play. If not freed, with time, these nice kids will be Putin’s next wave of imperial “Janissaries” going to fight against their own people…
More about the Russia-occupied territories of Donbas: