Russia's new education minister: In Putin's Russia, the neo-Stalinist tipping point - Daily Beast

10:04 Sep. 1, 2016

In Putin's Russia, the neo-Stalinist tipping point - Daily Beast

Russia's Science and Education Minister Olga Vasilyeva seen ahead of an all-Russian parent-teacher conference (Getty Images)

Putin's appointment of a Stalin-apologist ideologue as education minister is, for many intellectuals, the last straw  

For the first time in his adult life, Russian author and journalist Arkady Babchenko is planning to escape from his Moscow life, to take his family away from his home country to Europe.

Babchenko has been one of the sharpest, most irrepressible critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin's politics. In 2012, prosecutors opened a criminal investigation over one of his articles, but Babchenko was not one to be intimidated. He is a journalist veteran of two Chechen wars. So it is not a threat to his own life that is pushing him out of his country today. Babchenko is terrified about the future of his 9-year-old daughter, his only child, if she stays in Russia.

"In two to three years, Russia is going to be like Iraq under Saddam Hussein," Babchenko told The Daily Beast. "It will be full of miserable people, of children receiving poor education, facing street violence, and police at checkpoints—not a good place for my daughter," the writer said.

A few months ago Babchenko was upset to see his daughter, a 3rd grader at a Moscow school, marching in a semi-military uniform and singing patriotic songs at a school event.

"We see examples of obscurantism all over the place: Communists running around with Stalin flags, Orthodox priests attending state events; but I still did not expect the appointment of an Orthodox fanatic and a Stalinist as the minister of education and science."

During a recent visit to Crimea, President Putin named Olga Vasilyeva to the post. She seemed to be a deeply religious bureaucrat who devoted her academic research to the patriotic role of the Russian Orthodox Church in Soviet times.

Vasilyeva is also known for defending the record of Joseph Stalin, the Soviet dictator notorious for executing political dissidents, including hundreds of thousands of Orthodox believers.

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