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News 09 May 17

Serbian Teens Taught ‘Military Patriotism’ at Russian Camp

Children of Serbian war veterans were given lessons in patriotism as well as basic weapons training at a ‘military-patriotic camp’ for young people in Russia.

Maja Zivanovic
BIRN
Belgrade

Children from Serbia at the military-patriotic camp in Russia. Photo: Facebook/Association of Participants of the Armed Conflict in the former Yugoslavia.

Eleven children of Serbian war veterans, aged 14 to 18, have attended a course at a Russian ‘military-patriotic’ camp in the Moscow area, where they learned how to use weapons, the head of the Serbian war veterans’ association, Zeljko Vukelic, told BIRN.

“The camp's purpose is to raise the awareness of children about the homeland, by teaching them history and giving importance to patriotism, but [they] also [have] pre-military training, so children will have that knowledge at the age when they are ready to serve in the army,” said Vukelic, who runs the Association of Participants in the Armed Conflict in the Former Yugoslavia.

The camp was held near the town of Elektrogorsk, some 160 kilometres from Moscow from April 27 until May 3 to mark the 75th anniversary of the battle of Stalingrad during World War II. 

Vukelic said the teenagers from Serbia got a warm welcome, but were surprised because the Russian children wore uniforms and had weapons.

“Russian children came in the morning to show us how to assemble and disassemble Kalashnikovs,” he said.

However he pointed out that the weapons for training didn’t have live ammunition, but were “electronic and customised for children”. 

Serbian children won first place in sniper shooting. 

He said the camp was set up “for children’s patriotic organisations, of which Russia has many”.

“There are no similar organisations in Serbia, and we received a call from friends [to attend] and were happy to accept,” he added.

Asked why he thinks children should go to such camps in Russia, Vukelic stressed traditions and culture.

“Particularly [to meet people from] the brotherly Russian nation, so [Serbian children] can see the warmth and hospitality, but also to learn what unfortunately we don’t have in Serbia, pre-military knowledge. God willing, they won’t need it,” he responded.

The children were given basic military training. Photo: Facebook/Association of Participants of the Armed Conflict in the former Yugoslavia.

Russia and Serbia historically have warm relations based on Slavic ethnic ties and common allegiance to Orthodox Christianity.

Most Serbs perceive Moscow as one of their biggest allies, especially in the battle to prevent international recognition of the independence of the former province of Kosovo.

Vukelic said that the Association of Participants in the Armed Conflict in the Former Yugoslavia is planning to organise a similar camp in Serbia this year, but with only sports competitions, and with the financial help of the mayor of the small central Serbian town of Cajetina, Milan Stamatovic. 

“He promised us accommodation, food, and sports facilities,” he explained. 

The politician, who is known for his pro-Russian stance, also helped out with financing the Russian trip, Vukelic added.

Stamatovic was a candidate in the April 2 presidential elections, but only won around one per cent of the votes, although he received 60 per cent of the votes in Cajetina, where he is mayor. 

In March, he called on Russian President Vladimir Putin not to meet Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, who was the presidential candidate of the ruling coalition, during the campaign, so Vucic could not say he has the support of Russia.

Serbia abolished compulsory military service in 2010, so training is only offered to those who want to join the Serbian Army. 

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