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“Hegemony of Victory”: Schools All Over Russia Forced to Take Part in Political Action

Declaration on inadmissibility of abusing administrative resources in the process of organizing political party events and of forcing minors to participate in them

On May 7, 2019, “Dictation of Victory” event organized by United Russia political party is taking place all over Russia. The action’s events will be held across the whole country, primarily in the state-financed institutions. For example, in the town of Gorno-Altaisk (population of about 60,000), four venues were allocated for the action: Gorno-Altaisk State University (two venues), Republican Gymnasium named after V.K.Plakas and Lyceum №6. In Naryan-Mar with a population of 30,000, three venues were allocated, of which two are located in schools and one in the public reception office of United Russia chairman Dmitry Medvedev. In Novosibirsk, Russia’s largest municipality, the events will be held at 20 educational and cultural institutions financed by the state. To get a sense of the action’s scale, one can study its official website. That being said, the website’s Confidentiality Policy directly states that it “defines the position and intentions of the All-Russian political party United Russia.” The party is also specified as the personal data processor, and its charter is listed among the documents that govern the actions of the website’s administration. 

As per item 1 article 32 of the Federal Law “On Political Parties,” government bodies and local self-governance authorities have to provide equal support to all the political parties by extending to them premises held in the federal and municipal ownership, providing equal conditions of access to the federal and municipal media, and guaranteeing level playing field for elections, referenda, public and political actions. Moreover, government support of political parties envisions their government financing in accordance with the law and guarantees parliamentary parties equality in the media coverage of their activities. 

The legislation envisions no other forms of government support, including direct participation of officials in organization of party activities and distribution of information about them. 

Moreover, subitems 12-13 of item 1 article 17 of the Federal Law “On the Government Civil Service in the Russian Federation” directly prohibit the government employees from using powers of office in the interests of political parties, and from publicly expressing their feelings for the said associations and organizations as a civil servant unless such actions are a part of their official duties. A similar interdiction can be found in article 14 of the Federal Law “On Municipal Service in the Russian Federation.” These violations result in dismissal of the official. 

In a number of country’s regions, the government bodies and local self-government authorities took active part in the organization of this party-specific political action. 

Thus, the presentation posted on the website of the Ministry of Education of Novosibirsk Region, specifies that the Federal Education and Science Supervision Agency and the Federal State Budgetary Institution Federal Testing Center are directly involved in the preparation and staging of the “Dictation of Victory” action. 

In the Kaluga Region, in a letter №07-061/1463-19 dated 25 April 2019 and sent to the heads of municipal educational administrations, the regional minister of education Alexander Anikeev dispatched the instructions on how to organize the action and directed officials to post information about it on the websites of their institutions. 

The Department of General Education of the Tomsk Region asked the institutions within its jurisdiction to post information about the action on the websites of the educational institutions. The Ministry of Education, Science and Youth Policy of the Krasnodar Region was engaged in organization by holding a telemeeting regarding this action with the institutions within its jurisdiction. 

On April 15, 2019, the Committee for General and Professional Education of the Leningrad Region published order №891-r on holding “Dictation of Victory” in the Leningrad Region, not only confirming the list of venues, but also appointing the persons responsible for this political party action among the officials: the chief specialist of the Department for Development of the General Education Tatyana Zaselskaya, director of the state budgetary institution of the Leningrad Region Information Center for Evaluation of Quality of Education Irina Groznaya, and heads of the local self-governance bodies responsible for education. Moreover, specific instructions on organization of the action were given to the Committee’s subdivisions and institutions within its jurisdiction. In particular, the Committee’s Department of General and Extended Education was ordered to coordinate the event, to hold a series of webinars on organizational and technological issues for the heads of the venues, and to report on results after the action is over. 

Similar letters with information about the action and various instructions were sent by Department of education of the Nizhnevartovsk administration, department of education of the Pushkin district of St. Petersburg, and municipal autonomous institution Information Expertise Center in the city of Surgut (Khanty-Mansy Autonomous Region).

The worst part is that in a number of territories, the use of administrative resource led to coercion of minors, forcing them to participate in political party’s action. Thus item 6 of the order № 218 dated April 22, 2019, issued by the Committee for Education of the Luzhsky municipal district of the Leningrad Region mandates the heads of general education institutions “to delegate the 10th-11th grade students to take part in the Dictation on May 7, 2019, at 1pm, as per the set quota: the venue at Secondary General School №3 – students from school №3 and school №6 – 20 participants each, and Zaklinskaya school – 5 participants; the venue at Secondary General School №5 – 15 students from schools №№2, 4, 5 each.” 

Meanwhile, item 6 article 34 of the law “On Education” directly prohibits coercion of students towards enlistment in public associations, including political parties, as well as the compulsory engagements of the said minors in the activities of these associations and participation in recruiting drives and political actions

The same order of the Committee for Education of the Luzhsky municipal district mandates the heads of the educational institutions to appoint teachers responsible for the action’s preparation. According to article 60 of the Labor Code of the Russian Federation, it is prohibited to demand that an employee performs unstipulated work. Violation of this norm, as per article 5.27 of the Administrative Code, results in the imposition of fine on the organization and the official. 

The Golos Movement respects the desire to preserve historical memory of the Great Patriotic War but believes it’s unlawful to use it for political party propaganda among minors. Especially when such propaganda forces the children to take part in political party actions and engages the government and municipal employees in activities that are subject to lawfully stipulated interdictions. 

The Golos Movement would like to address:

  • the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation with a request to review whether the government bodies and local self-governance authorities as well as the federal and municipal officials complied with the federal laws in the process of organizing and conducting political action “Dictation of Victory” of the United Russia party, including compliance with interdictions related to the federal and municipal service and the norms of the law “On Education”;
  • the Federal Education and Science Supervision Agency as well as the bodies for oversight and supervision in the sphere of education of the Russian Federation subjects and local self-governance bodies with a request to check the officials of the said bodies regarding their engagement in unlawful activities in the form of creating a dominant position for a specific political party;
  • the Central Election Commission with a request to check the legality of the government support provided to the United Russia party in the course of preparing the political action “Dictation of Victory” in the form of engaging the government bodies and local self-governance authorities as well as specific officials in organization of this action;
  • the Audit Chamber of the Russian Federation with a request to check for justification and lawfulness of federal budget expenditures on organization of United Russia’s political action “Dictation of Victory”;
  • the Prosecutor’s Office of the Leningrad Region with a request to check for legality of the Order № 218 dated April 22, 2019 and issued by the Committee for Education of the Luzhsky municipal district of the Leningrad Region that forced the high school students to take part in the event of United Russia party, and to take the necessary measures;
  • to the leadership of United Russia political party with a suggestion to abstain from abusing administrative resource and to sort through the situation that led to coercion of minors towards participation in political party action.