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In words and pictures, Georgian students express their feelings about Russia and the 2008 war. A TOL/Liberali multimedia production.by Eka Chitanava and Temo Bardzimashvili 9 March 2010
On 8 and 9 February, Georgia’s Ministry of Education and Science held a nationwide contest for students of all ages. The competition, “Russian Aggression Through My Eyes,” invited students up to the seventh-grade level to paint pictures about the August 2008 Russia-Georgia war; older students were called upon to write essays.
The ministry said the contest was aimed at encouraging students to both show their talents and share their feelings about the “Russian aggression.” At School No. 54 in Tbilisi, which Liberali magazine visited to see the pictures and hear the essays, most of the teachers said they believed the activity would help students analyze the events of August 2008, draw their own conclusions, and express their own attitudes.
But the contest was not universally popular. Some sociologists and political scientists described it as more propaganda exercise than educational exercise. Critics said the competition’s title alone would dictate how contenders interpreted the assignment and promote hatred, not just of Russia’s actions and political leadership, but of Russians themselves.
Students at School No. 54 said the assignment did make them think closely about the events of 18 months before. They said they do not harbor hatred of Russians – but some acknowledged that it is hard for them not to think of Russians, even those living in Georgia, as their enemies.