Russia is a massive country that spans nine time zones, and yet the Olympics have the whole country focused on the town of Sochi, uniting Russia and bringing it to a patriotic fever pitch. After implementing many pre-Olympic laws that caused its citizens’ patriotism to flounder, such as those against multiple human rights, President Vladimir Putin and the Russian regime have come to realize the need to unite the country once again—starting with the younger generations.
Fortunately for Russia, Putin has come up with an ingenious solution to raise the level of patriotism in his country. Russia’s Ministry of Defense has minimized training hours for the Russian military. And, although the Russian constitution does not actually grant him this power, for the duration of the Olympic Games, Putin has cut the school day short, ordered teachers to cut back on homework and demanded that everyone turn on the television and watch mighty Team Russia compete against its foreign competitors.
Russian youth and teachers are happily acquiescing to the government’s forceful bribe, ditching their educational responsibilities on command and turning their focus to the noble international athletic competitions that feature curling, luging, ice dancing and Putin’s personal favorite, the sport in which he invested billions of dollars: ice hockey.
According to the Associated Press, school is already out for the winter in Sochi, as students and teachers have been given three weeks of vacation for the duration of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. In response to Parliament’s special Olympic initiative, the chamber’s spokesperson Sergei Naryshkin said, “In my view, that would be the right decision.”
In a speech last year, Putin addressed the lack of patriotism in his country, stating, “Russian society today is experiencing an obvious deficit of spiritual staples. We must not only develop confidently, but also preserve our national and spiritual identity. We must not lose ourselves as a nation.”
Now that it is hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics, Russia has started to view them as a godsend and has been pouring money into them, hosting the most expensive, and soon to be the most watched, games in history.
According to the International Olympic Committee, the average audience for Sochi is eight percent higher than it was for the 2010 Winter Olympics that took place in Vancouver, Canada. This is a difference of 25.1 million viewers.
It is no doubt that Putin has taken advantage of the opportunity to unite his country by hosting the most glamorized sporting event in the world. This is not the first time Russia has used the Olympics to send a larger political message. This was the case when the Soviets joined the Olympic Games in 1952, determined to demonstrate Soviet superiority in an international arena.
However, this focus on victory has also put immense pressure on Russian athletes, because so much is dependent on their pending successes. A few weeks ago, Putin placed a $50 billion wager on the Russian ice hockey team.
Russian NHL star Alex Ovechkin said, “It means a gold is going to cost $50 billion. I think the team that hosts the Olympics has the most pressure.”
Members of the Russian ice hockey team are not the only ones to have recognized the weight that has been placed on them. U.S. ice hockey captain Zach Parise said, “It can be a hard thing with that expectation level. Being on home ice, it definitely has some advantages, no question. But, at the same time, there’s a little added pressure that the home team is going to have to deal with.”
Despite halting education, limiting military training hours and placing immense loads of pressure on Olympic athletes, Putin seems to be on his way to achieving the real gold he desires for his country: unity. The following quote fromprominent Russian banker Igor Kulchik is proof of this.
“Most of my fellow citizens, including me and many of my friends, are willingly succumbing to a patriotic surge,” Kulchik said. “And for the first time in many years we are saying without sarcasm or venom, but with pride, ‘We are Russia, this is our country.’”
Perhaps those more hesitant to submit to the surge will be convinced with a few more gold medals and a few more missed classes. The 2014 Winter Olympics will indelibly be a huge factor in increasing nationalism and patriotism in Russia, however Putin chooses to go about it.
Felicia Czochanski, FCRH ’17, is an undeclared major from Metuchen, N.J.