We first discovered this work after it was submitted to the Visual Storytelling Awards 2014. Although it was not chosen as a finalist by the jury, the editors of LensCulture were impressed and decided to publish this feature article about it. Enjoy!

For the sixth year in a row, patriotic military summer camps for children are being organized along the bank of the river Volga, Russia, by the Kimry Cossack association. Patriotic military camps are becoming excessively popular in Russia, owing both to governmental support and a rise of military sentiments among the population. According to the statements from the camp management, the program aims to provide adolescents with preparatory training for military service in the Armed Forces of Russian Federation, as well as promote healthy lifestyle choices and instill traditional values among the youngsters.

The children are trained in the spirit of the camp curators’ beliefs—namely in the positive power of a strong centralized state government, a mythological approach to Russian history, and the uncritical glorification of Russian warfare throughout history. A spirit of nationalism, militarism, and intolerance to opinions different from their own can be felt among the camp curators and these traits are passed on to the campers.

Although the grown-ups have their own agenda, the children live in a world of their own and remain quite detached from the overarching adult agenda. Instead, secret visits to the nearby girls’ camp, soccer games, and swimming in the river take precedence. They don’t care about the present-day Russian politics. They do their best to enjoy their summer close to nature, and the opportunity to participate in a variety of interesting activities.

—Anton Vinogradov