Toy Soldiers
Project info

There is nothing inherently wrong with patriotism. However, these two terms, nationalism and patriotism, easily blur, and patriotic rhetoric can lead to nationalistic thinking. This project focuses on patriotic education, clubs, and camps. Youth are always easy targets. They are receptive to patriotic ideologies and the easiest way to spread new ideas and ways of thinking. Combining patriotic education and gun training, mixed with fun and camaraderie activities makes the whole experience like a game.

While I am now continuing this work in the United States, I began the first chapter of this project in April of 2016 in various regions throughout Russia. Over 200,000 youth in Russia are currently enrolled in patriotic clubs, with 10,000 in Moscow alone. Each club functions independently with their own structures and philosophies. In 2015, a proposed program from the Russian government entitled the “Patriotic Education of Russian Citizens in 2016-2020” called for an eight percent increase in patriotic youth within the next ten years, and a ten percent increase in new recruits for the Russian armed forces.

I grew up in the United States, where we accept many things as normal without second-guessing them. We have a strong military influence, religion as a central part of life, and a general acceptance of what it means to be “American.” My deep-rooted interest is how ideologies are formed amongst youth at a young age.

I find the rise of global nationalism to be disturbing, and it is what fuels much of my research and photography. While our world is more globally linked than ever, we also have more makeshift borders than anytime in modern history. I see the contradiction between the freedom of youth and the indoctrination of war, between the love of one’s country and blind patriotism. This project is a search for an answer: why are we in love with the whimsy of war?