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Vladimir Putin is putting increasing emphasis on patriotism

Just over a year since his re-election as president, Vladimir Putin is putting increasing emphasis on patriotism as a national idea capable of consolidating Russian society and inspiring future generations.

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Putin has acted as patron for all three groups, granting them federal subsidies and expressing an interest in their work in a drive to raise their status. Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin have been tapped to head the organizations, which promote research into Russia's natural wonders and historical milestones.

Shaping Russians' views on history has been of particular concern to the president, who expressed support earlier this year for the idea of introducing a single government-approved history textbook to make schoolchildren "respect all pages of our country's past." Last month, a working group was formed so that the book could be written within two years.

The president has also overseen the creation of the Directorate for Social Projects, a body tasked with strengthening "government policies in the field of patriotic upbringing," and backed a bill submitted to the State Duma on March 9 that would increase funding for NGOs engaged in "patriotic education."

Stanislav Belkovsky, formerly a Kremlin insider and now a prominent government critic, dismissed Putin's talk of patriotism as little more than a rhetorical trick and said the president's main focus was containing opposition to his rule.

"Patriotism is absolutely natural for most Russian people, even though the white-ribbon opposition believes Samuel Johnson's famous saying that 'patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel,'"

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