On March 16, 2018, on the anniversary of Crimea’s referendum, in which citizens voted to reunite with Russia, Artek held its Children’s Referendum. Children voted to send a guidance to the Russian president about what the priorities of federal policy on children and childhood should be for the 2018-2027 period, which has been proclaimed the Decade of Childhood in Russia.
According to exit polls, a majority of children voted to approve the document. “I voted yes. The words about the connection between education and life, and about the development of online education were very relevant to me, personally. I think that teenagers should be active citizens. Our opinion is just as important as the opinion of adults,” said Angelina Sidorenko from St. Petersburg.
In their guidance to the Russian president, which was approved in the referendum, the children explained why it is important for them to make their voices heard on the Decade of Childhood: “We think it is important to express our outlook on the world which adults are building for us.”
Artek’s guidance was based on three main ideas: “We want new education opportunities. We want to discover our great motherland. We want to communicate with children from abroad, in order to promote peace and learn cooperation.”
Artek campers explained that their number one priority is equal opportunities for everyone to receive an education and develop their skills, which includes providing necessary equipment to schools, creative studios and sports centers in small towns. They also talked about the broader connection of education to life: “The goal of education is not grades but the life we want to lead, which is why we want to start learning about jobs and professions and trying out different roles early on.”
Other suggestions include developing online education, and establishing a system of educational tours for students based on the stories of famous Russian scientists, inventors and artists. The campers also advocated the development of children’s diplomacy based on the example of Artek, engaging children from all over the country in dialogue with their foreign peers, to make today’s friendship a foundation for future cooperation.
The guidance ends with the following words, which illustrate the desire of the children to help their families and their country: “Children can do a lot. Support us today and we will serve our country tomorrow.”
Artek director Alexei Kasprzhak said that the draft to be voted on in the referendum is the result of an Artek-wide discussion among children which started during a meeting headed by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets, and ended at the Children’s Council with the participation of Artek groups from other regions. “We decided that it is important to ask children what they need,” Kasprzhak said. “The kids were up to the task: they organized a discussion and came up with lots of proposals. The guidance was debated by the 2,000 children of the second Artek session and will be voted on by the 2,000 children of the third Artek session, which makes it a representative choice of children from all over the country, because children from the second and third sessions came from all the Russian regions.”
He continued: “The Children’s Referendum is being held by Artek to celebrate the anniversary of Crimea’s 2014 referendum. But we also believe that a referendum is a great way of showing children how people in our country can express their will, how everyone’s opinion is taken into account, and how the process is organized. Children see first-hand that the process is transparent, and later when they participate in elections as adults, they will trust the process, because they will understand it.”
Anastasia Ushakova from Chelyabinsk explained that the Children's Referendum is her first voting experience: “I plan to stay civically engaged. I do not agree with those who think that their voice doesn’t count. We should always offer ideas, express our opinions and take action! It is an opportunity to leave a mark on the history of our country, to contribute to its development. I consider it very important that children have an opportunity to travel and discover our big country.”
“Many adults think that only their opinion matters,” said Ilya Dragan from Samara. “They are wrong, because children are also citizens of our country, we have our own opinions, we know what we want, what we need. This guidance outlines the main issues that can affect the future of our whole country. I consider education to be especially important, as it provides a basis, a foundation for your future. I support every line of this document.”
“Today I was a member of an election committee,” explained Anastasia Krivenkova from Sochi. “My group chose me for this role, because today is my birthday. It is a great honor for me. Artek gave us an opportunity to participate in the electoral process, to see what it is really like. This is a great experience that instills a sense of responsibility. I voted for greater access to education in small villages, because great people are not only born in big cities. I also think the proposal to help children travel around the country is great, because it would help us study the history of our country by visiting all these places, instead of just reading about them in textbooks.”
The official results of the Children's Referendum will be announced today at 8 p.m. at Artek Arena during the opening ceremony of the third session titled “Speaking the language of art.” All in all, over 2,000 children from all over Russia and 300 regular Artek school students from Greater Yalta took part in the voting. Polling stations were set up at the Center for Extracurricular Education, Friendship Hall at Camp Morskoy and the Artek School.
In 2016, children voted to give Artek the title of children's capital of Russia, after which the camp became the most popular venue for large-scale nationwide events for children from different Russian regions and abroad.
The executive order proclaiming the Decade of Childhood in the Russian Federation was signed by Vladimir Putin on May 29, 2017. The stated purpose of the Decade is to improve federal child protection policy.
The Executive Order on Proclaiming the Decade of Childhood in the Russian Federation was signed by Vladimir Putin on May 29, 2017. The document states that the aim of the Decade of Childhood is to improve federal child protection policy.