2019 Photo Contest, Long-Term Projects, Stories, 1st Prize

Beckon Us From Home


Sarah Blesener

24 July, 2016

Students undergo firearms training using airguns at Borodino, the battleground where Russia fought Napoleon’s forces in 1812. Some 350 adolescents aged between 11 and 17 attend a Historical War Camp to learn various weapons skills and physical endurance, with the aim of awakening a keen interest in the Russian Fatherland and expanding military-historical knowledge.

4 April 2016 - 17 November 2018

Patriotic education, often with a military subtext, forms the mainspring of many youth programs in both Russia and the United States. In America, the dual messages of ‘America first’ and ‘Americanism’ can be found not only as a driving force behind adult political movements, but around the country in camps and clubs where young people are taught what it means to be an American. In Russia, patriotic clubs and camps are encouraged by government. In 2015, President Vladimir Putin ordered the creation of a Russian students’ movement whose aim was to help form the characters of young people through instruction in ideology, religion and preparedness for war. The ‘Patriotic Education of Russian Citizens in 2016–2020’ program called for an 8 percent increase in patriotism among youth, and a 10 percent increase in recruits to the armed forces. 
The photographer visited ten youth programs in the US, as well as schools and military summer camps in Russia. The aim of the series is to use these young people and their lives as the focal point in an open dialogue around the ideas instilled in future generations, and examine how young people are responding to contemporary society.

About the photographer

Sarah Blesener

Sarah Blesener is a documentary photographer based in New York City. Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, she studied Linguistics and Youth Development at North Central University....

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