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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 September, 2003, 09:04 GMT 10:04 UK
Russian pupils get anti-terror lessons
By Sarah Rainsford
BBC, Moscow

When Russian children return to school on 1 September after a three-month summer break it is usually a festive affair - but all the talk in Moscow this year was about safety.

pupils at Reutov school
The start of the school year has changed little since Soviet times
A series of suicide bomb attacks in Russia have pushed security concerns to the top of the agenda, and into the classroom.

So much so that schools in Reutov on the outskirts of Moscow have introduced an anti-terrorism diary alongside their new textbooks.

The day in Reutov began in customary style.

A tiny girl with a huge white bow in her hair toured the playground with a bell, ringing in the new school year as loudspeakers blasted the national anthem to all corners of the yard.

We want to prepare children for anything
Reutov deputy mayor Anna Babalova
This day has always been celebrated as Knowledge Day and the accompanying traditions have changed little since Soviet times.

But serious change is afoot in the classroom.

Kidnapping advice

The first class of term was traditionally known as Peace Lesson. This year the topic in most schools was switched to Safety.

Teachers in Reutov School Number 2 began by handing-out a shiny new diary.

Each glossy page is crammed full of useful advice, such as:

  • how to behave if you are kidnapped
  • spotting suspicious behaviour
  • what to do if there is a sudden shoot-out on your doorstep.

It is all there to be absorbed alongside maths, history and science.

Teams of emergency workers plan to visit for practical sessions, later in the term.

Reutov Deputy Mayor Anna Babalova believes a series of bomb attacks in neighbouring Moscow have made this a vital lesson.

Artyom: It's not nice - but it's necessary advice
"It's part of life today," she says. "Of course it's frightening for the children, but it would be much more frightening for them to be in a situation and unable to cope. We want to prepare them for anything."

Preparing for the worst was a central part of Cold War schooling.

Soviet school-children were drilled in everything from donning gas masks to assembling a Kalashnikov.

Now a fresh generation is learning to confront a new enemy.

No panic

The children in Reutov appeared to take the diary advice in their stride.

It's better not to go to big events, because that's where most of the explosions happen and lots of people get hurt.
Nastya, Reutov school pupil
"It's not very nice," admitted 10-year-old Artyom.

"But I think this advice is necessary, because you never know what might happen."

His classmate Nastya was more direct.

"You can easily get shot at, or taken hostage here. Also, it's better not to go to big events, because that's where most of the explosions happen and lots of people get hurt."

Teachers and children say it's highly unlikely anything so horrific will happen in sleepy Reutov.

But the same can no longer be said for Moscow.

Reutov residents were caught up in the Dubrovka Theatre Siege last October; they were also in Tushino when suicide bombers targeted a rock festival there.

So like it or not, the message is beginning to sink in with the younger generation.

Anti-terror classes may not be pleasant, but the children say this is one lesson they don¿t mind learning.

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