- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 18, 2006

MOSCOW — Fragile teenage girls in festive military uniforms clutch red carnations and stand shoulder to shoulder proudly looking at their parents after being handed student certificates. Older classmates goose-step to receive awards from instructors.

In an initiation ceremony held at the War History Museum, a new boarding school for girls welcomes several dozen new students — timid-looking youngsters with braids and ponytails tied with white bows who will be trained to become soldiers, doctors and psychologists.

Opened a year ago, Boarding School No. 9 in southeastern Moscow combines military training with regular courses such as mathematics and history. The school includes grades 5 through 11.

“We are training students who are ready to serve their motherland both in the military and the civil field,” says the school’s principal, Viktoriya Selenskaya.

After graduating, students will be able to choose to attend military or regular universities, Mrs. Selenskaya said.

Financed entirely from the state budget, the school charges its 137 students a modest fee of 150 rubles a month, or about $5.30.

Many of the students come from families of soldiers and police officers who died or were injured in conflicts. “We are trying to support these families,” Mrs. Selenskaya says.

Students live in dormitories on the school campus, attending classes Monday through Saturday and spending Sundays with their parents.

At school, girls compete in fencing matches, learn to dance at choreography classes and get lessons in first aid. They are also taught to assemble Kalashnikov assault rifles and march.

Masha Prokopenko, 11, began her studies in the fifth grade this year. Her father, Vitaly, 34, a Moscow entrepreneur, says his daughter has always been independent and wanted to study away from home.

Mr. Prokopenko says Masha is enjoying her studies and is so busy that she doesn’t have time to miss her parents. He is not sure whether Masha will opt for a military career or get a civilian job.

“The most important thing is for her to be happy,” he says.

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