I’m sitting here reading over an anonymous survey conducted by the Komsomol Central Committee of delegates to the 8th Congress in 1928. The survey covers drinking, sex, and mood of mostly regional secretaries. I found the following hilarious and had to share:
“I first had sex at age 17 with a scabby (parshiven’skaia) prostitute,” writes an ukom secretary, a worker. “Then my cock didn’t make any demands because of a strong enthusiasm for work during the reconstruction period. Then after that, there was a lot of free time and it gorged (ob”elsia) itself well—I screwed seven women.”
I love my job.
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By Sean — 11 years ago
Nashi has officially hit the American mainstream. On Sunday the NY Times published an expose of the youth organization. Unfortunately, the article doesn’t say anything that hasn’t already been said before. In fact it is clear that the media has nothing new to add to what Nashi is except for repeating the fact that it is a Kremlin tool. I would figure that this is quite obvious. I’m more interested in how the organization actually functions on the ground. That said, I think the best statement was from Yabloko youth leader, Ilya Yashin. He told the Times,
“The authorities may face serious problems because all the young people whom they teach today, in whom they invest, whom they teach to organize mass actions, may find themselves in the real opposition when they see that their interests are violated. Today they are loyal, but tomorrow they may become the opposition. And this may not be the young Red Guard’s Cultural Revolution, like in China, but something much more serious.”
I think he is right on. Such is the dilemma of arousing and then having the audacity to think you can actually control populism.
But what really struck me is how the article opened. It reads:
Yulia Kuliyeva, only 19 and already a commissar, sat at a desk and quizzed each young person who sat opposite her, testing for ideological fitness to participate in summer camp.
“Tell me, what achievements of Putin’s policy can you name?” she asked, referring to Russia’s president since 2000, Vladimir V. Putin.
“Well, it’s the stabilization in the economy,” the girl answered. “Pensions were raised.”
“And what’s in Chechnya?” Ms. Kuliyeva asked, probing her knowledge of a separatist conflict that has killed tens of thousands and, although largely won by Russia’s federal forces and Chechen loyalists, continues.
“In Chechnya, it’s that it is considered a part of Russia,” the girl responded.
“Is this war still going on there?”
“No, everything is quiet.”
Ms. Kuliyeva is a leader in the Ideological Department of Nashi, the largest of a handful of youth movements created by Mr. Putin’s Kremlin to fight for the hearts and minds of Russia’s young people in schools, on the airwaves and, if necessary, on the streets.
I sure wish the Times would have questioned this obvious charade. I doubt your average Nashi member has such ideological prowess. In fact, Kuliyeva’s question and answer session reminded me of a document I found in the Komsomol archive. Such ideological questioning was common in Komsomol admissions and expulsion trials. Mine comes from an expulsion trial. I believe it is probably more indicative of not only your average Komsomol member at the time but also even symbolic of your average Nashi member’s ideological awareness.
The document dates from 1926. On trial was one Klishin, born in 1904, an unemployed peasant, and joined the Komsomol in 1923. Klishin was also charged with neglecting his studies, playing ill to get out of them, and for “rowdiness and drunkenness.” Here is what the Moscow Raikom expulsion commission asked Klishin to determine his guilt:
Were you drunk in the washroom?
What kind of work did you do in the Komsomol since 1923?
I was a member of the cell bureau.
What did you do as a bureau member and what was your responsibilities?
They didn’t give me any responsibilities.
What else did you do?
I did literary work, gave reports on Komsomol activism.
How do you express your Komsomol activism?
I encourage worker youth to join the League.
When was the 14th Party Congress?
I don’t know.
Which Party Congress was in 1925?
What is KIM (Communist Youth International)?
Dictatorship of Komsomol.
What newspapers do you read?
I read but I haven’t for a month.
Who is Stalin?
I don’t know.
The last one was the ringer. To say the least, Klishin was expelled from the Komsomol. I wonder is Nashi has its own expulsion process to deal with their riffraff.Post Views: 132
By Sean — 12 years ago
Youth political activism in Russia is a tale of two youths. One stands in front of a line of police in riot gear in St. Petersburg, a black or red handkerchief over his nose and mouth to disguise his face. He is probably a member of Red Youth Vanguard (AKM), the National Bolshevik Party, an anarchist, or an environmentalist. He will most likely get beaten and then arrested. He will spend up to 10 days in jail or until the Russian authorities decide to release him.
In many ways he is lucky to get this far. Many activists protesting at the G8 Summit this past weekend, like St. Petersburg Natsbol leader Andrei Dmitriev and AKM leader Sergei Udal’?tsov were victims of preemptive arrests. According to Kommersant, Udal??tsov was scooped up with several other AKMtsy and taken to Moscow, where they were then released. On June 13, Dmitriev was arrested and taken by bus to Tver Oblast, where he was kept incommunicado for more than a day. His relatives made a complaint to the Petersburg prosecutor arguing that his disappearance was “comparable to abductions in Chechnya.”? Official charges against Dmitriev were never filed. He says that UPOB officers (the Department for the Struggle Against Organized Crime) told him that the leadership wanted him held until the end of the Summit. As of today the Russian State still holds 200 activists in prison without charges or for minor offenses of “disrupting the public order.”? Such is the nature of youth political dissent in Russia.
The other Russian youth is currently at Lake Seliger in Tver Oblast at the second annual Nashi summer camp. Last year this time, 3,000 Nashi commissars met for festivities and training. This year the camp holds 5,000 Nashi members from over 50 cities. If last year’?s camp more resembled the Soviet Pioneers, with Soviet songs drifting through the camp grounds and youths meeting with important officials from Putin’?s government, this year’?s Camp Seliger has taken more pages from the Soviet Komsomol rather than its younger charges. The youth at this Nashi Camp was treated to lectures in “Putin’?s Domestic Policies”? and the “?Ideology of Vladimir Putin”?. Putin has enjoyed a personality cult among the Nashisty from its inception. Adulations to Putin aside, the main focus of this years camp was much more nationalistic and militaristic. The main theme of the camp revolved around its new program called “?Our Army,”? which was adopted at Nashi’s Congress in April. Like the Komsomol before it, “Our Army”? specifically looks to encourage youths to join the army. They even get a taste of army life at the summer camp. “We must explain to the entire generation that the question of whether to serve in the army or not does not have a right to exist,” says then Nashi leader Vasilii Yakemenko.
Providing paramilitary training to Nashi members immediately raises the systemic problem of dedovshchina. I won’t belabor this issue again since I’?ve written about it several times before. It also can’t help Nashi’?s cause when two more brutal cases of dedovshchina came to light this week. The Kremlin has done nothing but give lip service to the problem, and it seems that, according to the St. Petersburg Times, the trial of Private Sychyov assailants has hit a roadblock because on the prosecutions “star witnesses,” one Artyom Nikitin, has recanted his testimony. Sychyov was severly beaten six months ago to the point where his legs had to be amputated because they developed gangrene.
Still, the fear of dedovshchina among Nashisty is probably fairly low. You can’?t sway the converted. For them, the culture of hazing in the Russian military is the result of a few bad apples and not a systemic culture that has been born, bred and tolerated, if not encouraged, but the authorities. Good, well trained and dedicated Nashisty, like their Komsomol forefathers, will simply solve the problem by their sheer presence in the armed forces. After all, members of “Our Army”? being trained at Segiler are addressing the question of hazing so that “it will not occur.”? After all, like in Soviet times, if the Party says “????!,” the Komsomol replies, “????!”
So there you have it, two youths. One anti-Putin to the core. The other ready and willing to act as his shield and dagger. There is a middle ground between them that is occupied by more moderate, and liberal forces. And like always, a mass of politically neutral, if not apathetic, Russian youth surrounding them all. We should not forget that even to Nashi’s right there are the skinheads and other anti-immigrant and racist youth groups like the Eurasian Youth League. These only help Nashi appear like they occupy the center and gave their antifascist slogans sincerity. In reality, they have more in common with these political undesirables than with the radical left.
While Nashi may conjure illusions to the Komsomol, the far left is not antithetical to the League’s history. Not all Komsomol members kowtowed to the Party. In fact, post-revolutionary militancy found a home in the organization. During the doldrums of the New Economic Policy in the 1920s, many Komsomols felt that the Revolution entered a Thermidor, as they were told to “learn”? communism rather than fight for it; and to tolerate class enemies rather than liquidate them and throw their remains into the dustbin of History. The Bolshevik Party appeared moribund and conservative, and after Lenin died in 1924, many Komsomol youth felt it was them and not the Party that carried the true banner of Leninism. These were the youths often took to Trotsky’?s message of anti-bureaucratism and the destruction of NEP. That is, until he was exiled and they were expelled in a wave of Komsomol purges in late 1920s. Ironically, these “bratishki” as they were called because of their adherence to Civil War methods, found solace when Stalin called on them to “?liquidate the kulak as a class”? and root out class enemies in his Revolution from Above. One gets the impression that if the tables were turned, and the Natsbols or the AKM were in the same position of power as Nashi, the Civil War myth of the bratishka would find a new audience.
Some may point to the fact that the present youth movement in Russia is marginal. Even Nashi has small numbers in relation to population. Enthusiasm, belief and will backed with power, however, can overcome most numerical deficiencies. The Komsomol was only 2 million in 1928 and it moved social, political, economic, and cultural mountains. Putin’?s camp as well as Limonov’s seems to understand this.
Even if groups like Nashi and the Natsbols are hatched from the same historical ilk, they are as reconcilable as Cain and Abel. The Komsomol had to squash its opposition on both the left and the right, and I would imagine that Nashi will try to do the same. There is already some indication that they are already making an attempt, if last August’s attack on a meeting of radical left youths near Avtozavodskaya is any indication. One would also suspect that the far right will be gradually assimilated. Skins and Eurasian Youths are not a contradiction to Nashi’?s ultimate goals; only their rhetoric is misguided.
As of now our two archetypical political youth are more standing face to face rather than fist to face. But opposing mass movements can??t withstand detente for long. Leftwing youth promise to push forward during the 2008 Presidential election. Nashi plans to push back and prevent any disruption of a smooth transition to Putin’s handpicked successor. As for the Russian security forces, they got to test out a variety of repressive methods this past weekend. In two years we just might see Nashisty next to them, cuffing and dragging away a Natsbol for a stint in the black hole of incommunicado.
Photos: Kommersant and Reuters.Post Views: 152
By Sean — 10 years ago
I’m currently writing a chapter about expulsions in the Komsomol. The section I’m writing at the moment concerns denunciations. I thought I would share the following denunciation letter from 37 Komsomols from a cell in Chernishevsky school in Nizhny Novgorod in 1926.
To the Komsomol Bureau.
From the Nizhny Novhorod cell from the Chernishevsky School
We ask the Bureau VLKSM to take immediate measures to liquidate hooliganism which is observed in this cell. At night this cell holds drunken parties (this happened in March) of both sexes, after which the guys badger girls with propositions about a ‘sexual encounter.’ The majority of girls agree, but those who don’t are sent packing from the cell. [Members] from the city raikom come to these evenings and assemble an equal number of boys and girls. Many girls are pregnant and as a result live poorly. This group [that is those who wrote this appeal] of Komsomols left this organization and send you an appeal for the rapid cessation of this hooliganism, to shut down the cell and place its main offenders on trial. We state this summarily so that it will reach you.
For this reason we ask that a commission be rapidly sent to investigate this incident.
This appeal was written by a group of 37 Komsomol members.
May 27, 1926Post Views: 123