Nashi’s actions during the “Bronze Soldier” fiasco has without a doubt increased its political statue in
The article paints an ominous picture of Nashi where its members are “highly disciplined and lavishly sponsored” and “a bona fide private army fanatically loyal to one man, the president.” There are passing comparisons to the Komsomol and the Hitler Youth. To their credit, the article’s authors claim that the latter is an “overstatement” because while Nashi may be “fanatically loyal to Putin” they are really only a “sinister parody of democracy movements in
Newsweek’s characterization of Nashi is for suresteeped in hyperbole. This is to be expected. Most articles about
Still, Nashi bills itself as the counter revolutionary shock force against the specter of colored revolutions. This, according to Sergei Markov, who helped establish Nashi in 2004, is its original purpose. “The crucial role that young people played in those revolutions made us realize that something should be done. The plan was simple,” he explained to Newsweek. “We launched Nashi in towns close to
Creating an ideology is not all. Nashi and other pro-Kremlin youth groups also engage in paramilitary training (this was the case with the Komsomol too).
The paramilitary flavor is unmistakable. Every summer, Nashi runs recruiting camps all across
. New members watch propaganda films and receive basic military-style training, says Nashi boss Vasily Yakemenko. They are lectured by top bureaucrats and politicians, including Deputy Defense Minister Yury Baluyevsky and the thuggish Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov—honored as a “Young Politician of the Year” at last year’s Nashi congress. Activists who sign up a hundred new members qualify for promotion to commissar, so long as they pass a grueling three-day series of paramilitary assault courses and physical tests. “We had to demonstrate physical strength, endurance and team leadership,” recalls Leonid Kurza, 23, the leader of the Russia chapter of Nashi, inducted last winter. Nashi also runs volunteer police troops, who wear black uniforms and, according to the movement’s press service, “help police to patrol streets—and if necessary beat hooligans.” St. Petersburg
Somehow police felt that they didn’t need to protect the public from these rabble rousers . . .