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By Sean — 12 years ago
If this week’s news is any indication, it appears that Nashi’s efforts to solve dedovshchina by flooding the Russian military with its activists will prove difficult. First, all the prosecution’s five witnesses in the Sychyov Case have recanted their testimony or pulled out completely. For those who aren’t familiar, last New Year’s Private Andrei Sychyov was so severely beaten by senior recruits that his legs and genitals had to be amputated to save his life from gangrene infection. The case has engendered a firestorm of condemnation by the Russian public. President Putin called the incident “tragic” and promised to form a military police force to combat dedovshchina, which according to estimates have claimed 16 lives last year.
Putin’s words now appear empty. According to the Times London and the Moscow Times, one of witnesses, Andrei Shevchenko, says that the military investigators forced him into signing a statement. The prosecution’s star witness, Artyom Nikitin, didn’t attend the court date, and citing family reasons left Chelyabinsk for Moscow. Then, Mikhail Loginovskikh, the chief surgeon at the military hospital, said in his court testimony that he did not find any evidence that Sychyov was beaten! If that wasn’t enough, Sychyov’s mother and sister claim that there have been attempts to bribe them out of holding the military responsible.
Sychyov’s mother and sister, Galina and Marina, have revealed that in the run-up to the trial they were approached by a man who offered them ?50,000 and a flat in Moscow if they said they did not think the military was to blame.
“We are outraged and shocked by the dirty tactics the defence ministry is employing,” said Marina. “They offered to buy us off and they put pressure on us to sign a statement saying that we did not believe Andrei had been beaten. Instead we were to claim that his injuries were the result of some genetic disease. They want the case buried.”
Perhaps it was the scandal that Sychyov Case has become that drove Kirill Grigorev, a 19 year-old conscript and Moscow student to hurl himself out the window of the General Staff building in Moscow. His suicide was first reported in Moskovskii Komsomolets. Grigorev prepared press digests for the Defense Minister and was the General Staff’s computer expert. In his last letter to his mother, Grigorev wrote:
“[Older conscripts] told us to bring them money, alcohol, cigarettes, prepaid telephone cards, and beat us severely, tortured us and did not let us sleep if we didn’t do what we were told. And they beat us for no particular reason, just out of boredom or when they were drunk.
He further claimed in his note that commanders hired him and other conscripts out as labor on commercial projects. Hiring out or subjecting recruits to forced labor is a practice that stretches all the back to the Tsarist military.
His mother also reports that in December, Grigorev was so severely beaten that he could hardly walk.
Given the brutality and intimidation of dedovshchina, is this really something that can be solved by putting Nashi activists in the military? Hardly. Military culture is a tough thing to reform, let alone break. There is no reason to think that hazing is new to the Russian military, and that long history will outlast any real attempts at reform. It also doesn’t help that Russian officials verbally condemn the practice but then turn around and undermine efforts at punishing those responsible for it. Given this, one can expect more suicides like Grigorev’s to occur.
By Sean — 11 years ago
Nashi’s actions during the “Bronze Soldier” fiasco has without a doubt increased its political statue in
. As a result Western media is beginning to take more notice. For example, take this week’s edition of Newsweek International where one of their main articles is a feature on Nashi titled “Putin’s Powerful Youth Guard.” Russia
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
and elsewhere.” I assume that their “sinister parady of democracy” lies in Nashi’s propensity to through the word “fascist” around without regard. Sadly, it seems to work too well. As Boris Kagarlitsky notes, “the Russian political establishment has made the issue of the fascist threat its best-seller. Politicians and the mass media show far more interest in the notorious fascist threat than in the real fascist organizations operating in the country.” Ukraine
Newsweek’s characterization of Nashi is for suresteeped in hyperbole. This is to be expected. Most articles about
Russiain the Western media tend to place it on a narratological pendulum that somehow always swings a bit too far toward “totalitarianism.” Plus, anytime youth organizations are reduced to mere “disciplined” and “fanatical” puppets of the regime, I can’t help but cast a critical eye. Sure the Kremlin may want “to win—or control—the hearts and minds of ‘s youth” but actually doing it is always a more complex and difficult task. If one wants to compare Nashi with the Komsomol, which I have, then one should not also swallow the organization’s own image of themselves. The Potemkin village shouldn’t be taken for the actual village. Russia
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
Moscowso that activists could arrive overnight on Red Square, if needed. The idea was to create an ideology based on a total devotion to the president and his course.”
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 oblast got yet another taste of such pledges. In a counter-demonstration to the March of Dissenters in Samara, over a 1000 members of the pro-Kremlin group Mestnye gathered to show their solidarity with the Kremlin. “When the county calls on us, Mestnye leader Alexander Kazakov told the crowd. “We will be in the center of On Saturday, Moscow in an hour and we will not allow a single dissenting bastard assemble here! We will drive them out of the city!” Moscow
Somehow police felt that they didn’t need to protect the public from these rabble rousers . . .
By Sean — 10 years ago
I don’t claim much knowledge on the intricacies of the explosive situation in Moldova. For anyone who has been asleep the last few days, Moldovan students are attempting their own “colored revolution.” On Tuesday, over 10,000 students ransacked the Moldovan Parliament demanding new elections after a Communist Party electoral victory on Sunday. The Communists won around 50 percent of the electoral, beating out their fractious liberal rivals, and claimed a super majority of 60 seats in Moldova’s 101 seat parliament. The students claim mass vote falsification. But unlike the innocuous colors of orange, tulip, and rose, the Moldovan youth appears to favor blood red.
Anyone interested in unfolding events from a variety of sources should check out Scraps of Moscow. Lyndon’s knowledge of Moldova is impeccable.
For an breakdown of why the Communists won, see Vladimir Socor’s “Ten Reasons Why the Communist Party Won Moldova’s Elections Again” from the Eurasian Daily Monitor. Of Socor’s ten reasons, I find these two most compelling:
4) The Communist Party is the only major party with a multi-ethnic electorate. Most opposition parties (including all three that have now entered the parliament) rely entirely on ethnic Moldovan voters (a minority of whom define themselves as Romanians) and have not seriously attempted to reach out to “Russian-speaking” voters. Many “Russian-speakers,” who defected from the Europe-oriented Communist Party in recent years, crossed over to small pro-Moscow groups or declined to vote, rather than joining Moldovan opposition parties. The Communist Party was able to offset that loss by increasing its share of the ethnic Moldovan vote.
5)Exit polls, conducted by Western-funded NGOs, showed that the Communist Party made significant inroads into young age cohorts for the first time in these elections. As the poll coordinator, sociologist Arcadie Barbarosie (head of the Soros Foundation’s local affiliate) observes, the Communist Party can no longer be stereotyped as a “pensioners'” or Soviet-nostalgics’ party (Moldpres, Imedia, April 6).
Two reasons why the Communists won was because they crossed ethnic lines and generational lines.
In this author’s summation, the liberal parties appeal to “pan-Romanian nationalistic ideology,” makes this crisis one between the Communists and the far Right.
Or is generational conflict really at the heart of the protests? The centrality of youth is something that Lyndon emphasizes in this rundown of events. As these two participants/eyewitnesses testify,
The students are discontented with the election result. Most of the people who voted for communism are old people, but old people are dying and there are more young people voting now than before. So the result is definitely not true. It’s not logical.
We don’t want to be governed by the communists anymore. I think the Communist Party should be outlawed, just like the Nazi Party is outlawed in Germany.
. . .
Most of the people in Chisinau voted for the democratic parties. I’ve been asking friends, neighbours, people on the street.
Indeed in the villages, where there are only old people left, most people would vote for the Communist Party. But the young people of our country want a better life, they can’t be satisfied with $150 a month.
Another interesting component to the protests that attest to their youthful flavor, is the use of Twitter as a mobilizing tool. As the NY Times, explains
The sea of young people reflected the deep generation gap that has developed in Moldova, and the protesters used their generation’s tools, gathering the crowd by enlisting text-messaging, Facebook and Twitter, the social messaging network.
The protesters created their own searchable tag on Twitter, rallying Moldovans to join and propelling events in this small former Soviet state onto a Twitter list of newly popular topics, so people around the world could keep track.
Or as Carroll Patterson, a doctoral student on Moldovan economics, told the Times,
“I wouldn’t necessarily call it an anti-Communist movement,” Mr. Patterson said. “This really is a generational squeeze. It’s not really the Communists versus the opposition. It’s the grandmothers versus the grandkids.”
At the center of the protests are two youth organizations, Think Moldova and Hyde Park. Natalia Morar, the Moldovan journalist who was banned from Russia last year, is one of the Think Moldova leaders.