Rubashov from Darkness at Noon has been hibernating for the past month or so after returning from research. He has returned with an great post titled “The Sound of Marching Boots . . .” about DMD and Nashi and their role in the upcoming Duma elections. He also links the informative Moscow Times article on the subject. I strongly urge readers to check out Rubashov’s discussion.
You Might also like
By Sean — 7 years ago
When Kommersant journalist Oleg Kashin was beaten in November, Nashi was high on the list of suspects. Kashin, after all has written unflatteringly about the pro-Kremlin youth group, and Nashi, especially its founder Vasili Yakemenko, has been alleged to have used Nashists or their football hooligan proxies to harass, intimidate, provoke, and beat oppositionists. And if the report that Yakemenko was part of a gang that routinely beheaded people in the 1990s, then ordering a beating is not beyond his purvey. The possibility that Yakemenko was the puppet master behind Kashin’s beating came further into focus when he joked about Kashin’s canonization, calling him a “zombie” because the opposition holding protests as if he was dead, the “Lenin of today” presumably because like the Soviet leader, even if Kashin had died, he would “live and always live,” an “invisible man” because at the time no one had seen Kashin, though a video from his hospital room had been viewed by thousands on the internet, and a “lizard” because Yakemenko vowed that the journalists’ finger would grow back. Yakemenko’s post caused a major stir in Runet and the media.
The reason why I bring all this up because Kashin inferred that Yakemenko was behind his beating in an interview he gave to Moskovskii komsomolets:
There has been a lot of response from colleagues, friends and ordinary strangers who are sympathetic to what happened to you. Even the authorities have responded. And behind the scenes . . . of the people who are main figures in Russian media, who called you, visited you in the hospital, and expressed support?
That’s a good question because I don’t know if these people called. But, I can’t complain. But it’s interesting that the reaction of those in power was different. Vasili Yakemenko had an “excellent” post on Live Journal. When I was still in an induced coma, he spoke ironically that my severed finger would grow back. An acting minister “jokes.” No one is surprised, this is normal in Russia.
Have you crossed paths before?
It was a funny incident. Funny, but now it’s all clear. It was just before the first congress which established Nashi in 2005, and an a friend and I, Ilya Yashin, who was then an activist for Yabloko youth, were posing as simple guys from the provinces who went to the congress held at one of the health resorts outside of Moscow. They “unmasked” us, seized us and took us to a room until Yakemenko came. Then he had a “conversation” with us and ordered his security to beat Yashin up . This was in March 2005. When Nashi was created several months later, I wrote about them off and on. But last year, a colleague called for a boycott of Nashi on one of the popular culture sites because any, even a negative reference to them, justifies their existence. To ignore them, it seemed to me, was more appropiate. Unfortunetely, no one supported me, but I honestly kept this moritorium exactly up to 6 November.
You said that the future Minister of Youth Affairs, and then leader of Nashi, gave an order to beat a person. You witnessed this?
Everything occurred very emphatically. He gestured: “This is like that, but this will be like that.” His people understood that his order had one meaning: They took us out to the street, pushed Yashin in the snow and began beating him. They held me to the side . . .
And the attackers were prosecuted for beating a man?
I don’t know if Yashin made a complaint to the police, but a case was certainly not opened. There was another incident: that year, in August, near the Avtozavod metro station, a van full of militants with baseball bats began to beat members of opposition youth movements at their meeting. And then “someone” came to the police and demanded their release. Journalists got a hold of the list of those arrested and a number of the attackers were Nashi members as of last year, and maybe they still are. Among them was Roman Verbitskii, the leader of the voluntary youth militia, the public power wing of Nashi. But again this fact doesn’t bother anyone.
It seems to me that gangs of youth groups are common around the world, it’s probably easier to nurture a new generation, than to win it.
I don’t agree. If the state stands behind one group, then that’s another issue completely. The state has the monopoly on punishment, read violence, but what kind is it? A policeman comes up and says, “You broke the law! Now I will use force.” But if some stranger approaches with a baseball bat, this is no longer the rule of law, it’s banditry. And as it turns out, the state shields bandits, and not the “patriotic feelings of youth.”
I look forward to Yakemenko and Nashi’s response. I’m sure they’ll file lawsuit against Kashin for slander within a week.Post Views: 141
By Sean — 10 years ago
It took a week longer than was predicted. But few doubted that it was only a matter of time. Prime Minister Zubkov finally made it official: Vasilii Yakemenko will head the Kremlin’s Youth Committee as expected. Now Yakemenko has the real capital to affect youth politics in Russia–a budget that is estimated to be $160 million rubles. In fact, getting a handle on this money appears to be Yakemenko’s first assigned task. “Vasilii’s first step in the position of leader will be the dog-eat-dog fervor in the struggle for departmental resources,” a source told Kommersant. The Commission’s potential budget not only comes from what the Russian government has allocated for youth, but also from the Ministry of Culture and the State Sport Agency; not to mention monies allocated for youth in regional budgets.
Yakemenko is a pure post-Soviet vydvizhenets bureaucrat. Born in 1971 to a helicopter designer and translator, Yakemenko experienced the collapse of the Soviet Union in the army, where he served as a radio-telegraphist. Upon his discharge he tried the private sector. His business activities in the new Russia included leasing helicopters, starting a publishing company, general trading, and building ventilators.
Making only moderate headway in the gangster capitalism of the 1990s, Yakemenko eventually decided that the social mobility of a unabashed pro-Kremlin chinovnik bore more fruit. And thus he turned his entrepreneurial skills to politics. His first brush will the political was a brief stint in the music business, where he was the producer for the group Muzyka lezha, which, in 1999, recorded the song “Staryi primus,” which ridiculed Evgenii Primakov. He was also involved in “Singing Together,” a quickly defunct music project devoted to recording patriotic songs. Yakemnko must have liked the “together” theme because a year later he created the first pro-Putin youth organizations, Walking Together. Walking Together, however, quickly ran out of political steam. When the political winds were blowing “revolution” across the CIS, first in Georgia, then Ukraine, and finally stalling in Kyrgyzstan, Walking Together didn’t seem to have the right kind of “umph” to ward off any potential attraction “colored revolution” had among Russian youth. Nashi was born in 2005 in that context.
Yakemenko’s almost religious devotion to Putin borders on monarchist adulation. In an interview in Gazeta in January 2006, of Putin he said, “It would be simply great if Putin goes for a third even a forth [term]. Let’s talking about it openly. In the last few years, the game with gubernatorial elections could not be settled, and what was the result? The result was that Mintimer Sharipovich Shaimiev sate for 29 terms [in office]. Is that so bad? No, it’s good!” If I would guess, Yakemenko is a fervent member of the fabled “Third Term Party.”
That kind slavishness has finally paid off as Yakemenko now enters the government. And what does this mean for Nashi in particular and Russian youth politics in general? While too soon to tell, it’s a clear signal that Nashi will have to decide its future with only the indirect influence of their leader and founder. I say indirect because I doubt that heading a state commission and scrambling for state funds will allow much time for a direct role in Nashi’s everyday operations. That leadership vacuum could have profound effects on the direction Nashi takes especially as it seeks to define its post-Putin identity.
Here the parallels with the Komsomol of the 1920s come into view. It didn’t take long for the Komsomol to experience an “identity crisis” of sorts. Already unsure of its purpose toward the end of the Civil War (would it be class based or a mass organization? Was it to be subordinated to the Bolshevik Party or merely affiliated? Was it a revolutionary organization for youth or a political educative body?), only became more chaotic as its peasant membership exploded, thereby diluting both its proletarian numerical hegemony and the influence of members with “revolutionary credentials,” and having its deity, Lenin, die in 1924. By the time the Komsomol’s first generation had all but left by the end of the decade, the League was expanding numerically but atrophying in political vivaciousness. It took Stalin’s Revolution to re-inject it with revolutionary romanticism.
Nashi will certainly not experience the same political questions, but it could certainly be met with similar overarching problems of identity, purpose, and energy. Yakemenko’s “promotion” could signal their beginning. Nashi’s future leaders are an average of ten years his younger. Yakemenko is 36, while the front runners to head the organization, Nikita Borovikov and Marina Zademid’kova are 26 and 22 years old respectively. For them the turbulence of the 1990s, which if anything Nashi’s existence is predicated on avoiding a return, is merely a childhood memory. Their formative experience are the Putin years, a fact that begs the question whether the organization can find a definitive post-Putin calling. The answers to these questions will only become more imperative as Nashi grows in numbers and influence.
But Nashi’s future is only one issue among many when you consider the power Yakemenko now has in shaping youth politics in general. The purse strings are a powerful weapon in deciding the life and death of youth organizations. I’m sure that Yakemenko will wield that weapon effectively for the tastes of his political masters. His first rehearsal will be the Duma elections, but I doubt the Youth Committee will have a big impact in December unless it works double time. The real performance will be immediately following the Presidential elections in March. I say after, and not before, because the elections will provide enough natural inertia to push political youth into action. The real task will be maintaining a semblance of that fervor in the months following.
It is here that at least the financial centralization of youth politics under Yakemenko may prove to be a contradiction. For sure having the power to manipulate the purse strings allows for greater influence, especially in the regions. But history has shown that youth organizations don’t function well centralized. Centralization saps their energy, making them rote, predictable, and boring, and as a result, hollow. Considering that Nashi’s successes have been their more flamboyant acts–the anti-Estonian rallies, hounding British Ambassador Brenton, holding summer camp, public events and campaigns, not to mention confronting opposition youth groups in the streets–centralization threatens to streamline and flatten the carnivalesque that makes participation in pro-Kremlin groups like Nashi attractive, not to mention fun. Thus Yakemenko is faced with the same problems his forefathers of the Komsomol did in their first years. How does one effectively meld political discipline with youth spontaneity? On this, the creation of a Youth Commission in general, and Yakemenko’s appointment in particular, might cause more harm than good.Post Views: 87
By Sean — 10 years ago
T-minus five days and counting. Here’s today’s roundup. The Christian Science Monitor, which I heard was once known for its objectivity, has apparently dumped it. In an editorial titled “Putin’s Potemkin Election,” CSM states that the Duma elections signal the end of Russia’s multi-party system. “In reality Russia is becoming a one-party state. One need only examine the coming parliamentary elections to see how this tragedy is happening.” Only two parties will remain in the Duma–United Russia and the Communists. Changes to the electoral law has made it “harder to run for elections.” In 2004, the law was changed to say that a political party must have a membership of 50,000 (up from 10,000) to register and 200,000 signatures to be on the ballot. This and other changes are what makes the Duma election “Potemkin.”
This is really funny, especially when you consider electoral law in California. For a new political party to get registered in the Golden State, it must have 88,991 people (or one percent of the state electorate) complete “an affidavit of registration, on which they have written in the proposed party name as the party they affiliate with.” To get on the California ballot, a party must have 889,991 signatures (or ten percent of the state electorate) from California alone. Strangely, I don’t recall any articles about California elections being referred to as “Potemkin.”
Such pontificating and hypocrisy are expected from the West. In addition to noting the obvious facade of the Duma elections, Western governments are continuing to line up to condemn the arrests of participants in anti-Putin protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg. To think President Bush had to nerve to throw his two cents in. “I am deeply concerned about the detention of numerous human rights activists and political leaders who participated in peaceful rallies in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Nizhniy Novgorod, and Nazran this weekend,” he said. “I am particularly troubled by the use of force by law enforcement authorities to stop these peaceful activities and to prevent some journalists and human rights activists from covering them.” You gotta be kidding me. I don’t recall any statement when the NYPD locked up 1000 people protesting the RNC Convention in 2004 in what became known as “Guantanamo on the Hudson.”
It should come as no surprise that Moscow’s Meshchansky Court upheld Kasparov’s arrest.
Sure it’s easy to point to the hypocrisy. But I have one more. Or really it’s a request. Can anyone explain to me what Anne Applebaum’s point is in her column on Slate called “The New Dissidents“? Among other things like comparing Other Russia to Soviet dissidents of yore, she writes, “Odder still is the fact that we hear anything about [Other Russia] at all.” What!? When is the last time she’s done a Google News or Yandex News search? Apparently she’s the only one that finds the voluminous amount of reporting in English and Russian on Kasparov et al. as “odd” I mean Kasparov is a contributing editor of the Wall Street Journal of all things.
The Russian Duma elections will not be fair or perfect by any standards. Sure Putin’s United Russia is popular and would win even if they had one hand behind their back. Even so, that doesn’t mean that in some nefarious ballot stuffing won’t take place in Russia’s nether regions. The election might be a hark back to the days of Stakhanovism when competitions between factories pushed productivity quotas beyond capacity. I’m sure no regional governor is going to let the other eclipse his own sycophantic pandering to the center. No one seems to deny this. A senior election official quoted in the Moscow Times says that “have been ordered to make sure that United Russia collects double the number of votes it is expected to win in State Duma elections on Sunday — even if they have to falsify the results.” How would this be done? The best way according to this unnamed official is to change the polling station’s protocol, that is the record of how many people vote and how many votes go to a party. “During past Duma elections this was the most common way to falsify the results,” he told the Times. “We would do it in front of foreign observers because they didn’t understand anything on what was going on.” If this is true, I sure hope that whatever elections monitors arrive, they aren’t as stupid as the last ones.
I assume this how election monitors from Nashi will spend their time. According to Lentna.ru, Nashi, along with VTsIOM and FOM, will be conducting exit polls. Exit poll monitoring will be one of the ways “Our Elections,” a coalition of Nashi, Young Guard, and Young Russia, will ensure that the ballots don’t get hijacked by colored revolutionary wreckers and saboteurs–all of which they label one kind of fascist or another. One wonders if they will do something like posing as “vampires” of votes, rather than vampires of blood like they did in an action to get Muscovites to donate blood in September. I can see it now. Nashisty running around saying “I’ve cum to suck yur votes!”
The Kremlin appears ready to fight election fraud of its own. Election Commissioner Vladimir Churov called upon voters to “not subvert” the elections by drawing “smiley faces, horns, or any other drawings” on or next to parties on ballots. Voters are also urged to not make the ballot an editorial. So, he warned, no one is to write “this party is the worst of all” next to the party of their choosing. Also, election workers are to avoid engaging in “boisterous discussions” with voters who share different opinion. Man, Churov is taking all the fun out of voting!
And by far the best election story of the day comes from Dagestan. There, Nukh Nukhov, a candidate for SPS, has been charged with “hooliganism,” “causing bodily harm,” and “illegal possession of weapons.” According to Lenta.ru, the story began way back in March this year. On 11 March, during the regional Dagestani elections, a “skirmish” broke out between Nukhov, who was then standing for reelection, and four of his people with Mohammed Aliev, who is the head of Dakhadaevksii district and United Russia, and his brothers. When the smoke cleared two of Nukhov men were killed and two, including Nukhov, were wounded. Aliev and his men fled the scene but a subsequent investigation landed his brothers in jail. Nukhov is said to have “fled with help of his contacts with security organs.”
Nukhov has been in hiding all this time. Or so says the Dagestani prosecutor. But Nukhov dutifully showed up to the court to answer for his behavior. There was even a 200 person strong protest calling for his immediate release. OMON quickly showed up and cordoned off the square.
The Nukhov-Aliev brawl makes me wonder. How much of this election is really about politics and ideology? Perhaps, especially in the localities, it is about clans from the top of the power vertical to the bottom securing their continued right to plunder. If this is the case, perhaps it’s time to dump all the finger wagging about “democracy” and see Russian politics for what it is, rather than what we want it to be.Post Views: 40