How does a 20 year old girl from Kostroma with no training in fashion design, start her own line of clothing and open a store in Moscow’s swanky GUM? You get Nashi to back you. As Marina Kamenev’s profile of Nashi designer Antonia Shapovalova explains, hooking up with Nashi can take you far. Farther than you ever imagined. Kamenev writes,
Shapovalova started her design career with Nashi three years ago, when the group came to her hometown of Kostroma. Shapovalova knew straight away that she wanted to take part. “They were offering a variety of roles like marketing, economics and education,” she said. “It seemed natural to do design, but I never anticipated this level of success.”
“Lots of journalists ask me if I completely support Nashi,” Shapovalova said. “I think it’s a stupid question. Nashi ideas are basic human principles. They support orphanages, education; they are patriotic, they are anti-fascist. What kind of normal person says they are pro-fascist?”
One shouldn’t be surprised that Shapovalova is a die hard Nashistka. Her Nashi connections, which of course mean government connections, has landed her a rent free space among stores like Dior, Calvin Klein, Zara, Levi’s and other international designers. “I wouldn’t say [Mikhail Kusnirovich, the director of Bosco di Ciliegi, which owns the controlling stake in GUM] is paying for me. It’s a collaboration with GUM and Nashi,” she told Kamenev. It doesn’t hurt to also have mannequins draped with your line throughout GUM, pop stars posing for photo ops, and State Committee of Youth Affairs and Nashi founder Vasili Yakemenko showing up for the store’s opening either.
“I am sure that in three years’ time every tenth young person in Russia will have something from Shapovalova’s collection in their wardrobe,” says Yakemenko. If only the Komsomol had this kind of vision.
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By Sean — 3 years ago
Cathy Frierson, professor of modern Russian history at the University of New Hampshire. Her books include Peasant Icons: Representations of Rural People in Late 19th Century Russia, All Russia is Burning: A Cultural History of Fire and Arson in Late Imperial Russia, Children of the Gulag, and most recently Silence was Salvation: Child Survivors of Stalin’s Terror and WWII in the Soviet Union.Post Views: 427
By Sean — 7 years ago
Over the past few years, I’ve argued that without the specter of “colored revolution” Nashi has become a rudderless organization. Enemies are necessary. And when it comes to those, Nashi is good at conjuring them. Still, after three years of hounding and ridiculing the “enemies of the people,” Nashi, not to mention the Kremlin, has little to show for it. Million of rubles have been thrown down the blackhole leaving in terms of actual social presence, an organization that continues to limp along just to save face because dissolving it would be admitting that the whole thing was a big mistake in the first place.
Still though Nashi is more like the living dead, it continues to have powerful patrons. Vladislav Surkov and ex-leader Vasilii Yakemenko provide key support. Perhaps equally important it has continued financial backing. It is estimated that between 2007 and 2010, Nashi received 467 million rubles ($16 million), the vast majority of which, 347 million to be exact, came from the coffers of Yakemenko’s balliwick the Federal Department of Youth Affairs (Rosmolodezh). The vast majority of these funds are spent on Nashi’s annual summer camp at Seliger. Seilger’s budget grew 60 times since 2007, from a mere 1.5 million rubles to over 100 million. Granted, the camp has expanded from 3000 annual attendees to 20,000 but Seliger is also Nashi’s major international showcase, ideological loudspeaker, training retreat, and I would assume, main base for recruitment. Without it, Nashi would have even less to show for itself than it already does.
In addition to dolling out mountains of cash for what is essentially a lavish teen orgy, a good amount of government funds are being funneled into Nashi’s various initiative groups. For example, between 2007 and 2010, Nashi’s Voluntary Youth Militias (DMD) recieved got 9.3 million rubles ($300,000) and its patriotic wing, Stal’, got 15.2 million ($500,000). DMD and Stal serve as Nashi’s attack dogs. The former has been known for helping the police crackdown on opposition protests, while the latter now engages in campaigns to discredit people like Boris Nemstov. The majority of funding, however, goes to Nashi’s Higher Management School to train activists, the promotion of health, sport and fitness, and technological training. Almost all of this money came from Rosmolodezh, and in this sense Nashi acts like the old Komsomol in providing youth with potential avenues for social mobility despite its ability promote that mobility remains fairly limited. Nashi gets a lot of cash, not doubt. Just to emphasize how much Nashi is favored by the Kremlin, Molodaya gvardiia and Mestye, both of which are pro-Kremlin youth groups only received a paltry 8 million ($270,000) rubles each over the same period.
Nashi’s support also gets funding from oligarchs and even some Western corporations. Mikhail Prokhorov, Russian oligarch and New Jersey Net owner, is said to have given 45 million rubles to promote technological training and innovation at Seliger 2010. Merecedes-Benz Russia, Tupperware, KPMG, Siemens and Intel all donate resources or acted as sponsors of the summer camp.
What is gained from all this support? Besides being a potential base for the Kremlin to tap if it needs a street presence, Nashi’s day to day activities comprises of staging meaningless, though at times comical, PR stunts and manufactured scandals. They hound, slander, and protest oppositionists and foreign embassies. They’ve also (allegedly) beat up critics through their proxies among football fans. Their most recent attempt to slander “liberasts” involved Nashi’s press secretary Kristina Potupchik petitioninf the Russian Prosecutor’s office to look into whether Russian oppositonists were in the pocket of the CIA. Potupchik even went so far as to suggest that members of Solidarity were involved in the Domodedovo bombings.
Anyone who’s followed Nashi are accustom to such outlandish claims. The truth of the matter is that emphasizing that people like Nemtsov are the Trotskys of today is pretty much all they have. After all, imagined enemies work wonders on young fanatics. If the history of the Komsomol has any lessons to impart, it is that hunting for Fifth Columnists is a much more exciting endeavor than Nashi’s campaigns against illegal parking, the unlawful dumping trash, underground casinos, and the illegal sale of alcohol to minors. Youth are far more effective as rabble-rousers and provocateurs. As Milan Kundera wrote in the Joke, “Youth is terrible. It is a stage trod by children in buskins and a variety of costumes mouthing speeches they’ve memorized and fanatically believe but only half understand.”
Despite all the resources and energy poured into Nashi, their influence in Russian political culture is rather minimal. There is no evidence that Nashi currently serves as a stepping stone to power. Nor is there any indication that it will become so in the future. Sure it is connected to power, but that seems to be a one sided relationship in favor of the Kremlin. For the most part, they are a circus sideshow. Unfortunately, for them their act is losing spectators. A recent poll by the Levada Center suggests while Nashi is becoming more of a household name, actual interest in its activities has plummeted. Only 14% of respondents show any interest in the organization, compared to 26% in 2007. More telling, 45% are disinclined toward Nashi’s activities, 66% are simply indifferent, and a mere 3% have affinity to their purpose and goals at all. In an ironic way, I think Nashi’s real base of interest is among the bloggers (myself included) and journalists who periodically lambaste them. Beside that, Nashi is nothing but a rash that swells and pulsates when it is scratched, but fades away when ignored.
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By Sean — 10 years ago
Third Congresses seem to have great significance in the history of Russia’s pro-state youth organizations. The 3rd Komsomol Congress held in 1920 steered the organization away from Civil War to socialist construction. It was there that Lenin gave his famous “The Tasks of the Youth Leagues” speech that urged that young communists must “learn communism.” Lenin said,
“I must say that the tasks of the youth in general, and of the Young Communist Leagues and all other organisations in particular, might be summed up in a single word: learn. . . The teaching, training and education of the youth must proceed from the material that has been left to us by the old society. We can build communism only on the basis of the totality of knowledge, organisations and institutions, only by using the stock of human forces and means that have been left to us by the old society.”
In this sense perhaps Nashi’s 3rd Congress may be considered a historical echo of the Komsomol’s. The Congress, which was held 25 December at the Russian Academy of Sciences, began the process of plotting Nashi’s post-Putin future. The first important outcome of the Congress was the announcement that Nikita Borovikov will take over the organization’s reins from Vasilli Yakemenko, who heads the government’s State Commission on Youth Affairs. Readers will remember that it was Borovikov who won the mock competition at Nashi’s camp Seliger. In September, I translated an interview with him from Kommersant.
The second important outcome was what Borovikov spelled out as Nashi new slogan, “10=5”. What does “10=5” mean? It means that the task of Nashi over the next 10 years is to make Russia the 5th most powerful country in the world in economics, culture, and social development. “There is an enormous amount of work ahead,” Nashi GenSek Borovikov told the delegates. “In the coming years the internal and foreign political situation will become even more heated. This demands a serious program from us that will defend our status as a strong and independent Russia within the state as well as in the international arena. We are positive that our colossal experience and love for our Motherland will allow us to make a considerable contribution to the future formation of Russia as leaders in the 21st century.”
By what Borovikov means by the internal and foreign situation becoming more heated, all one has to do is turn to Nashi’s well worn formula. The Nashisty argue that Russia despite its success and supposed stability is besieged from within and without. Within by what Borovikov calls “fascists in disguise”–a Nashi metonym for liberals, Other Russiaists, National Bolsheviks and other “radicals”–and shadowy forces emanating from the US State Department and British Foreign Office. If the myth of a “new Cold War” serves American pundits as fodder for proclaiming Putin’s Russia as “neo-Soviet,” Cold War rhetoric allows Nashi use “fascism” as political venom against the Russian state’s real or imagined enemies. “We’re here to protect the sovereignty of our country,” said Zaur Aminov, a 20-year-old economics student and Nashi Commissar told the LA Times as if that sovereignty is under threat. And who is the source of this threat the LA Times wondered? “The American State Department,” Aminov answered.
It’s also no surprise that the Nashi’s version of Lenin’s “learn, learn, learn” is being coordinated by chief Kremlin ideologist Vladislav Surkov. Surkov was on hand to guide his creation along his preconceived ideological path. He whipped up delegates’ enthusiasm with, “Here are people gathered who are not indifferent to the future of our country. It seems to me that people who have respect for themselves have an inseparable connection to respect for their country.” It’s clear that for Surkov this “inseparable connection” is mediated with a heavy dose of xenophobia, conspiracy theories, and political hyperbole.
How will Nashi carry out their “10=5” Plan? The third significant outcome to Nashi’s 3rd Congress was, again not unlike the Komsomol’s of year’s past, its consolidation and restructuring for the future. As abraximov explains on ZheZhe’s resident anti-Nashi blog, Nashi added 10 programs, or really structures to its organization:
Student Alternative (StAl’)
Small Towns (a kind of “face the countryside” campaign which now includes 120 towns in 17 regions)
Lessons in Friendship
Cadres for the Modernization of the Country
Mishki (Nashi’s Young Pioneers)
Our Army (I assuming this isn’t the Kiss Army)
Voluntary Youth Militia
Youth Business School
As abraximov rightly suggests, isn’t this move be a step away for Nashi as a “movement”? True, Nashi’s additional structures will surely enable its future bureaucratization. But will this spell the death of its dynamism? In the next few years will we no longer hear statements from a pierced lip Russian teenage devs like: “My boyfriend was a member, and I joined him for one of the actions and I thought it was cool.”? Only time will tell.
Nashi may be entering on to the slippery slope of bureaucratism. At the same time its saving grace might be in its slick branding. All one has to do is take a look at its website to get a taste of this. Amid its bright red backgrounds are nestled a potpourri of multimedia, news, and resources. To help mold the Nashi brand, they now even have their own clothing line called Shapovlova. Given Nashi’s penchant for Russian “patriotism” I’m surprised to find it written in Latin script. Perhaps it is this molding of style that will keep Nashi cool with the kids.
There has been some speculation whether Nashi would outlast its role as Putin worshipers. With the 3rd Congress, it’s clear that they are looking well into the future.Post Views: 193