I don’t even know what to make of this. Nashi announced on its website that the Iraqi Electoral Commission has recognized it as election monitor. That’s right Nashi. As the “only Russian organization” granted such a role, Nashists will join the 800 international observers there to oversee Saturday’s vote. Nashi’s self-designated task will be to make sure Iraq is as democratic as the US says it is. Says Konstantin Goloskokov, who will lead the Nashi delegation,
“The elections in Iraq are a test of real democracy. We have serious reasons to doubt that America has built a democratic state in Iraq in the last six months. It is important to verify this with one’s own eyes whether Iraq has passed this test of democratization.”
Nashi is well versed in the intricacies of “managed democracy” so I can’t imagine that their standards will be too high.
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By Sean — 11 years ago
Meet Nikita Borovikov, a 26 year old law student from Vladimir, one of Nashi’s five national commissars, and the front runner to head the youth movement after Vasili Yakemenko steps down after the Presidential Elections in March. Borovikov’s designation as Yakemenko’s successor is not without controversy; and one that might signify divisions within and outside the movement overits direction after 2008. First there is the question whether Yakemenko’s handing over the torch will be smooth. It’s rumored that Borovikov was not Yakemenko’s first choice, (it’s said that he prefers Marina Zademid’kova, 22, from Voronezh), but the law student became the choice after chief Kremlin ideologist Vladislav Surkov stepped in. Things got even stranger when Nashi held a competition at Camp Seliger to chose a new leader. Borovikov won, but as Kommersant then reported, the Kremlin appeared unprepared to let Yakemenko go so soon, let alone leave Nashi’s immediate future in the hands of Borovikov. The next day Yakemenko was forced to announce that the election was actually “a game.” The youth organization, it seems, has been tapped play an active role in the upcoming elections.
The second issue Nashi must deal with is what purpose it will have after 2008. The organization is so tightly tied with Putin and Putinism, some feel that their existence will become superfluous after he steps down. What exactly Nashi will become in a post-Putin Russia is unknown, even to themselves. A few weeks ago, Kommsersant Vlast’ correspondent Anna Kachurovskaya, who also interviewed the former Nashi member “Ivan”, sat down with Borovikov to get some sense of the youth organization’s future. I provide translated excerpts below.
Were you offended that the election turned out to be a game?
Somehow a falsehood got into the newspapers from the start. When we organized the elections at Seliger, the word “successors” wasn’t even mentioned. There was talk about a competition of several teams, and the winners would get the right to determine the life of the movement. I say that this is “conditional.” That is to say the team will offer a strategy for the movement’s development in the period from 2008 to 2012. It’s understood that Vasilii [Yakemenko] is planning to leave. But in the movement the role of the leader, if there is one, is informal. According to the charter, we have a federal council, it has five commissars on it, and no leader.
You are one of the five federal commissars.
Yes. But I am not any kind of successor. It is first necessary to decide the tasks for December and March. And here, for all intents and purposes, there won’t be any divisions into teams or parties. Nashi is a monolith and that is precisely our strength.
Is there any meaning in your elections?
In order to begin thinking about the what kind of movement we’ll be from 2008 to 2012. It’s impossible to think two-three months ahead. Here we did all this.
That is to say that you have a program for developing the movement?
Yes. In general, there were three parties–“Democrats,” “Sovereigns,” and “NikIl'” [“NikIl’ is a combination of Nikita Borovikov and another commissar named Ilya Kostnov.–Sean]. The Sovereigns and NikIl’ decided to unite. We agreed that formerly the party “Sovereigns” would be marked off in the elections, but really we formed a single team. Therefore “NikIl'” has six leaders–three from the old NikIl’ and three from the Sovereigns. We got six excellent leaders. That’s sort of how everything was.
Then why are they only talking about you in connection to the elections and not about the other five participants?
It’s very simple. I already told you that we are all equal. But even despite the fact that there was a game, it was an election. It was necessary to have a formal leader, and I became it by consensus of the leadership.
. . .
A when will they vote for a leader of the movement and who will it be?
I can’t tell you that now, because, as they say, you want to make God laugh by telling him his plan. But theoretically we will occasionally talk about figures for the 2008-20012, and that beginning with the new year there will be the question of working with a new team. Now we are thinking about the tasks that confront us in 2007.
And how will you decide these tasks?
These dates, which can have a strong influence on us, which we, to say the least, must not miss. This is December and March. For me personally there is a key date–2 September where we will conduct a test-vote: “If there were an election today, who would you vote for from the party?”
Does this have any relation to the program “Nashi Votes”, in which you participated in?
The tasks of the program are to form a team of professional electors. You know a project has a “turn key”, yes? And the election campaigns have “turn keys.” Here we want teams in the region that can direct the electoral campaign by a “turn key.” We have there several courses, which we formed participants into networks. There are lawyers, analysts, managers, and well, leadership headquarters, yes? These will be the future deputies. We call this course “candidates into deputies,” although we reckon that they will become deputies eventually after participating in the program. These people, who were train in courses, for example, a lawyer, after improving personally and filling in posts at local election commissions, flawlessly organizing votes, will make our small contribution so that we have elections where no one can say we had falsifications.
Moreover, we will take upon ourselves plenty of difficult tasks–conducting exit polls, because exit polls are a button which sets off “orange revolutions”, yes? On the basis of these, the “orangists” say: You see, they deceived you, we won, and they tell you different. Observing all methods of exit polls is one of the tasks of the program. So that we can say: here is the official count of votes, here are exit polls, conducted according to established scientific methods, all have the possibility to compare. Because a party cannot have 3-4% before the elections (or as I already said, 2 September we will have a poll), and suddenly win.
Finally and this is very important. One of the main problems comes from the fact that nowhere in the country do we have trained deputies and deputies’ assistants. You agree that the deputy pool is an important element in a democratic system. It’s one of the authorities of power, which, strictly speaking, decides everything. And it’s certainly necessary to be a professional person, and not simply someone popular from some region to get elected–and beyond that its not clear what to do. We want this branch of deputies to be trained in the first round of deputies’ assistants. We organize guys for training so that they understand what kind of a person a deputy assistant is and how he must ideally work. We hope that the best of the best will proceed to a stage of development of a candidate in the deputies.
And where is the guarantee that only your pupils will become deputies?
There is no guarantee. We train him as a deputy. He wins then he wins.
Do you already have many trained “deputies”?
We just got back from the camp at Seliger, where the representation for the program “Nashi Votes” was more than 700 people. Not all could come. We had close to 35 cities, of those considered deputies–its somewhere around a third of the general number of program participants.
You said that the elections can be seriously fixed. How?
An attempt to take over the government and establish a regime in Russia in the name of a foreign power can occur in December during the State Duma elections and in March during the Presidential elections.
You have in mind the United States?
An external power—this is when decisions in the state are made not in the national interests of this state or the population of the state, but in the interests of other political actors, for example, the United States, which manufactured similar operations in Georgia and Ukraine. Russia, in the span of its thousand year history, when it was called the USSR, when it was called the Russian Empire, and when it was called Rus’, was independent. In light of geopolitics I understand that Russia is the most delicious piece, so they don’t want to miss out on it. There is a division of labor in the world, if the world market is any indication, Russia now occupies the place of a seller. And countries like the EU or the US, which are involved in organizations of color revolutions, we have them as buyers. Here these buyers always casually enter into the store and dictate to the seller how much oil must be sold, for example. I as a representative of Nashi, and the Nashi movement as a whole, and as an ordinary normal person am not going to sit idle if they attempt to impose such a form of life on me.
You think that such a situation would change the lives of Russian for the worse?
One of the basis of Russia’s well being at the moment is oil. If we start to sell cheaper that we can, it can damage the quality of life.
And it’s true that in December and in March on the squares of Moscow tents will be erected, where Nashi will live in order to prevent “orange revolution.”
I didn’t hear about it.
Do you honestly believe in the possibility of an “orange revolution”? To what extent do you think that it’s a reality?
You would like for me to talk in percentages? It’s like in an joke about the dinosaur on Nevskii prospekt: Either we meet or we don’t meet, 50/50. Well how is it possible to count here? I have another fear, Anna. I fear that there is a counter-agent who already knows what we know. Meaning, he will concoct something different. Apparently, “orange revolution” for Russia is a missed opportunity, but they are prepared. They sit and think in some office beyond the oceans or beyond the channel: Aha, well then we need to think up something else. The threat of an “orange revolution” is understood, the mechanisms are clear. How it works is understood and we did all of this and we didn’t succeed. If they didn’t think something new up, they wouldn’t have tried.Post Views: 517
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: 1,044
By Sean — 11 years ago
Russia’s consolidation into a two party system took a small step this weekend when the Communist Youth League (Союз коммунистической молодежи, СКМ) voted 98-1 to support Just Russia at its 6th Congress. Constantine Zhukov, SKM’s leader, told Congress delegates that the decision was because the Communist Party was “in stagnation.” “The Party has degenerated, there is no genuine Communist Party in the county that we can orientate ourselves toward.” Just Russia, Zhukov explained, “doesn’t practice demagoguery, but real politics. In the upcoming elections we will work with Just Russia.”
SKM’s moved quickly gained the support of Just Russia and its youth wing, “Ura!“. “I’m glad that Zhukov had enough courage and wisdom to understand the political situation. Unfortunately, there is nothing except for empty rhetoric and political speculation remaining in the KPRF. It’s an organization which forgot about the interests of the people,” Ura! leader Sergei Shargunov said in his speech at the Congress.
SKM’s announcement to support Just Russia is yet another chapter in the drama of infighting and splits of the Russian communist youth movement. The SKM, which hails itself as the successor to the Soviet era Komsomol, became the youth wing of the Russian Communist Party in 1999. But splits within the youth wing and then between it and the Party quickly erupted. The KRPF moved against Zhukov, replacing him with Iuri Afonin in October 2003. A month later, the All-Russian Leninist Communist Youth League (VLKSM) was formed, formerly splitting it from the KPRF, with Zhukov at its head. The new communist youth group changed its name to SKM shortly thereafter and pledged its allegiance to the All-Russian Communist Party of the Future, which was liquidated in 2005. As of now there are at least three organizations claiming to be the true successor to the Soviet Komsomol. The Communist Youth League, SKM, the Communist Youth League of the Russian Federation, SKM RF, and a small splinter group called the Revolutionary Communist Youth League (Bolshevik), RKSM(b). The only ones that matter in communist political circles are the dueling SKM and SKM RF. The former claims a membership of 10,000, while the latter posts a number of 26,000. It’s enough to make your head spin.
Iuri Afonin, who leads the SKM RF and still supports the KPRF, saw the move as illegitimate and that it would have no real political impact. He told Kommersant that “nothing was lost” with the SKM’s defection. “This congress is illegitimate because the regional leaders of the organization weren’t present . . . All the regions work with us and all headquarters are registered as members of the KPRF.” The Moscow Times quoted Afonin calling the whole move a “farce” and suggested that Just Russia simply bought off Zhukov for “30 pieces of silver.”
Claims that the KPRF are out of touch with young Russians are understatements. Its constituency remains mostly among pensioners, which it rallies support with nostalgia for a Soviet past that could never be reclaimed. Judging from the organization’s rhetoric, it appears unwilling to accept that a new generation of post-Soviet youth has now been born, who have little knowledge of or interest in the past outside of vague feelings of national pride. Unfortunately, for the Communists this pride appears impossible to transform into real political capital.
The generational divide isn’t just between the Communists and potential new supporters, but as the statements from sympathetic communist youth attest, the generation gap is internal. But it seems that the reality is slowly setting in on some level. Gennady Zuganov recently announced that the KPRF will use the images of Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, and Alexandr Lukashenko as its main propaganda symbols during the upcoming election. The move is certainly a scheme to attract left wing youth who hold up these four as symbols of a global leftism and defiance to U.S. hegemony. The KPRF thinks that it can conquer cool. Good luck.Post Views: 595