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.
You Might also like
By Sean — 12 years ago
Obsession about the quality of Russian youth is not new. In a 1928 study on the daily life of Russian youth titled Life Out of Control (Zhizn’ bez kontroliia) sociologist and moralist V. Ketlinskaia wrote,
We want our youth to be strong, hard-working, optimistic, and energetic. It must have unsullied heads, masterful hands, a healthy body, and cheerful mood. And for this, the youth’s lives—both social and private—must be normal and healthy. It is known that family discord, casual sex, abortion, venereal and feminine (sic) diseases, “alimony issues” and other accompaniments to a an unorganized sexual life strongly destroys the health, rattles the nerves, and kills the good spirits and energy of youth. It is necessary to organize the sexual habits (byt) of youth so that they don’t destroy the strength of youth, but assist in the knowledge of health and physical strength of the young generation. (5-6)
In the 1920s hundreds of studies on youth sexuality, everyday life, health, work, living conditions, etc were conducted in factories, schools, the Komsomol, villages, and the military. For the Bolsheviks, the concern was centered on the debilitating influence of the “bourgeois culture” of the New Economic Policy on worker and peasant youth, as well as how this would affect the politics and culture of the Komsomol and ultimately the future of socialism in Russia. Making “youth” the object of social inquiry and moral regulation continued throughout the Soviet period.
The focus on sex, health, and psychology aside, (these tended to be grouped together in late 19th century and early 20th century studies on youth), the main point is about preventing the degeneration of youth. Degeneration was a constant obsession in all Western countries at the time, and if current reporting on youth is any indication, “degeneration” remains a social and political concern even though it is crouched in different terminology.
In the end, what youth in general and Russian youth in particular are is grounded in the anxiety or hopes of adults. Their voices are often heard but rarely listened to, as their words are stuffed into a prefab narrative to justify or condemn.
Russia Profile has given three examples of how youth remains the fascination of Russia’s adult population: “Russia’s Youth: Myths and Reality”; “Why Are Young People Rehabilitating Stalin?”; and “Playing on Old Myths”. Though none of them are specifically concerned with sex, all three echo the general concern Ketlinskaia raised almost 80 years ago: What is today’s youth? And how will “what they are” effect not only the present, but the future of the nation?
What strikes me about these articles, and ironically many of the ones written in the Soviet Union, the United States and Europe at the turn of the last century, is how similar they are despite ideological and temporal difference. Youth is always the signifier for adult anxiety, whether it be their attitudes to sex, politics, history, economics, education, patriotism, and the nation. Often youth are categorized with negative terms—ignorance, flippant, na?ve, egotistic, apathetic—though adults at the same time want them to be the opposite of all these. Youth are passive political subjects that are easily manipulated. Youth rarely have agency of itself and for itself. When this agency is recognized, it is usually denounced as too radical, misguided, or idealist.
Take for example, the paragraph from Alexei Kiva “Why Are Young People Rehabilitating Stalin?”:
Watching these television series, [youth] see Stalin as a larger-than-life figure in whom evil and greatness are combined. The creators of both series have repeatedly said they were trying to emphasize Stalin’s crimes so, rather, the problem lies with the view of history among the young.
Mature, educated adults watching these series see Stalin as a monster as his whims seal the fate of the series’ main characters and the country descends into poverty and suffering. But young people are used to hearing about their country being rocked by crime, economic crises and suffering one defeat after another on the international stage. They see every day how people flaunt their ill-gotten wealth harming the country with their immoral acts and feeling no shame or fear of retribution.
Because they know little about the facts about life in the Stalin years, young people perceive even “glamorous” overtones in these programs. The average young viewer sees Stalin as a Shakespearean character of both great evil and great genius.
Putting aside Kiva’s point about Stalin, look at how youth are positioned versus adults. Youth are the ones who are manipulated by the “larger than life” images of Stalin. The problem is not with the cultural production, which is made by adults, but with “the view of history among the young.” “Mature, educated adults” however have the correct historical view because they see Stalin as a “monster.” Adults have some sort of inherent access to the light, while young people remain in darkness by virtue of their youth.
A much different picture is created when you actually listen to youth’s voices. Contrast the above with an excerpt from Dmitry Polikanov’s “Russia’s Youth: Myths and Reality”. His assessment, which is based on VTsIOM (the All-Russia Center for Public Opinion Research) opinion polls, paints a much more positive picture.
Young people are also proactive. They have a totally different view of the role of state in the economy and the social sphere in comparison with other age groups. It is clear that the new generation is drifting more toward a traditional liberal world and away from traditions of paternalism. Thirty-seven to 42 percent of respondents in this age group say that they can do without help from the state, which they believe should focus instead on providing basic equal opportunities for all.
In order to achieve success, many 18-to-24-year-old respondents are ready to jettison existing moral principles that officially upheld by the older generation (62 percent). This view is shared by only 50 percent of those from the older group (25-to-34-year olds), who belong partly to a Soviet code of morality.
Therefore, the younger generation is one made up of optimistic realists trying to find a balance between universal liberty (in income and morality) and conservatism for all (with regard to family values).
Polikanov finds that Russian youth’s idols are not Stalin, but rather predictably actors, rock stars, sports stars, and the rich. Politically they tend to be more socially liberal, while politically moderate. The far left and right are mostly marginal, and in terms of youth organizations, Nashi is viewed more positively than the National Bolsheviks mostly because the former is “perceived as offering help up the career ladder through involvement with actual groups in power and social networking.” With youths like these adults can sleep soundly.
Much of the ambivalence in what youth are is lost among the anxiety ridden articles about the rise of Russian nationalism or every protest staged by the National Bolsheviks or the Red Youth Vanguard. I’ve been partly guilty of this myself as I too am fascinated by political radicalism among youth. Youth radicalism must be placed in a context in order to evaluate its potency.
The question however, and this is something I am dealing with in my own academic work is how do we represent youth so they are representing themselves? One way is to stop thinking of them as passive political subjects that are more susceptible than adults to political or ideological manipulation. They are political agents in their own right. The history of the 20th century shows this as will certainly that of the 21st.Post Views: 688
By Sean — 9 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.Post Views: 374
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.
Image: КадырочноPost Views: 596