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Dimitri Medvedev’s effort to court youth into politics continues on Thursday when he meets with young members of United Russia. According to Kommersant, the meeting will be attended by party leaders Mintemer Shaimiev and Yuri Luzhkov, General Council secretary Vyacheslav Volodin and young United Russia representatives from the provinces.
The meeting appears to have been thrown together at the spur of the moment, right before Medvedev’s comments on youth policy last week. Little has been said about the actual content of the meeting. According to Alexander Tretyakov, the head of the Perm’s United Russia office, “the delegation has been formed, but still not the full information about the event.” Aleksei Volotskov, a member of Volgograd’s youth council and UR member, said that he only got a request to submit his information for a background check two weeks ago.
As to what the President’s urgency to meet with young URs might be, Vlacheslav Burkov, United Russia member and speaker in Perm’s youth parliament, thinks that it could be about drawing up names for a national parliament for youth under 30. It is the “Year of Youth” as Medvedev’s press secretary told the business daily. Yet, according to Kommersant‘s sources, United Russia has yet to form a plan to addressing young members most pressing concern: forming a cadre of young political reserves. This isn’t expected to happen until the end of the year.
Nevertheless, it seems that Medvedev is taking the appropriate steps to draw fresh blood into the political establishment. As political commentator Dmitri Badivskii told Kommersant, “Medvedev may propose his idea of using the cadre of reserves especially at the municipal level and also propose party candidacy for governor appointments.” Maybe the President’s personal anointing of young people into municipal positions will begin breaking the stranglehold of local elder bureaucrats. Let’s hope so.
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By Sean — 11 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: 490
By Sean — 7 years ago
Over the past few years, I’ve argued that Nashi has been in a state of confusion in a post-Colored Revolution world. The Putin youth cult was created in 2005 precisely to defend Russia from enemies within and without hellbent on bringing “democracy” to Russia. But since 2008, when the “Orange Threat” was declared vanquished, Nashi has bobbed along on the Russian political scene without any resounding battle call to unite its forces. Sure their annual summer-fest at Seliger has grown in number and scope and their day-to-day campaigns, pickets, and pranks have continued in more and more colorful ways. The Russian liberal “opposition” continues to play its role as the target for legal, media, and sometimes physical harassment. But all of these activities still lack a certain oomph, let alone urgency, when Russia appears as more or less politically and economically stable.
What does a rudderless counterrevolutionary youth organization do when there is no threat to rally the troops to battle? Why, you invent one.
Russia is once again in peril. That’s right, in peril. Or so thinks Vasili Yakemenko, Nashi founder and head of the Russian Department of Youth Affairs. Two weeks ago, a document, presumably written by Yakemenko, titled, “For Background Information Only” appeared on a Nashi discussion board on Vkontakte calling for members to troll the Internet to prevent Russia’s destruction at the hands of Boris Nemtsov, Eduard Limonov, Mikhail Kasyanov, Alexei Navalny, and Lev Ponomarev. The text is nothing less than a conspiracy laden call to arms. Here’s a translation of its more juicy parts:
In the next two years an attempt will be undertaken to remove the legally elected President of Russia. The attempt will be to realize a Lybian-Iraqi scenario in our country which will bring total chaos, civil war, and the appointment of a President by the US State Department. In preparation for this event the Nemtsovs, Navalnys, Linomovs, Ponomarevs and others have bought themselves grantees, fascists, and rouges, and have begun a smear campaign against United Russia.
What follows is an plea to support United Russia even though it’s not “ideal” and has many “bribe-takers,” “ineffective officials” and “plain criminals” in its ranks. To break from it now, Yakemenko asserts, would lead to Russia tearing itself apart.
We must understand that if we don’t like United Russia, we must enter it and change it from the inside. If someone doesn’t like United Russia to the extent that he can’t join it, let him go to another party. If he doesn’t like an existing party, let him register one himself, but honestly, and not out of false and dead souls like Nemtsov and PARNAS.
But the POINT IS, that just because we don’t like what is happening in our country, it is NO REASON TO DESTROY IT! Just because we don’t like United Russia, it is no reason to destroy it!
No, Nemtsov, Kasyanov and Navalny need the destruction of the party and the country!
The destruction of the country always begins with the destruction of the Party. The collapse of the USSR in 1991, which carried millions of our parents into poverty in the 1990s, lost territory, and wars also began with the destruction of the KPSS.
Yakemenko then goes on to explain what he expects from his minions over the next two years:
1. Figure out what is going on. Special schools will work for you. You will study geopolitics, politics, conceptual design, rhetoric, psychology, and social networking. Learn to dispute and state your opinion. It is necessary to talk, read books, and watch movies to convince people.
2. That you become the most famous people on the Internet. Become pundits, journalists, bloggers and plain authorities to your contemporaries.
3. That you begin to work with information and the means to spread it, and that means to begin to influence the perception of Russia and what is going on around it.
4. That you will be the first who begin to direct people through social networking.
5. That we create a powerful All-Russian Internet network together that will be able to independently formulate federal white papers, and promote and spin its own news agenda.
6. That you will become the best creators of Internet content.
. . .
You will send me proposals to overcome these problems:
Trolling search engines for Vladimir Putin. The illusion of the dominance of the oppositional opinion on the Internet. The spread of child pornography. The absence of people with our outlook at the top of LiveJournal. The spread of extremist material. Internet provocation.
And also proposals for the creation of any social-political Internet content, able to attach attention of a large number of people. This, above all, TEXTS and video clips, pictures, demotivators, interviews on the street, comics, graffiti, sketches, calendars, songs, dances, street actions, flash mobs, and any other means.
The text then urges 16 to 25 year-old LiveJournal, Twitter and YouTube users to register for a special group, “Sponge Bob and his Friends, and attend a meeting to discuss how the youth will save United Russia, and by extension, Russia itself.
Who is this Sponge Bob? It’s none other than Yakemenko himself, as his Vkontakte page suggests.
The “half-secret” meeting foretold in the manifesto was held last Friday at the Mir movie theater in Moscow, reports Nezavisimaya gazeta.
The gathering of the meeting with the head of Rosmolodezh came to life in circumstances of a quasi-conspiracy. Or a role playing game. A week prior, young visitors to cafeterias in the capital were given white envelopes with their lunch checks with “If you’re happy with everything in life, pass this envelope to a neighbor” written on them.
One of the receivers of the letter, deciding to participate in Rosmolodezh’s game further, but didn’t want to give his name, told NG, “On that day, September 5, friends and I were sitting at a cafe on Staryi Arbat. We were given a white envelope with the check with an invitation to a parade of Mоscow students at an event Yakemenko [is organizing]. The letter was addressed to young people who are socially active and wish to create a better life for themselves and Russia. Those wanting to participate in the meeting had to send an SMS message with “Ready” (Gotov) to a short four digit number.
On Thursday night, unbeknown to the “Ready-ers,” young people got an SMS from a number addressed as “Organizer.” On Friday they were expected to meet at 6 pm at the Mir movie complex on Tsvetnoi Bulevar.
When NG‘s source arrived at the appointed place, he didn’t notice any posters or announcements informing about the forthcoming meeting. Metal detectors were put in front of one of the movie entrances where participants were to register. Young people dressed in red jackets (Nashi’s uniform–Sean) with “Come with us” written on them, asked to leave their information on the invitation of the Youth department. “There was a girl standing next to me, a freshman from a private university in Moscow, who came to the event with her mother,” a participant told NG. But they wouldn’t let her mother in. The guys in the red jackets explained that this meeting was only for young who sent an SMS request beforehand.
At the meeting Yakemenko spoke for an hour and a half to 150 attendees about preventing a Middle Eastern scenario and stressed the importance of young people to become the “conscience of the nation” on the Internet to prevent it. “The Internet and social networking played a big role in these revolutions,” he told the audience. “Through them, the opposition passed information about protests and spread calls to overthrow the regime.” Also of note, Yakemenko didn’t mention President Medvedev or even United Russia once. He only repeatedly referenced Putin “as the leader of our government.”
What to make of Yakemenko’s manifesto, his semi-conspiratorial gathering, and the call to arms on the Internet? Some of it is merely an attempt to broaden what Nashi is already doing. For example, Nashi has been waging a campaign against Alexei Navalny for a while now. The most recent was attempt at slander was to charge that he was reviving money from Anatoly Chubais. Navalny thoroughly dismissed that notion by pointing out that Chubais’ company Rosnano was a sponsor of Seliger, adding a photo of Putin meeting with the oligarch to boot. Nevertheless the anti-Navalny screed shot straight up LiveJournal’s top posts list. As Anton Nosik told Novaya gazeta, Nashi uses bots to hock the popularity of their posts.
But part of this Internet campaign to become the “conscience of the nation” is right out of this summer’s Seliger camp. Two of the seminars given at Seliger, “Information Flow” and “Politics,” promoted the above activities. “Information Flow” sought to teach campers how to “write corresponding texts, create stories, record podcasts and make films for a “new generation,” reported Lenta.ru in May. “Moreover, instructors will talk about methods of conducting PR-campaigns on the Internet and rules of conducting blogs.” “Politics” looked to train United Russia foot soldiers for December’s Duma elections, and presumably for the Presidential election in March. The goal of “Politics” was to facilitate “the formation of the country’s new political elite, capable of independently solving key social and political problems, advocate freedom and self-sufficiency, to realize their political and civil rights, and to train nationally orientated youth.”
When you add the fear of a Lybian-Iraqi scenario to the mix, you get Sponge Bob goes to war.
Speaking of Sponge Bob, it’s more than a bit ironic that just as he and his friends prepare to defend Russia from enemies within and without, that Professors Angeline Lillard and Jennifer Peterson, of the University of Virginia’s Department of Psychology, released a study showing that SpongeBob Squarepants “dampen preschoolers’ brain power.” Can you imagine what’s happening to youth in the clutches of Russia’s Sponge Bob?Post Views: 802
By Sean — 6 years ago
Russian translation of this post, courtesy of Inosmi.
Update on the Update: More on the Nashi website “403 Forbidden.” Alexey Sidorenko tweeted “for some time [Nashi] were denying all surfers from abroad. In order to be sure try accessing it via Russia-based proxy or VPN.” I went through a Russian proxy and indeed the site works
Having gone through a few articles I saved on Nashi over the last few months, I should note organization’s demise was already in the works since February. Then, Izvestiia reported whiffs of Nashi’s liquidation and the transformation of its summer bash, Seliger, into something else. Moreover, the article pointed to the possible passing of youth politics from Nashi to Molodaia gvardiia, i.e. from Surkov’s people to Volodin’s.
Then in mid-March, Gazeta.ru reported that Seliger was going to be re-branded, and its 12 million ruble budget placed in new hands.
Again, all of this suggests that Nashi’s destruction is part of Volodin’s victory and the subsequent coring out of Surkov’s clients.
On Friday, Gazeta.ru dropped a bomb concerning the future of Nashi, the Putinphiliac youth organization. According to unnamed sources, Vasilii Yakemenko, Nashi founder and soon to be outgoing head of Rosmolodezh, met with Nashi’s four Commissars, Maria Kislitsina, Artur Omarov, Alexkasnder Gagiev, and Sergei Blintsov, and told them “the history of [Nashi] in the present form is over.” The youth organization was to be “disbanded,” with Yakemenko telling his loyal servants, “thanks for everything, you’re all free.” All current Nashi initiatives were to be shuttered, the ruble spigot plugged, the marquee clicked off, the doors bolted. Good night, y’all.
Gazeta‘s article circulated quickly as many expressed elation at the doom of what is arguably a much hated organization. Nashi’s media maiden, Kristina Potupchik, tried to dispel the story as based on unfounded “rumors.” “I’m officially declaring to all interested persons: There isn’t any talk about Nashi’s dissolution or shutting. Nor could there be.” Potupchik wrote on her blog. “Nashi will not simply continue to exist, but will also birth new projects which will remain within the framework of the movement.” “We are not closed,” she added in response to the jubilation at the news, “[unlike] your white-ribbon-fountain “revolution.”
I’ve been skeptical of Nashi’s demise in the past. This time, however, I think something is in the works. Potupchik can gloss over Gazeta‘s very detailed report all she wants. The truth is this news comes amid a few significant turning points in Nashi’s seven year history: the Nashi brand soured, Vladislav Surkov’s dismissal, Vyacheslav Volodin’s ascendency, and Putin’s plan, albeit still nascent, to reorganize the structure of his electoral base.
But does this mean Nashi is dead and buried? Dead maybe. But a resurrection in a new form is entirely possible.
Indeed, according to the article, Nashi will be “reformed” but how and into what “no one knows.” One theory is that, with Yakemenko out as Youth Affairs chief, he will join his patron Vladislav Surkov in the Duma (there is talk that if Medvedev becomes Prime Minister, he will name Surkov his chief of staff), where a new youth movement will be born under his leadership. Given that Nashi is essentially Yakemenko’s personal property, many of the activists and all the resources the organization has accumulated will go with him. This would be an interesting move. This would put Surkov-Yakemenko-Nashi re-branded under Medvedev. Could this be the budding of the long sought after Medvedev clan base? A pretty weak base, I know. But it’s something.
Another theory is that Nashi’s Commissars will possibly create a political party out of the organization’s corpse to serve “as a base for tomorrow’s pro-Kremlin youth.” This is an interesting idea too, and works well with something Brian Whitmore and Kirill Kobrin brought up in their latest Power Vertical Podcast. Namely, Putin is looking to reorganize Russia’s political landscape based on a corporatist model around a coalition of parties and social organizations under the umbrella of the All-Russian People’s Front (ONF). United Russia, which Putin has been distancing himself from since December, would either be dissolved or split and its remnants reabsorbed into Putin’s coalition. Indeed, Putin hinted that he might lead the ONF and dump his chairmanship of United Russia. If this is the future of Putin’s electoral machine, then the reform of party registration works in Putin’s rebranding favor. It allows a bunch of disparate parties, presumably the Nashi Party would be one, to form a populist network that is flexible, and more importantly, decentralized to avoid another United Russia PR crash and burn. If one head gets bloodied, chop it off and grow two new ones in its place.
Nashi’s supposed liquidation, then, can be read in terms of a convergence of forces. The idea that Nashi has outlived its usefulness has been a longtime coming. As I noted back in 2008, there was already some in the Kremlin that felt that Nashi was no longer needed with the “Operation successor” imminent and the “Orange Threat” vanquished. Still, Nashi survived, presumably thanks to Surkov’s patronage, and spent the next four years harassing the phantoms of revolution: liberal oppositionists, foreign dignitaries, imagined “fascists,” and critical journalists. Things are now different. According to Gazeta‘s source, Yakemenko told the Commissars that “the movement was quite severely compromised before the [Duma] elections.” This explains Nashi’s conspicuous absence over the last six months. Known for bringing thousands of youth to the street, Nashi was nowhere to be found in any significance (clashes with protesters on Pushkin Square on the evening of December 5th aside) during the Putin love-fests during the Presidential campaign. Nashi’s degradation, however, was a longtime in the making. I would place the beginning of the end at Oleg Kashin’s beating in November 2010. Kashin quite logically fingered Nashi and Yakemenko in particular for organizing the crime. As chronicled in the excellent documentary Putin’s Kiss, Kashin’s beating even turned one of its diehard members, Masha Drokova, away from Yakemenko’s clutches. Things went downhill from there, culminating in February’s email dump by Anonymous that revealed Nashi engaging in all sorts of dirty deeds, including smear campaigns against oppositionists like Alexei Navalny and organizing a DDoS attack on Kommersant, allegedly.
But there is another context to Nashi’s supposed destruction: the fall of Vladislav Surkov, the grey cardinal. Nashi is just one more casualty in the Vyacheslav Volodin-Sukov death match. Volodin won, and in one of his power consolidating moves, quickly placed youth policy directly under his thumb with his client and former Molodaia gavardiia leader Timur Prokopenko at the head. With his patron Surkov vanquished and Rosmolodezh soon to be emasculated, Vasilii Yakemenko announced his intention of leaving his post after the Presidential election. I expect his resignation around Putin’s inauguration, if not sooner. Hence, wither Nashi.
Granted, this story is still young. Things could develop in another direction in the coming weeks. But as things now stand, liquidating Nashi’s present form makes good sense. The question is what would a resuscitated Nashi look like, and more importantly, what role will it play in Putin 2.0.Post Views: 1,084