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Kremlin Moves Away From Aggressive Youth Policy

Published: July 4, 2014 (Issue # 1818)



  • After Ukraine's Orange Revolution ten years ago, Moscow decided to engineer its own loyal youth movement.
    Photo: Maxim Stulov / Vedomosti

President Vladimir Putin signaled a switch Thursday from the government's previous youth policy of aggressive political groups toward a more traditional approach to instilling patriotism.

"We need to give young people more knowledge about Russia's historical, cultural and natural riches back in school," Putin said. "This is, perhaps, the main way to make them learn to love their motherland and become useful to it," he told a group of government officials and heads of civil society groups in the Kremlin.

His comments suggested there was little likelihood of the resurrection of the abrasive Kremlin-manufactured youth groups that flourished in the last decade.

After Ukraine's Orange Revolution ten years ago, in which young people emerged as a driving force for change through mass public protests, Moscow decided to engineer its own loyal youth movement to offer young people a framework for their political ambitions and — crucially — to counter-balance oppositional rallies in case of need.

The Nashi movement emerged as the brashest. Their often controversial, belligerent campaigns included harassing foreign ambassadors and opposition figures, as well as organizing mass marches in support of Putin.

Putin demonstratively threw his support behind the movement by attending some of its annual large-scale camp congresses on the shores of Lake Seliger in the Tver region. The government's former chief ideologue, Vladislav Surkov — dubbed the "Kremlin demiurge" — managed the Nashi project as his personal brainchild.

But when the Russian government faced its own wave of simmering political activism at the end of 2011, Nashi failed to offer any alternative to the tens of thousands who gathered at anti-government rallies in central Moscow. Since then, Nashi has almost disappeared from the headlines.

The organization's press secretary Anastasia Fedorenchik said Thursday that the movement "is not doing much now, but still officially exists today."

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