[Marxism] Question on the Russian Nashi youth movement

Thomas Campbell avvakum at gmail.com
Thu Apr 2 14:53:15 MDT 2009


Dear Joonas,

My opinion as someone who has been on the ground here in Russia for
the past fifteen years is that Nashi fully deserves the moniker "Putin
Jugend." They call themselves a "democratic antifascist youth
movement," but that designation reveals the genius of chief Kremlin
ideologue Vladislav Surkov for calling black white -- for example,
when he dubbed an oligarchic capitalist police state a "sovereign
democracy," and so forth.

Nashi was created because Surkov and the other masterminds of United
Russia perceived that they might lose the youth politics game if they
didn't come up with their own (fake) aggressive counterweight. Genuine
political youth groups -- from Youth Yabloko and Oborona, on the
liberal right, to the new Komsomol, anarchists, the real antifa, the
Avant-Garde of Red Youth, and the (post-Dugin) National Bolsheviks, on
the confused Russian left -- were getting more active in grassroots
protest movements, beginning with the massive protests against
"monetization" of pensioners' benefits in 2005, while United Russia
had no visible, public support amongst young people. So they quickly
came up with Nashi, the Young Guards of United Russia (Molodaya
gvardiia Edinoi Rossii), Young Russia (Rumol), etc.

All these pro-Kremlin movements would disappear in a second without
Kremlin funding and if Surkov and Co. suddenly decided they were no
longer needed. They all are as "more or less nationalistic" as the
powers that be need them to be at any given moment. In recent months,
for example, the Young Guards have been doing a swell job of fomenting
hatred against migrant workers from Central Asia. Meanwhile, in
Petersburg and other cities, several opposition youth groups recently
discovered that Nashi had infiltrated paid spies into their
organizations.

As for Nashi's "progressive anti-fascist" rhetoric, their actual
practice on this front amounts merely to 1) whipping up hatred of
"fascist" Estonia; 2) a campaign of painting over fascist graffiti in
provincial towns (a campaign that, for all I know, may exist only on
their website). They do absolutely nothing to combat the enormous
problem of racist and neo-Nazi violence in Russia, and in fact they do
a great deal to aggravate the atmosphere of paranoia, xenophobia, and
repression that reign right now in this country.

I know no leftist or liberal here who would say anything good about
Nashi, and many of them would say a lot worse than what I've said
here. If Johan Backman wants to caper around Helsinki with those
characters and raise a stink, I think we can be sure that Backman not
only has some dubious ideas, but probably some dubious (KGB/FSB)
connections as well.

This is not to deny that Estonia and Finland have some issues in their
recent past that bear examination (especially Estonia), but the hay
that Nashi makes of them is meant solely for the consumption of the
domestic (Russian) audience -- i.e., it's meant to stir up hatred of
"the west" and the bum deal that "resurgent" Russia supposedly gets
from it and its media.

I'm glad that you're concerned about unreasonable anti-Russian
sentiment in Finnish society and the Finnish media, but the
unreasonableness is a good deal more potent and lethal here in Russia
at the moment. Take the beating (just the other day) of famous human
rights activist Lev Ponomarev and the murder of the layout designer
(yes, the layout guy) of the only remaining opposition newspaper in
the suburban Moscow town of Khimki -- just the latest acts in a wave
of terror against social and political activists that began this past
fall and whose most well-known (murder) victim has been leftist lawyer
Stanislav Markelov.

Or if that fails to move you, take the fact that persons unknown blew
a giant hole in the Lenin monument outside the Finland Station the
other morning.

Nashi is just one production site in this terror apparatus. To be as
generous as possible to them, they're protofascists. Don't be fooled
by their rhetoric, their self-description or their antics in Helsinki.

As for reading material, the Wikipedia article is semi-okay (although
someone -- probably someone from Nashi -- says it's biased):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nashi_(youth_movement)

Also, the American blogger Sean Guillory has an unhealthy fascination
with Nashi (which I think is somehow connected to his dissertation
research). He has written often and extensively about them:

http://seansrussiablog.org/

Terveisin,

Thomas Campbell
Saint Petersburg

PS If you have any connection with the recent student/teacher
"uprising" in Finland, I'd be interested in chatting with you
off-list. I'm writing about it for a leftist student newspaper here.



>  From: Joonas Laine <jjonas at nic.fi>
>  Subject: [Marxism] Question on the Russian Nashi youth movement

>  I was wondering if the Russian or Russia-based comrades on the list
>  could shed some light on the practice and politics of the pro-government
>  Nashi youth movement. Some time ago there was a big media uproar in
>  Finland when about three Nashi representatives came to Finland to
>  demonstrate against a history seminar organized by the Estonian embassy
>  in Finland, which included a "documentary" called 'The Soviet Story'.
>
>  The uproar itself was a typical example of how exaggerated the Finnish
>  media's hatred and fear of Russia really is, but as to the Nashi, it's
>  rather difficult to know what they are about as I myself don't read any
>  Russian. My hunch says they're just more or less nationalistic, and the
>  anti-fascist rhetoric is not as progressive as one might think offhand.
>
>  On the other hand, I'm not sure if they're quite as bad as to deserve to
>  be called "Putin Jugend", maybe that's just some more of the typical
>  Finnish anti-Russian hatred.
>
>  But I might be wrong. Anyone have any information on this..?




More information about the Marxism mailing list