Youth Politics in Putin's Russia: Producing Patriots and Entrepreneurs

Youth Politics in Putin's Russia: Producing Patriots and Entrepreneurs

Youth Politics in Putin's Russia: Producing Patriots and Entrepreneurs

Youth Politics in Putin's Russia: Producing Patriots and Entrepreneurs

Synopsis

Julie Hemment provides a fresh perspective on the controversial nationalist youth projects that have proliferated in Russia in the Putin era, examining them from the point of view of their participants and offering provocative insights into their origins and significance. The pro-Kremlin organization Nashi ("Ours") and other state-run initiatives to mobilize Russian youth have been widely reviled in the West, seen as Soviet throwbacks and evidence of Russia's authoritarian turn. By contrast, Hemment's detailed ethnographic analysis finds an astute global awareness and a paradoxical kinship with the international democracy-promoting interventions of the 1990s. Drawing on Soviet political forms but responding to 21st-century disenchantments with the neoliberal state, these projects seek to produce not only patriots, but also volunteers, entrepreneurs, and activists.

Excerpt

Lake Seliger, Tver’ Oblast (Region),
Russia, August 9, 2009

We climbed out of the car a little uncertainly, stiff after the three-hour drive from Tver’. Ahead of us we could see a checkpoint with a small tent and red flags. I could make out billboards and tents dotted through the trees. This then was Seliger 2009, the high-profile federal youth educational camp that brought thousands of young people to Tver’ oblast from all over the Russian Federation. I confess to the excitement I felt in this moment; it was reading about the first youth camp at Seliger in 2005 four years previously that had piqued my interest in Russia’s youth policies. Now I was there, with my Russian university teacher colleagues – an invited guest, or “VIP.” It felt like an ethnographic coup. the earlier camps were controversial, organized by the newly founded pro-Kremlin youth organization Nashi (Ours), and attended by its participants. They drew a lot of critical attention from international media commentators and from liberal-oriented Russian journalists as well, both as a result of their Soviet-era resonance (their orchestrated activities and summer camps strongly resembled those of the Komsomol, the Communist Youth League), and because of the belligerent patriotism they articulated. I had tracked these camps via newspaper reports, drawn by the startling images of thousands of young people in red T-shirts doing mass calisthenics under posters of President Putin. Among Russian critics, images such as these had won the organization the moniker “Putin Iugend” (literally Putin Youth, recalling Hitler Youth), and its participants “nash-

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