Look at these young men and boys! What material! I shall eradicate the thousands of years of human domestication. Brutal youth–that is what I am after…I want to see once more in the its eyes the gleam…of the beast of prey. With these I can make a new world…and create a new order! ~Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf
Vladimir Putin, like Adolph Hitler and VI Lenin, knows that the best place to start is in the beginning. If one wishes to truly change society, it’s important to begin indoctrination during the most impressionable stages, when the lessons will truly stick. Thus Putin and his administration are deeply involved in a Russian youth movement known as the Nashi (Ours). As of 2002, Nashi held over 50,000 members.
Not surprisingly, Vladislav Surkov, a Russian government official who provided large sums of money to Putin during elections, is the patron of Nashi. Surkov is a major power broker in the Russian government; he is one of 7 Russian officials sanctioned by the US government after the Russian annexation of Crimea.
Interestingly enough, and completely in line with the Russian government’s talenty for seizing upon international, academic, and media zeitgeist, Nashi creator Vasily Grigoryevich Yakemenko says the movement was created to battle “skin heads and Nazis” in Russia. Remember, this was the same language used to justify Russia’s initial intervention in Crimea. This rhetoic is intended to dissuade criticism from liberal groups, whom reflexively hate fascism. Nashi has been accused of intimidation of rival youth groups. Nashi has even established its own political party, registered with the Kremlin.
Nashi is used for political demonstrations against the West, the US in particular. This is a growing trend in Russia, fully supported and endorsed by the Kremlin.
One of the Seliger Forum’s managers and Russia’s youngest parliament member, 25-year-old Robert Schlegal, used to be a well-known anti-American activist. Three years ago, Schlegal—sometimes called Putin’s favorite protégé—led a crowd of 12,000 Nashi members to the American embassy in Moscow and played a film in which a cartoon George W. Bush claimed, “I control the world’s oil, economy, wars, culture, science, and information.” While Schlegal still refers to the United States as “the most aggressively dominating empire,” he now says Nashi’s anti-Western attacks are “the old agenda.”
The most prominent and striking feature of Nashi is that it seemingly seeks to build upon Putin’s cult of personality, its members sporting Putin tshirts and chanting songs in his praise. Putin is building his support for a possible extension of his time in power.
Supporters of Nashi say that Russia has a long history of such groups. They are correct. VI Lenin established The Young Pioneers, which survived until the late Soviet days. The American, Samantha Smith, was even accorded membership on her visit in 1983.
The Nashi are fully indoctrinated in Russian nationalism and Putin’s regime. The extant of their activies far exceeds that of comparable American organizations, such as the Scouts. The Nashi’s sole reason for existing is to build Putin’s power base, and to crush and shame opposition. Nashi is a political tool.
This is the first entry of my series, which analyzes Putin’s quest to bend all aspects of the Russian state and people to his will. Aspects of the youth groups will be analyzed in more depth, later.