Annals of Russian Youth Apathy: Nashi’s Achilles Heel?

Ordinarly, La Russophbe would not be filled with delight to learn of a new study showing that young Russians couldn’t care less about politics. However, there may be a silver lining in this news, in that at least it shows the Nashi youth cult is an abysmal (and classically Russian) failure, having giving rise to no increase in political interest whatsoever. Indeed, it may well be that Russia’s only protection from total neo-Soviet ruin is the ignorance and apathy of Russian y young people. On the other hand, this was undoubtedly true in the time of Stalin as well at least to some extent, and this probably gave rise to the need for draconian violance to force the slackers into line. The Moscow Times reports:

Young Russians today are more materialistic and less political than any other generation before them, according to a study released Monday. The study, conducted by the Sociology Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, indicated that half of all young people have no interest in politics. It also found that many young people know nothing about Young Guard, Nashi and the other youth organizations that have made national and international headlines in recent months.

A total of 49 percent of the young respondents expressed no interest in politics whatsoever, a sharp increase from 33 percent in a similar study in 1997, said Mikhail Gorshkov, director of the Sociology Institute.

Gorshkov blamed the entertainment industry for the growing apathy. “It is wielding a much greater emotional influence,” he said at a presentation of the study. He said the number of young people taking an active interest in politics (14 percent) and participating in politics (about 2 percent) have remained relatively stable over the past decade.

The study also found that youth movements are not quite as popular as might have been believed. Twenty-six percent of respondents said they did not know any of the 16 movements mentioned by researchers, while 31 percent said they did not know any youth movements at all.

Of the 16 groups mentioned, United Russia’s youth group, Young Guard, received the highest level of support, at 11.9 percent, followed by another pro-Kremlin group, Nashi, at 6.3 percent. None of the remaining 14 movements got more than 3 percent. A leading member of Young Guard, Nadezhda Orlova, said she was pleased with the findings. “Not everybody has to be interested in politics,” she said, calling 11.9 percent a good result. The study found widespread apathy about elections, with 27 percent refusing to commit to a political party and 22 percent saying they did not vote. Asked about their preference for the presidential election in 2008, the largest group, of nearly 35 percent, named Vladimir Putin. Asked whom they would pick if Putin kept his promise not to seek a third term, 12 percent supported First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and 9 percent backed First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov.

Denis Belunov, a senior official in Garry Kasparov’s oppositional United Civil Front, expressed concern that the growing apathy would benefit the Kremlin. He added: “I am not surprised at the fading interest in politics after the Kremlin has brought much of the media under its control.” The study found that young people are much more concerned with their education, career and future economic well-being than they were 10 years ago. They also are more positive about the overall quality of their lives, with 64 percent claiming to be happy compared with 46 percent in 1997. The study, conducted with support from the German Friedrich Ebert foundation, interviewed 1,796 people aged 17 to 26 as well as 655 people aged 40 to 60 in March and April. No margin of error was given.

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