Postcards from Neo-Soviet Russia . . . Lots and Lots of Them!

The American Enterprise Institute’s online journal The American reports on the continuing, and increasingly aggressive, horrors of the Nashi youth cult, which is now actively calling for insurrection in the United States using the diatribes of Lenin as a model (hat tip — Robert Amsterdam):

Recently, the American Enterprise Institute received several letters originating in the Russian Federation. Meticulously copied out on typical Russian notebook paper in neat, handwritten English, the letters present an emotional appeal addressed to “The American Nation” and “the relatives of soldiers injured and dead in Afghanistan and Iraq”.

After summing up the letdowns of U.S. Middle East policy, the authors also alert the American people to their government’s active interference in Russia’s domestic affairs, as exemplified by the intent of the State Department to “provide financial and technological aid to NGO [sic] and groups of civil society that operate in Russia.” The consequences of such an erroneous approach will be dire, the appeal warns: “It means that the confrontation is irreversible. It also means the return to the times of the Cold War. At its best.”

The letters conclude by calling U.S. citizens to action: “Take to the streets! Cry for the resignation of the President and dismissal of the State Secretary! Stop fanatics at the State Department!”

The return address on one envelope yields a telling clue about the ideological underpinnings of its authors. The letters came courtesy of Nashi. Nashi, which means “ours” in Russian, is a fiercely patriotic pro-Putin youth organization formed to prevent the threat of purportedly Western-funded “color revolutions” and return Russia to the status of a global superpower.

(A scanned copy of the Nashi Appeal to the American People can be found here.)

At most, Nashi’s warnings will elicit a furtive smile or a listless shrug from the average American. The sentiments expressed in this “appeal”, however, are indicative of a broader phenomenon: the rapidly diminishing prospect of a genuine civil society in post-communist Russia. In its place, Putin’s seven-year rule has given rise to government-sponsored surrogate groups, such as Nashi—intensely anti-Western and well-skilled in toeing the official line.

In Russia, a sense of belonging is important. The pervasive mentality that group membership outweighs the individual stems not just from the Soviet era, but from the roots of Russian history. Thus, it’s not surprising that in the post-Soviet, post-“chaos” (read: Yeltsin) Russia, guided by the principles of Putin’s “sovereign democracy”, a group like Nashi is gaining prominence. It is also not surprising that this group parallels others from Russia’s past—ones that enjoyed the full support of the state in return for ideologically-tested, unflinching obedience, with a thorough dedication to combat all manner of “subversive elements”.

The closest historical equivalent of Nashi is the Soviet-era Komsomol, the infamous youth wing of the Communist Party. As Bolshevik leaders quickly realized the value that youth indoctrination possessed for fulfilling regime needs, the Komsomol was born in 1918. In October 1920, speaking before The Third All-Russia Congress of The Russian Young Communist League, Vladimir Lenin set the course to the rising generation of Bolshevik leaders:

You are well aware that, as long as Russia remains the only workers’ republic and the old, bourgeois system exists in the rest of the world, we shall be weaker than they are, and be constantly threatened with a new attack; and that only if we learn to be solidly united shall we win in the further struggle and—having gained strength—become really invincible. Thus, to be a Communist means that you must organize and unite the entire young generation and set an example of training and discipline in this struggle. Then you will be able to start building the edifice of communist society and bring it to completion.

And so they did, generation after generation, railing against “imperialist aggressors” abroad and exposing “the fifth column” at home. Along with the Young Pioneers, they occasionally assisted the elderly and planted trees in school gardens. So it went, until Gorbachev and Yeltsin brought an end to the “communist paradise”.

Now, fast-forward nearly nine decades from Lenin’s speech to a free Russia. Then, substitute the communist references therein to “sovereign democracy” – presto, the Nashi Manifesto [AEI links to the Russian original, La Russophobe has translated it here]

We must be realistic. In the post Soviet space, the West—under the slogans of democracy and freedom —is conducting a major geopolitical game to force Russia out of global politics and attempting to institute external control of Russia itself. In the best case scenario, this will lead to economic decay and Russia becoming a resource appendage to developed economies. External control will never allow for a genuine modernization of Russia. In the worst case scenario, our country can expect a split along ethnic and religious lines and a civil war. Fascist organizations in Russia are helping to realize the latter scenario. They are the allies of Russian liberals. Our goal in this situation: to unite the Russian youth under the banner of a wide socio-patriotic movement, which will seek to preserve Russia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity; this movement is “Nashi.”

The similarities do not stop at ideology, however. At the behest of the Kremlin, Nashi was created in 2005 as an “anti-fascist” organization to combat xenophobia and intolerance while promoting social responsibility, such as following a healthy lifestyle, organizing blood drives, or helping needy children. The main focus of the group, however, lies in assuring—by all means necessary—that Putin’s “course” is not altered by unpleasant perturbations such as Georgia’s “Rose Revolution” in 2003 or its “orange” equivalent in Ukraine a year later. Ilya Yashin, the youth leader of the opposition Yabloko party, predicts that “Nashi will serve as a cover for storm brigades that will use violence against democratic organizations.”

But when it comes to acknowledging economic realities of the day, Nashi lags behind the Komsomol in the staunchness of belief. While the young Soviet communists derided the global bourgeois “alienation of labor”, an independent Russia has vigorously pursued dealings with the former “oppressor nations” and as a result, developed a thriving market economy of its own. Although Nashi’s manifesto emphatically supports the “need for modernization”, it simultaneously employs the dreaded “resource appendage” bugaboo against foreign capital. Most recently, the Kremlin has pushed hard for WTO entry, although the latest round of consultations has not yielded the desired results. Nashi is conspicuously silent on WTO entry, but the cognitive dissonance is not entirely shocking, since its Kremlin bosses have employed the same jarring double standard in regard to foreign companies in Russia

Nashi operations are conducted with a disconcerting uniformity. The ideological training of new recruits occurs during the annual summer camp at Lake Seliger, 350 kilometers north of Moscow. Guided by the wise tutelage of founder and ideological guru, Vasiliy Yakemenko, the 10,000 red t-shirt wearing activists – or commissars as they are called – rise early, conduct mandatory mass exercise sessions, and attend lectures on current politics and other ideologically-suitable topics.

Western aggressor nations remain a perennial concern for Nashi. For instance, in protest of Estonia’s controversial removal of a Soviet-era World War II monument in April, portraits of Estonia’s leaders with Hitleresque moustaches have been posted all over the Seliger complex. Furthermore, Nashi members with a penchant for history can attend the “museum of double standards”, aimed at exposing the Western bias toward Russia’s record on human rights and democracy, while ignoring more atrocious violations at home. As related by Times reporter Tony Halpin, “One exhibit shows a grandmother pushing a policeman at a pro-democracy protest in Moscow next to an astonishing claim that 80 died in riots at the G8 summit in Germany.”

The group’s members are trained to view the opposition (primarily the anti-Putin umbrella coalition, Other Russia) as fascists and traitors. In an exhibit in the camp center, the faces of the three main leaders of Other Russia are pasted onto the bodies of prostitutes, while a separate area with dilapidated cabins and broken glass is “reserved” for its members. To drive the point home, on-site paramilitary training is conducted to prevent “destabilization” of the upcoming Duma elections in December and the presidential contest in 2008.

Given the past Nashi harassment of foreign envoys as well as of assorted domestic opposition, Putin’s critics can consider themselves well-warned.

2 responses to “Postcards from Neo-Soviet Russia . . . Lots and Lots of Them!

  1. Up close and personal with Putin cheerleaders:

    T-shirt messages: “I want Putin” (front), “…for third term” (back).

  2. I have to point out, that the Bronze Soldier was removed only AFTER the riots brouk out.

    You see, the Estonian government had not made their desicion yet what to do with the monument, many government members and also members of the Parliament (and the President) opposed the idea of removing it – there was a plan to integrate it to the exhibition of the Museum of Occupation, located just over the street. The exhibition gives an overview of both german and soviet occupations.

    The problem was, that actually nobody knew, if there were any soldiers burried nearby the monument at all – while there are many “fake” memorials in Estonia, one of the most known of which locates also in Tallinn, nearby the seashore in Pirita – “Maarjamäe memoriaal” (The Memorial of Maarjamäe). As it came out, the coffins buried there were empty – no bodies, just sawdust.

    Memorials had actually no meaning as monuments for human tragedy – for soviet leaders they were just weapons in a furios propagandistic war which, as you can see, continues until today.

    So was decided that first we have to be ascertain whether there were people buried there at all, and then give the relatives a chance to take the remains of their family members home. And THEN decide, what to do with the monument, while most of the Estonians also had nothing against keeping it there as a monument for all the people, died in WW II.

    The original sign on the monument was replased many years ago, in 1990s, and the monument was then dedicated to all who fell in battles of WW II. Soviet veterans did not like it. In 2006 they actually attacked a veteran of German army, who came to the monument, just to give honour to his war mates. A bunch of soviet veterans, probably drunk, attacking single old man. What a heroic thing to do, isn’t it?

    Okay, why to touch the monument at all? The government was forced to do something, while some aggresive groups started to use it as an excuse – under the pretext of defending the memory of soldiers and safeguarding the monument they started organising riots and propagandistic events (already in 2005), and these events, of course, attracted radicals from both sides. But there nearby are located schools and the National Library – if something goes wrong and the situation gets out of hands, many people, including children, could be hurt. The government just had to do something.

    Unfortunately, the local russians gave in to the fierce Russian propaganda and started rioting during the excavations. Paradox lies in the fact, that they were the actual cause for removing the monument. It could still stand there, if they had had a little bit of common sense. But I’m sure, the Russian government knew very well, which buttons to push for getting russinas to act the way they acted.

    It probably came for them (the Russian government) as a surprise, that the efforts they had made, and all the hard work they had been doing for several years already, in order to brainwash baltic Russians again (isn’t it a bit suspicious, that the organisation called NASHI was established in 2005, in Estonia at the same time was established Notshnoi Dozor, riots broke up in Latvia, in Estonia veterans started to act aggressive on 9th of May and suddenly schoolchildren appeared nearby the Bronze soldier again in 9th of May, just like in Soviet times, etc etc) – just failed.

    Yes, failed – they wanted to organise an ethnic conflict, but Estonians did not go out to beat the Russians. A bunch of drunken children, demolishing shops and setting houses in fire. Some elderly people were seen to give them drugs – it was confirmed by the police and eyewittnesses.

    Organisers tried to bring additional forces from other cities and from other parts of Tallinn, but even that didn’t help. Hundreds of Russians recieved messages through e-mail and mobile phones, provoking to join in the riots (it’s a fact, Russians have told it to me) – and even that didn’t help. Estonians were sitting home and the police was doing its job. And most of the Russians were just as shocked as Estonians and did not want to take part in that absurd and violent event.

    So it’s actually a sad story of stupidity and trusting someone you should not trust, in that case the propaganda of the Russian Government in Russian government-funded and controlled TV-channels and newspapers. My God, what stories they publish there – people in Russia must think that local Russians get regularly beaten up by fierce nazi-activists. Sometimes I read questiones like “Why you don’t come to Russia, they beat you there on streets, you are not allowed to speak russian, they dont’t hire Russians – come home, poore things!”. ;) I could tell you about me and my russian friends, how we live and how we party, but it’s another story.

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