Staunton, February 2 – Russians are ironically calling “the Network,” as the Kremlin’s new youth movement is officially known, “Putin’s Witnesses” because its members are so ideologically committed and go from house to house to spread their ideas about the need for complete loyalty to Vladimir Putin and his regime.
The group in the process of organization for almost a year gained new prominence last week when various commentators suggested that it should respond to an open letter from Ukrainian students calling a more honest discussion of Russian-Ukrainian relations (rusjev.net/2015/02/02/kreml-aktivno-razvivaet-sektu-svideteley-putina-ispolzuya-programmirovanie-psihiki/).
The Russky Yevrey (“Russian Jew”) site points out that details about “the Network” are hard to find because its adepts say that information about it is “closed.” When asked about themselves, the Putin’s Witnesses typically say that “this is a global state project,” and Kremlin officials acknowledge that it is being formed on the Kremlin’s orders.
Some additional information about the new group/sect can be found at set-info.ru and http://проектсеть.рф/ and in the course of a discussion of the “Putin alphabet” that the Network has been promoting in schools in which pupils learn their letters by linking them to Putin-approved themes (echo.msk.ru/blog/expertmus/1317016-echo/).
According to Russky Yevrey, “the new project of pro-Putin youth, which has the name Network shows all the signs of an organized sect: Putin is called “Father,” participants in the movement are called “the family,” and the organizers undergo “collective psychological training” in order to better guide their followers.
That’s why, the site continues, many Russians view the Network less as a political group than a religious sect and informally call it “Putin’s Witnesses” – a label that can’t please Kremlin political technologists given the official hostility to sects in general and the Jehovah’s Witnesses in particular.