Staunton, October 26 – The fact that many of the best and the brightest of young Russians are studying abroad or even choosing to move there permanently has riled Russian social networks in recent weeks. But in an even more alarming development, some of these bright young people are expressing contempt for Russia even if they have not yet left it.
The latest such case involves a statement by Elina Bazhayeva, the 22-yar-old daughter of Chechen oligarch Musa Bazhayev. A student at MGIMO, she declared on the basis of her experience on an educational exchange in the US that “everywhere is better than Russka” (life.ru/t/мусабажаев/921563/doch_oligharkha_musy_bazhaieva_opravdalas_za_viezdie_luchshie_chiem_v_rashkie).
In a survey of the response to Bazhayeva’s remark, Andrey Polunin of the Svobodnaya pressa portal notes that a Duma deputy has said that he will make sure that Bazhayeva never gets a position in the Russian foreign ministry which is the place many MGIMO graduates go (svpressa.ru/society/article/159267/).
The rector MGIMO said he would have a conversation with her, and not soon thereafter, Bazhayeva backed down, said she had been entrapped, and added that her remarks had been taken out of context and misunderstood. But it is clear, Polunin suggests, that many children of Russia’s new elite feel the same and think they are above the law and better than the masses.
Unfortunately, the journalist continues, there is mounting evidence that they have good reason to think that. They aren’t judged as harshly as others and they get away with saying and doing things others could not. And that, he says, represents an indictment of the elite more generally and not just the children of the elite.
Mikhail Remizov, the president of the Moscow Institute for National Strategy, agrees. He says that “the Russian elite really shows its low quality,” including on such measures as loyalty to its own country and ability to “create and not just act like parasites.” The children of the elite simply and more radically “express the views of their parents.”
He suggests that it is long past time to give members of this elite a patriotic education and to punish those who do not reflect patriotic positions. “A worthy elite isn’t going to grow up by itself,” Remizov says. “It must be the subject of social engineering.”
Yekaterinburg political analyst Fyodor Krasheninnikov offers another perspective. According to him, “the contemporary elite in the entire world is cosmopolitan, and the Russian elite is no exception. That is its style of life and only in such a manner under contemporary conditions, the world of global capitalism can this elite exist.”
“If an individual is rich and can live broadly, he sooner or later will be transformed into a citizen of the world,” Krasheninnikov says. “The ‘golden youth’ grow up in this milieu and for entirely banal reasons do not understand why it is necessary to lie and to say that living in Russia is best of all.”
From his perspective, the Yekaterinburg analyst says, he is far more concerned by another situation, the one in which “people profess love for patriotic values but themselves live a greater part of the time abroad.” Those people by their actions are showing what they really think of the country of their birth.
He added that the case of Bazhayeva might have not attracted so much attention except for her father, the Chechen oligarch. In his view, Krasheninnikov says, “the game is being directed not against Elina Bazhayeva but against her father.” Nonetheless, what she said is not terribly different from what many other children of Russia’s elite would say.