Mikhail Bely of the URA news agency says that official statistics shows that criminal youth groups like those in the 1990s have re-emerged in the cities of Russia’s regions. One measure of that is that crime among young people has risen by 4.7 percent for the country as a whole and by much higher percentages in the most economically depressed areas.
Konstantin Dolinin of the Parental Assembly movement says that the rise of criminal youth groups is no surprise. It reflects three facts: the lack of any serious youth policy by the government, the depressed economic situation young people and their parents face, and the absence of any legal possibility to express their point of view.”
Under current conditions, if you appear in the street with a sign “’Against Bad Weather,’” the siloviki will detain you as an extremist, Dolinin says. Not surprisingly, criminal organizations find it easy to recruit young people because such groups can give them hope for the future.
A member of one such group told Bely on conditions of anonymity, that the growth of criminal youth groups reflects the fact that there are fewer resources available and that adult criminal groups are now being forced to fight over their division. These groups recruit young people to help them do so.
It is wrong to think of criminal youth groups as separate organizations, he says. They are simply “the lowest rung of criminal groups” more generally.
Psychologist Aleksandr Kolesnikov confirms this: “Now many youths see that their parents work, get tired and don’t have much. It is hard to achieve success if you don’t belong to the elite. This creates complexes. The groups play on this: one must recognize that social lifts really function in them.”
“Theoretically,” the psychologist continues, “today you can be at the lowest level and after a few years, you can become a more or less high-status bandit, if of course you aren’t put in prison or killed.”
And Sergey Zhuravsky, a political analyst at the Moscow Institute of Regional Expertise, says that these bands “have literally seized the country.” Now, they dominate things throughout the Urals region where young people feel they have been abandoned by everyone. Soon they will spread everywhere: “this is already an epidemic which it is hard to stop.”
Andrey Romanov, in a comment for his Free Urals portal, says that those who want to understand where Russia is heading should not be looking at Moscow where Putin will keep the standard of living relatively high to forestall any protests but rather at the cities in the regions where criminal youth groups now hold sway.
“Travel through the regions and look at how people live” and then you will see the future, one in which no one trusts anyone else and in which the Russian Federation as a single country is being undermined.
This “chain reaction will pass through the regions and eventually reach Moscow,” he continues. “Out of the popular protests in the regions will come new leaders” and they won’t be stopped by the Kremlin’s siloviki. “The people do not believe anyone, not the right, not the left, not the systemic or the extra-systemic.”
Many are suffering, and the re-emergence of criminal bands of young people is a harbinger of the collapse of the entire system.