Monday, April 22, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Kremlin Policies Driving Some Young Russians Underground, Moscow Commentators Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 22 – “As many as 90 percent” of Russian young people do not see a place for themselves among the officially registered political parties, and consequently, some experts say, the conviction is growing among a portion of the country’s youth that only by going underground can they hope to influence Russian politics.

            That sense of alienation from the existing parties, the Kryshtanovskaya report says, reflects the fact that many of the registered parties are flying under false flags: “The Liberal Democratic Party is neither liberal nor democratic.” And equally false are the claims of United Russia to be a conservative party and the liberal democratic parties to be anti-left.

            In an article posted on the “Svobodnaya pressa” portal today, Aleksey Verkhoyantsev provides the answers two leading Moscow commentators have provided to the question: “Why does a large segment of Russian youth view the political system of the country as something very distant from its interests?” (

            Pavel Salin, head of the Russian Finance University’s Center for Political Research, says that the alienation of young people from the existing parties is “one of the signs that the Russian political system is in crisis.”  People, including young people, want a government that is effective in delivering services, and they want parties that fight for that.

            They are less interested, he suggeseds, in the elaboration of new ideologies than in the improved functioning of the educational and health care systems, the resolution of the problem of  illegal migration and similar things.” None of the existing parties “is capable of satisfying” this demand.

            Young people, Salin said, are simply at “the sharp edge of this process.” And he suggested that a survey of the entire population of the country would show that “a significant portion” of all Russians do not see [any of the existing and officially registered] parties as expressing their interests.

            Thus it is no surprise that “the overwhelming majority of young people do not see for themselves any prospect for legal political activity.” They have only two choices as a result: they can keep their distance from politics altogether or “they can participate in illegal political activity” which increases the chances for “a revolutionary scenario in Russia.”

            Asked about the reported interest of young people in monarchical, national or anarchist parties, Salin saidthat this reflected the tendency of young people to “idealize the situation.” As they get older, he said, they will adopt “more moderate political positions. He said he was surprised about the interest in monarchism but not in the other two.
            Anarchism always appeals to some young people, he continued, and the nationalists, because of the situation with regard to immigration, have a good chance of attracting the young.  More than other parties, the Russian nationalist ones are also focused on addressing the immediate life concerns of the Russian people. That attracts many.

            One might think that the powers that be would be happy to register one of these parties so as to include their followers within the system, but “to the extent [he] understands the situation,” Salin continued, “the authorities recognize the danger of the new parties for themselves” and thus do everything to block their entry into official public life.

            The Moscow authorities are especially worried, he suggested, by the emergence of such “a dangerous opposition in the upcoming fall elections in the regions.”

            Pavel Svyatenkov, a Russian nationalist publicist, seconded that.  He said young people are not so much “apolitical” as appalled by the current regime “which for a long time has not allowed for the registration of new parties” which would be more attractive to the younger generation.

             “Not only the young but the majority of our voters would helping cast their ballots for a party which to a greater extent corresponded to their interests and views than do the ones currently represented in parliament,” he said, but the regime recognizing its own weakness, won’t allow these parties to officially exist.

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