Staunton, January 25 – The chief themes of the Kremlin’s message to young Russians over the last three years have been traditional values and a militarized patriotism, according to Iskender Yasaveyev. The earlier memes about the importance of work, self-realization and freedom have almost completely disappeared.
And this transformation in the messages the president, prime minister and other senior officials are directing at youth, the St. Petersburg sociologist says, shows the effort the political elite is investing in “spreading conformism among young people and in this way the preservation and strengthening of [the elite’s] own power position.
Yasavayev presents these conclusions in an article entitled “Leitmotifs of Power Rhetoric toward Russian Youth” (in Russian), Sotsiologicheskoye obozreniye available online at sociologica.hse.ru/2016-15-3/191980638.html that has been summarized today at iq.hse.ru/news/200644743.html.
In preparing his article, the Higher School of Economics scholar studied the texts of presidential speeches, government reports, and federal documents between May 2012 and May 2016 selected on the basis of key words referring to young people.
On the basis of this examination, the sociologist says that the regime’s overriding concern is that young Russians must defend against “’destructive information influence’” and “’foreign threats’” although the authorities rarely specify just what these consist of or how young people on their own should do so.
Russian leaders in speaking to young people also talk a great deal about crime and punishment, but, Yasavayev says, what is more interesting is what they do not talk about: HIV/AIDS, future jobs and chances for self-realization, and freedom, all themes of great interest to younger people.
Over this period, he continues, there was a clear “militarization of patriotism.” References to the way in which work can contribute to the nation disappeared almost completely, a trend that is part and parcel of the regime’s promotion of traditional values, again something that the government spokespeople seldom defined with any precision.
The most important “traditional” and “true” values in this rhetoric, Yasavayev says, are responsibility and duty. “The value of freedom is absence.” All this, he argues, is intended to promote conformism and “’stability,’” values that will help those in power remain where they are now.
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