Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Young Russians Patriotic But in Very Different Way than Their Parents, VTsIOM’s Fedorov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 7 – Recently, some Russian parliamentarians have called for extending the upper limit of youth to age 35 while others have urged that the voting age be cut to 16. This renewed focus on young people prompted VTsIOM to conduct a survey last month on how young people see the world and how older Russians see them.

            In an interview for Vzglyad, the service’s head, Valery Fedorov, says that young people in Russia today are very different from those who are older because they have had different experiences and have turned out to be “more childlike, less communicative, less independent and mature later” (vz.ru/society/2020/9/7/1058238.html).

            They are patriotic but they are not patriotic in the same way their elders are.  Theirs is “not an aggressive patriotism. ‘We can do it again!’ is what the older generations say. The young now do not want ‘to repeat’ anything, to march to Berlin or Paris. They are patriots and proud that they are Russians but at the same time aren’t isolationists or nativists.” 

            In contrast to their elders, they are ready to go to other countries for education or work and then return or not, depending on how things work out. This is a new and interesting synthesis of cosmopolitanism and patriotism.”  It represents a balance between values that used to be mutually exclusive.

            The pandemic has affected young Russians because it is the first serious crisis in their lives. Moreover, it affected them directly – they could get sick and die – and they received almost all of their information about it not from state television or other government outlets but from the Internet and especially social media. 

            The Russian government is very much aware that it is at risk of losing the young, but it faces two problems. On the one hand, most of those in positions of authority retain the Soviet understanding of what is the state and do not understand those like Russia’s young now who do not share that understanding.

            Older people in Russia typically view the state as “’the father’” of the family, “but younger people of all age categories to not conceive the state as a family.” They know about officials, but they don’t have a sense of the state as a thing in itself that embraces everyone in society.

            And on the other hand, for the state to retain the loyalty of the young, it must ensure that they have opportunities like buying an apartment or pursuing their educational dreams. That won’t be easy or inexpensive. And there is always the risk that “youth policy” will become only a line item in the budget – and will be cut.

            If that happens, young people in Russia could easily continue to go along a different trajectory than the one the Kremlin wants, Fedorov suggests.

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