Staunton, January 27 – Sergey Belokonyev, the former head of the government’s Russian Youth Committee, says that at present, no one in the Kremlin is focused on reaching out to young people, providing them with an alternative agenda to the one opposition figures are providing, and thus has only itself to blame for losing the young.
Belokonyev who now heads the social science department at the Russian Finance University, says that the regime is currently not well informed about what young people are thinking, is not conducting adequate ideological work among them, and has cost itself support among them by closing Russia off from advanced countries.
In an interview with Aleksey Polorotov of the Daily Storm news portal, the official turned scholar says that “over the last six or seven years, the situation in the world has changed but the forms and technology of work with young people in Russia has remained the same” (dailystorm.ru/vlast/eks-glava-rosmolodezhi-segodnya-nekomu-zanimatsya-molodezhnoy-politikoy).
“Russian young people,” Belokonyev says, “have completed mastered contemporary online technologies, but the agencies which are supposed to work with them haven’t.” As a result, these agencies aren’t in a position to conduct effective work and haven’t been for a decade.
The government’s moves to close off the country from the world has made this a more pressing problem because young people who view themselves as part of the larger digital world are especially angry about that, given that on the Internet, they can gain access to information from almost everywhere, something that makes the Kremlin’s approach archaic and ineffective.
As a result, the Kremlin has effectively ceded the young to the opposition, especially in the regions but not only there, he continues. Fewer Kremlin officials have been focusing on young people and their attitudes, although their budgets have grown. “We did more with smaller budgets,” Belokonyev says.
And he predicts that the failings of the Kremlin in this regard means that over the next five years, the share of young people ready and willing to take part in opposition movements and protests will only grow.
Naturally, Belokonyev’s successor at Roskomolodzeh, Aleksandr Bugayev, disagrees. He says that his committee is ever more active; but in his comments to the Daily Storm he talked more about his plans than his achievements. And reports from the regions where protests have increased only underscore that shortfall.
Meanwhile, presidential press spokesman Dmitry Peskov says that the authorities do not intend to negotiate with protesters who violate the law but will talk with the young. The problem, however, is that those two groups ever more overlap, leaving the Kremlin without the interlocutors it hopes for.