Staunton, Nov. 22 – Many Russians place their hope for positive change in the very different values young Russians appear to have compared to their elders, but a new Carnegie Moscow study based on focus groups in three cities concludes that any moves in a positive direction will not be automatic.
Young Russians are extremely diverse, Andrey Kolesnikov of Carnegie Moscow and Denis Volkov of the Levada Center say, and which segments will play a role will depend on the ability of the existing powers that be to recruit like-minded people and on the discipline young people show in voting nd other forms of activism (carnegie.ru/2021/11/22/ru-pub-85787).
The two led a team which organized focus groups among younger Russians in Moscow, Yaroslavl and Bryansk; and they stress that the impact of young people on Russian politics is less than their numbers would suggest because a far lower percentage of them vote than do their elders.
Indeed, Kolesnikov and Volkov say, older people play a disproportionate role in the system and are likely to continue to for some time. Moreover, this means that “for the legitimation of the authorities, young people are not as important” and consequently, the powers that be can ignore them more than their numbers might appear to suggest otherwise.
At the same time, “the aging representatives of the Russian elite” need to find some common language with some of the young and are finding that ever more difficult to do given the opposition of many young people to the repressions that members of the older generations typically support.
To try to attract more support from the young, the two researchers suggest, the authorities may try to win over some of them by reducing their access to the Internet and by ensuring that fewer of the young take part in any unsanctioned political activity, something likely to radicalize them against the regime.
The ability of those in power to do so given urbanization, declines in the size of the television audience and other factors is limited. But it may work with some of the young, and growing emigration will remove from the scene some of the most active anti-regime elements among the young even if it costs Russia expertise.
But such tactics may lead to growing apathy among young Russians who remain, and that in turn, Kolesnikov and Volkov suggest, will place severe constraints on Russian development even if it keeps public politics quieter than would otherwise be the case.