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Обзор зарубежной прессы: Russia's Generation Z: Never question authority

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18.03.2010

Обзор зарубежной прессы: Russia's Generation Z: Never question authority

With a disarming smile, Masha Drokova throws herself into a chair in the Akademia cafe, where well-heeled students, up-and-coming actors and young business luminaries go to spear sushi and chain-smoke American cigarettes. Pert, pretty and a 19-year-old powerhouse, Drokova wears a snug denim dress and high-heeled wedgies, her long sandy hair sweeping her shoulders. She is late, she apologizes, but Moscow's deadly traffic made her do it. And worse still, she's crashed her car again. Drokova is more than a teenaged road warrior. She's the voice of Vladimir Putin's Generation Z: an educated, ambitious, thrusting new Russia, which supports a "sovereign democracy" that is steeped in confidence and convinced the country is – in lockstep with Prime Minister Putin, and President Dmitry Medvedev – moving in the right direction. "We're developing a manifesto that will make Russia a leader of the 21st century," says Drokova, sipping the fresh fruit juice that's the new Pepsi in trendy cafes here. "It's innovation, modernization and development." That's the pumped-up public picture, much touted by Drokova's Kremlin-backed youth organization Nashi (which means "ours") and its supporters. But beneath its glossy surface is a hazier, some would say darker, image. That of a generation that has lost its way, in a country where the oxygen has been sucked out of the political landscape, government critics are attacked with impunity, and the majority feel powerless to affect the future, or simply relieved not to have the choice. Raised in a generation that never fought for prosperity, they've been handed more than any before them. But the price is clear: never question authority. After the chaotic 1990s, when the state was shaken to the core and communism collapsed along with lives and livelihoods, it's a price they're willing to pay. Drokova, a true believer in Putin's New Russia, admits that many of her peers don't share her enthusiasm. "They are aimless," she sighs. "They have a lot of apathy toward others and the future of the country. They don't want to get involved, and they have no personal strategy or direction. They just want an average life with a holiday every year and the disco on weekends." Life has certainly been kinder to today's teens and 20-somethings than to their parents and grandparents, who struggled with hunger, repression, privation, economic and social upheaval, and devastating wars. Young Russians can read, shop, browse the Internet, go to clubs and travel at will. But as oil wealth flowed and living standards rose along with national pride in the early 2000s, they could also ignore undercurrents of corruption and violence, as well as the Kremlin's increasingly firm grip on power, which was met with more relief than resistance. Now, as the economy plunges, the first shocks have hit a generation that is new to serious challenges. Some, newly jobless, quit the material world for yoga, meditation and environmental projects. Others have joined dystopian ultranationalist groups blaming foreigners, dissidents and illegal migrants for Russia's woes. But the majority seem to drift, praying Putin's promise of prosperity is only stalled, with no illusions that they can effect change. The dramatic youth-led "Orange Revolution" protests that haunt the nightmares of Kremlin apparatchiks haven't happened here. "Most young guys just don't care," says Andrei Borisov, a 24-year-old bank employee. "They're worried about their personal survival, not the welfare of the country." It's an attitude that alarms Russia's dwindling opposition, as well as bedrock Nashistas who dedicate themselves to undermining it. The Nashi movement was formed in 2005 as an antidote to the "colour revolutions" that faced off with governments in Ukraine and Georgia, and won. Born as a free-floating "anti-fascist youth movement," it was broad enough to target outspoken Kremlin critics and opposition members, who became its "fascist" enemies: "them" to Nashi's "us." British ambassador Anthony Brenton, who aroused Nashi's wrath by attending an opposition election campaign meeting, was stalked and hassled. And one Nashista claimed responsibility for the cyber-attack that paralyzed Estonia's Internet network after a Soviet war memorial was moved from Tallinn's city centre. Now, with political opposition almost extinct in Russia, many followers see Nashi as a networking opportunity and launching pad for their careers. Known as an unofficial enforcer of the Kremlin's authority, it is losing some of its sharper edges. Drokova, one of about 1,000 "commissars," or senior officials, of the movement, is a cheerleader for a strong and united Russia, under a strong government, supported by committed citizens. A vision she is convinced is positive for the country's future. A full-time student in government administration and a youth political commentator, she plans socially conscious – and sanctioned – rallies against the sale of alcohol and cigarettes to minors, as well as theatrical protests against "enemies" like the pro-Western Georgian president, Mikhail Saakashvili, to whom Nashi awarded a ticket to Washington. But she is most excited about the upcoming annual Nashi summer camp, where thousands of youth from across Russia spend 10-day sessions soaking up fresh air, physical fitness and the principles of Russian statehood, along with virtually free seminars that are normally beyond their reach. Past events have included group marriages, for those eager to play their part in reversing Russia's plummeting population trend. "We live very simply, in tents," Drokova enthuses. "But we have some of the best people coming to lecture us from Yale, MIT and Oxford. We prepare business projects and submit them to businessmen and community leaders. It's a wonderful opportunity." FOR EVERY YOUNG believer who drinks the intoxicating Kool-Aid of Nashistan, there are a hundred others simply along for the ride. To them, any organized action – especially political – is a waste of space. Nobody knows that better than Dmitry Makarov, a lean, serious 26-year-old law graduate, whose hero is Yuri Orlov, one of the founders of the Russian human rights movement. His picture hangs in Makarov's office like a silent reproach. "There's a lot of apathy and cynicism now," says Makarov. "My generation, and those who are younger, are Putin's children. They don't care about politics, and there's an absence of critical thinking. They're different from their parents." Makarov is an activist of a different sort. A coordinator of Youth for Human Rights and Human Dignity, he promotes grassroots campaigns that aim to educate young people about freedom and equality, but without taking a political stand. The attitudes of Gen-Z make that difficult, he admits. "The younger people are, the more they accept nationalism and authoritarianism as normal." It isn't that the young are blind to lawlessness, injustice and corruption, Makarov explains: bent officials, bribe-taking cops and unpunished crimes are facts of life in 21st-century Russia. But, he says, organizing youth is a losing battle. "They're afraid of being punished if they step out of line. Nashi is the kind of movement that succeeds because it's part of the system. When we tried to build a student movement for change, we failed." Makarov feels alienated from his generation, and admits he's given up the struggle to build a civil society in Russia. Instead, he looks to countries like authoritarian Belarus, where a small, vigorous underground democracy movement is "the cool place to be" for the young and restless. "In Russia the mentality is different," he says. "Young people aren't interested in Western-style democracy. They can even work in Western countries and still hate the West. It's become normal. It's the mentality of a humiliated empire trying to make a comeback." NOT FAR FROM Makarov's cramped quarters, along a street of historic buildings, is the office of the Slavic Union: the heartland of the neo-fascist skinhead movement, which believes it's time for the empire to strike back – against an onslaught of foreign migrants. Here, disaffected young Russians sign up for paramilitary training, reaffirm the country's muscular role in the world, and rail against "foreigners" they believe are weakening and undermining the economy and state. They are from a generation too young to remember the catastrophic loss of 25 million Soviet citizens in the war against Adolf Hitler. "Our manifesto is national socialism," says the union's ideological chief, Dmitri Demushkin, unsurprisingly blond, blue-eyed and body-built, with a tattoo of a dripping dagger protruding from his neat, short-sleeved shirt. The message is unambiguous. On the union's website, video clips show a burning swastika, fatigue-clad young recruits flashing Nazi salutes, and violent demonstrations of knife-fighting techniques. In the rundown office, Demushkin fingers a gleaming Caucasian dagger as he speaks. Despite the implied menace, the Slavic Union manages to stay ahead of the law, though 100 members have been arrested across Russia in the past two years. Their opponents say the fact that they operate so openly speaks volumes about society's tacit acceptance of their views, regardless of laws against extremism. But Demushkin is quick to insist, "We're not bloody-minded. Different people have different traditions, and that's fine in their own regions. But the emphasis in Russian society has changed. We have Islamization. Moscow has been penetrated by people from the Caucasus. They want to build a mosque bigger than our cathedrals." Now in his 30s, he came to the skinhead movement via reactionary street gangs that aimed to "clean up" Moscow in the permissive '90s, when "transvestites, Satanists and degenerate rock fans" were the enemy. Now, the foe has changed. A rash of attacks on Central Asians, including the grisly murder and decapitation of a Tajik man, pointed to skinheads, but they deny involvement. Human rights monitors say there have been more than 50 killings of foreigners and migrants in Russia in the past year, and more than 250 hate crimes. An ultranationalist youth group, Mestnye, has set up vigilante patrols to enforce a government ban on migrants setting up stalls outside Russian markets. Demushkin says his movement is swelling. "There are now 64 divisions in Russia, and 14 in Ukraine. In Vancouver, one member manages a union website. The economic crisis is adding to youth's unhappiness." He smiles and puts the dagger back on the shelf. A FEW YOUNG Russians are drawn to the fringes of violent activism. But others wage a quixotic battle against what they see as the collapse of liberal democracy under Russia's current rulers. They are the holdouts – or perhaps harbingers of a future that now seems hazy. "For most young people, politics makes no sense," says Oleg Kozlovsky, a founder of the Oborona ("defence") youth movement, which advocates non-violent political protest. "They don't like the Kremlin, but they don't care about the opposition either. They think that whatever you do, you can get hurt, but you can't change anything." Kozlovsky should know. At the age of 24, he's been arrested more than 20 times for taking part in anti-government demonstrations. The authorities tried to draft him before the March 2008 presidential election, to keep him off the streets. And he was fired from his public relations job – the result, he says, of pressure from the federal spy service. "That's what people can expect if they go up against the government," the slight, dark-haired activist says with a chuckle. "I'm used to it, but it scares a lot of people." Unlike Nashi, which also takes its campaigns to the streets, Kozlovsky has little financial backing and few publicly declared followers. Most of those who have signed on to his group found it through the Internet. But it's not like America, where electronic media have become a powerful political tool, says Kozlovsky. "You can't reach many people that way in Russia. Only about 10 per cent have access to the Internet, and a lot of those only use it for entertainment and emails. They aren't interested in political sites." Kozlovsky backs the small and struggling Solidarity party of chess champion Garry Kasparov and former deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov. But in a country dominated by Putin's United Russia party, his peers in the largely apolitical new generation seem unlikely to rock the boat anytime soon. "Kasparov is articulate, brave, handsome and a celebrity," says Masha Lipman of the Carnegie Moscow Center. "But he is just not popular. Putin came in at the end of the '90s when people were deeply disappointed with politics. He sent out signals that the government was back in charge. They were relieved, and happy, to give up their political choice." ON THE PACKED TERRACE of the Akademia cafe, Nashi's Drokova is fielding calls on her ever-jangling cellphone. Soon she must battle Moscow's frenzied afternoon traffic, and return to her many tasks. "I'm organizing eight programs," she says, as she takes her leave. "This is the Year of Youth in Russia."

Источник:  http://www.thestar.com/News/World/article/664784

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