More on Nashi

Close on the heels of a similarly-themed item in its sister paper, the IHT, today the NY Times has a piece by Steven Lee Myers on the Nashi Putin youth cult. The western media is finally taking an interest in peeling back the iron veil of the Putin regime. When our Dissenters’ Marches began last December, we were often received incredulously, even with hostility, by a western media deluded by Putin’s mythical popularity and Russia’s oil-propelled GDP. Now that Putin and his government have repeatedly shown their true colors – paranoid, repressive, often violent, those myths have come crumbling down.

Like Mr. Putin himself, who recently seemed to compare the foreign policy of the United States to the Third Reich, Nashi also laces its campaigns and literature with an undercurrent of hostility to Europe and the United States. At the rally promoting ethnic harmony, a poster denounced American adoptions: “In 2005, 3,966 Russian children became citizens of America.”

“Putin’s Generation” is growing up with a diet of anti-European and anti-American sentiment that could deepen the social and political divides between Russia and the West for decades to come. . . .

Although Kremlin officials have tried to portray the groups as independent players, Nashi and the others owe their financing and political support to their status as creations of Mr. Putin’s administration. They are allowed to hold marches, while demonstrations by the opposition are prohibited or curtailed. Their activities are covered favorably on state television, while the opposition’s are disparaged or ignored.

Although Nashi’s financing is opaque, the group receives grants from the state and big businesses like Gazprom, the state energy giant, and Norilsk Nickel, whose principal owner, Vladimir O. Potanin, is a Putin loyalist. Nashi repays Mr. Potanin’s support in its literature by distinguishing him from the “oligarchs” who are widely reviled in Russia. . . .

More ominously, opponents say, Nashi has conducted paramilitary training in preparation for challenging those who take to the streets to protest the Kremlin. Ilya Yashin, the leader of the youth wing of Yabloko, the liberal political party, said the goal was “direct intimidation of opposition activists,” citing an attack attributed to Nashi supporters against the headquarters of the banned National Bolshevik Party, led by Mr. Limonov.