Nashi Democracy

In what might be considered a warm-up for the March 08 Russian presidential elections, the Kremlin-backed “Nashi” youth group held a leadership election at its summer camp last week. Other camp activities included games ridiculing Russian pro-democracy leaders and an air show with Su-27 military jets that cost an estimated $200,000. The Kremlin’s favorites parade in front of this in their best nationalist finery, as when Sergei Ivanov and Dmitry Medvedev came to attack the UK for requesting the extradition of accused murderer Andrei Lugovoi. Medvedev also talked about the need for “larger families that can support you so you don’t need a pension,” forgetting to mention the millions of Russians who need better pensions now. These statements were welcomed by the Nashi of course, as the Weekly Standard reporter wrote:

But, the function of Nashi is not to question policy proposals that make no sense. It is to provide unquestioning loyalty to the Kremlin and to harass–with brute force if necessary–the “evil” forces that threaten Russia. And what are those evils? Just ask Sergei Markov, a political analyst with friendly ties to the Kremlin.

“The threat of lawless revolutions such as those in Georgia and Ukraine hangs over Russia,” he said. “People have to be on the side of good, not evil.” Ukraine and Georgia are “evil” regimes, then–and a government that murders its critics, political opponents, and investigative journalists, while tolerating the worst possible brutalities within the lower ranks of its military service, is “good.”

Perhaps the people that call Nashi the “Putin Jugend” have a point.

The real highlight was the election. Prior to the camp Nashi had promoted an election for a new leader as Vasily Yakemenko, the leader of the group during some of its most notorious and brutal activities, said he was planning to go elsewhere in the Kremlin mafia hierarchy. There were campaigns and a ballot at the Nashi camp on Lake Seliger. But apparently the desired candidate was not the winner, an outcome entirely antithetical to the preferred Putin methods. Suddenly the entire election was declared to be only a role-playing exercise and its results null and void! We are sure the Kremlin is working hard to prevent such public embarrassment come March. After all, what’s the point of having control of the media and the election process if your candidates don’t always win?