Nashi (meaning "Our People") is a youth movement brought to life by Vladimir Putin's chief political strategist Vladislav Surkov. The stated mission of Nashi is to "train young Russians to form a new governing elite to establish a "revolution" in political thinking and style of government to enable Russia to overtake its international competitors."
Political youth movements such as Nashi are not new to Russia. What is outside is the norm is the rapid growth and state patronage given to Nashi. The rapid growth of Nashi (now the largest youth movement in Russia) fuelled by the unquestioned support it has received by the Putin administration is directly related to the influence of opposition youth movements outside the existing status quo. Nashi seems to be the antidote the Kremlin is prescribing to immunise against the possible spread of an Ukrainian orange style youth movement in Russia. Alternatively Nashi can be seen as an attempt to establish a strong national identity platform young people can identify with – in short nationalism. A more radical but possible view, shared by Dark Matter Politics, sees Nashi as an attempt to embeed the beliefs and influence of Putin into Russian society, once the Russian leader is no longer in power. We believe Nashi is not about Putin´s legacy, but about Putin´s continued power play after he leaves office.
The next presidential elections in Russia will be held on the second Sunday of March, 2008. Putin will not be able to run for a third term in office, unless the constituion is modified. Furthermore, Russia will have Duma elections on December 2, 2007. The 2007 election will be the first use of party-list proportional representation, while the previous elections half of the seats where filled using proportional representation.
The importance of youth movements in Russia has grown as the new multi-party political system attempts to gain a voice and the overall population ages. The oldest movement is the youth branch of Yabloko (Russia’s liberal left party). A noteworthy addition to the youth movement is DA! (the initials DA make the Russian word for yes), which declares its goal to be "building a civil society in Russia and resolving concrete problems: the elimination of censorship, police tyranny, ethnic intolerance, corruption in higher educational establishments and problems in the army." Of equal note is the Youth Left Front which is the resulted from the unification of various left-wing youth organisations including the Communist Youth League and the Red Youth Vanguard. It has to be pointed out these movements, including Nashi not only serve as political instruments but contribute to social causes aimed at improving infrastructure and livelihoods.
The emergence of Nashi has faint parallels to that of the German Youth Movement in Germany (Die deutsche Jugendbewegung) - also known as the Wandervogel. The Wandervogel started and re-estabalished itself as an educational-cultural renewal movement in 1896. Unfortunately, the movement was absobed by government influence during the second world war, giving rise to the Nazi Youth. The movement gained strength among the youth as it allowed the young to break free of the perceived injustice of the Treaty of Versailles and make Germany strong again.
The question is not "if" Nashi the Russian youth movement will become radicalised into a political movement; the question is "when".