Putin´s perestroika and OUR glasnost: Reading perestroika-era tension into the activity of the pro-Putin youth movements
The starting point of this article can be put as the following question: does glasnost as the sociopolitical situation, which caused remarkable tension between the ideal openness of the CPSU, and the real openness by citizens and grass-roots practices of the Soviet Union, offer us such theoretical framing by which we can now conceptualise sociopolitical phenomena in Putin´s Russia? My answer is positive. In this article my aim is to show that instead of crucially different sociopolitical context in comparison with Gorbachev´s glasnost along with different symbolic parameters, the perestroika-type of tension between the ideals of centralised policies and grass-roots actions can be tracked in the pro-governmental youth activities in Putin´s Russia as well. In Putin´s era, as we know, the idealised, or pre-defined, openness does not concern discussion on socialism and communism, but the success of Russia in globalization by emphasising Russia´s national pride.
The special case, in which perestroika type of tension can be tracked, is the relation of the broadly known pro-Kremlin youth movements Iduschie Vmeste (Walking Together, hence IV), and its “semi-official” follower Nashi (Ours) to general outlines of official youth policy. My argument is that multiple manifestations of national pride by these movements follow the basic model of perestroika era tension: centralised policy programs are allowed for seemingly open discussion as long this “openness” relies on the ideals of the centralised policies. Moreover, my aim is to show that in the case of both movements – definitely with Idushchie Vmeste – the idealised space for political implementations shows clearly the unintended results as was the case between perestroika and glasnost. However, the issue here is not to argue that the unintentionality of the actions by these movements would have as drastic results as twenty years ago, but to compare the two which offer us a reasonable view of the discursive practices of Russian nation-building in globalising, post-Soviet Russia.
Glasnost as utopian communication of perestroika
The social sphere, or topic, where the values and ideals of perestroika and glasnost profoundly manifested was the discussion on the use of public language during perestroika. Michael S. Gorham1 points out that along with the political demands of novoe myshlenie (new thinking) and obnovlenie (revitalization), in order to renew the Soviet system, the language culture of perestroika and its pedagogical principles were reconsidered as well. Gorham2 points out that: “the discourse of perestroika and glasnost shifted the focus on language as an emblem of Soviet patriotism to a model that saw language as a tool for social and political reforms”. Drawing on pedagogic material written in the years of perestroika, Gorham3 shows that these materials generally supported the idea of dialog ravnopraviia (dialogue of equality) in which all participants would be active to the same degree instead of the traditional monologic discourse of the teacher familiar in pre-perestroika school education. However, these optimistic expectations of new language and communication practices in the creation of the new, more individual and active Soviet citizen clashed with well grounded concerns about the actual skills of the people: The question was how to express these new visions of democratisation with the available communicative and linguistic instruments. As Gorham4 cites one commentator´s account in 1988:
(T)he democratization of society and glasnost presuppose the ability of everyone to express their point of view, but this requires first and foremost the ability to express one´s thoughts in a manner which will lead to understanding and support. In a sense, we said to people, “Speak!” but how can they speak if they are either accustomed to keeping silent or incapable of defending their position? A person who holds a just position but who has not mastered the word can be compared to a well-armed soldier who holds in his hands everything needed for victory, but lacks just one thing – the ability to shoot well.
Hence, according to this quote, the problem of glasnost was not in glasnost and perestroika itself but rather in the incapability of people to follow the principles of these ideals. This view interestingly matches a point by Alexei Yurchak5 – although from reverse angle – who says that during its first three or four years perestroika was not much more than a deconstruction of the Soviet authoritative regime. In other words, perestroika was the first true attempt in the history of U.S.S.R. for the Soviet people to “think seriously” all those authoritative words, expressions, slogans, etc. which had been produced by the Communist party so far (see also Remington6). Glasnost was the tool for these attempts, and finally, the result was the absolute ideological crisis of the socialist system.7 However, as the quote above illustrates, the strictly authorised discursive regime of the pre-perestroika period had produced such conditions for public language use which were not capable of fulfilling the discursive demands of perestroika, i.e., glasnost.
A booklet “Komsomol, Teacher, Pupil”8, dedicated to the issues education in the Komsomol work, published “in the heart” of perestroika in 1989, is an illuminative textual artifact of the voices of glasnost, voices which – from today´s point of view – were incompatible with each other. On the one hand, the booklet reflects the contradiction between the ideals of perestroika and the reality in the schools, and on the other hand, teachers´ concerns of such glasnost which seemingly clashes with the ideals of perestroika9:
Everybody talks about perestroika, the school reform, XX meeting of the VLKSM10 but I don´t see any changes in the work of my school, or in its Komsomol organization either. Things are not going better but everything is getting worse. How can you explain this?
I pointed out that during recent years guys, from upper classes, who are supposed to instruct Komsomol work, have begun to dispute with me in many things, asked devious questions, disagreed, insisted. Where are we heading with this? What about the teacher´s authority?
Don´t you think that in the framework of the Komsomol organisations in the schools, the bluster of democracy in educational collectives must lead to the fall of discipline? By emphasising common “equality”, guys forget their obligations and responsibilities.
We recently had a quarrel in our collective; is it possible that older pupils (starsheklassiki) can be rockers, metallists, etc, and active Komsomol members at the same time? What do you think?
In the light of these examples the challenge between perestroika/idealised glasnost and the real glasnost was significantly evident in educational settings where different generations met each other: teachers met their students and pedagogical practices met their actors in the situation where the horizon for unintended results had been irreversibly opened. The authors of the booklet strive to offer reasonable answers using the official discourse stating in many parts, however, that there are no unambiguous answers to such questions as presented above11. As a discursive culmination between Soviet authoritative discourse, and the new, and inevitably shocking reality of glasnost, the booklet offers a few summaries of pupils´ views for teachers of the Komsomol work on different educational levels. Here is one example12:
Today Komsomol-upper school pupils (Komsomoltsy-starsheklassiki) are concerned about the following questions:
At the plenary of CK VLKSM13, it was announced that Komsomol is at the edge of a crisis concerning its trust among the youth. Time goes by. What about now?
I think (and this is not only my opinion) Komsomol has started to lose its idea. Is it not time to change the style of its work?
Is it possible to refuse to follow some of the main orders (of VLKSM), and replace them with locally made rules?
Is it right that in one (Komsomol) organization there are 14-year-old teenagers as well as old boys older than a quarter of a century?
Although these kinds of provocative questions may be found in several educational publications, in Russia, in the West, before and after 1991, this example should be read as a textual artifact of Gorbachev´s glasnost. Openness becomes apparent by explicating challenging discourses (pupils´ questions) by which teachers are reminded with the exclamation mark and bold letters about their existence and importance in the contemporary (perestroika era) school and Komsomol work. However, the general response to these challenges goes along the lines of the official discourse within its sacred references which hardly diminishes the real conditions of these challenges. In the following example, the authors of the booklet offer an answer14 to the question (see the pupils´ questions above) “why is Komsomol necessary?”:
By following the author´s logic we´re trying to answer the question: why is contemporary Komsomol needed? According to the constitution of the U.S.S.R., social movements must improve political activity, individual initiatives (samodeyatel´nosti), and fulfillment (udovletvoreniyu) of multiple interests of citizens. What kind of interests of young people does Komsomol hope to fulfill? First of all, ideological and organizational (ideyno-organisacionnym).
In this light it seems that the authorised side of the society – in this case authorised authors of the official booklet published by official Soviet printing house “Pedagogika” dedicated to educational issues – well admitted the key challenges of the society, here in educational settings, but not in the form of clear answers and solutions but recycling them as new components of official discourse, i.e., as examples of challenges in ideological education. They were thrown to teachers whose position as official pedagogues could not match the realizations of glasnost that the pupils´ views characterise.
From the absence of youth to its controlled mobilization
Along with multiple chaotic aspects of Russian society since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the issues of youth and youth policy were also characterised by chaos. In certain respects, it seems that in the aftermath of the collapse, perestroika-era tension had diminished in such that the failed ideological regime was not superseded by those discourses which deeply challenged the socialist discursive regime, for example democratic initiatives by youth. Instead, the whole youth issue had become “apparent” by an almost total absence in political practices. For example, in the constitution of the Russian Federation in 1993, the concept of “youth policy” is not mentioned at all15
According to Yuri Korgunyuk16 the ignorance toward youth issues among political parties and movements during the 1990s is not exceptional because in post-Soviet Russia youth was generally regarded as politically indifferent, and hence, useless in the sense of potential supporters of political parties. However, although the absence of youth issues in the 1990s was much more concrete than in the current decade (see below), it is not correct to argue that the 1990s was an “empty decade” for youth issues in Russia. During perestroika, in 1987, outlines for the new youth policy of the state (gosudarstvennaya molodezhnaya politika) began to be formulated17. For the first time in the Soviet history this youth policy was planned to offer possibilities of self-fulfillment (samorealizatsiya) for a youngster as distinct from earlier Soviet didactic policies of the “communist education”18. The main problem with this new, rather revolutionary policy which highlighted the solution to everyday challenges of a Soviet youngster instead of former ideological didactics was the time of its establishment: April 1991, less than a year before the end of the empire. Whilst having history as a Soviet document, this new youth policy was inevitably useless for the new leaders of post-Soviet Russia despite its rather individual and liberal progressivity19.
However, a continuum can be seen from the state youth policy of the perestroika era to 1993 when “the main orientations of the state youth policy” was accepted in the post-Soviet Russia: the emphasis in these new orientations was mainly on youth itself20 without any explicit references to accounts of “ideological resource” which were the core of the Soviet-era youth programs and policies. Only echoes from the Soviet era resource-thinking can be seen in the spots where “talented youth” are supported and “physical and spiritual (dukhovnyi) conditions for the development of youth” are formulated (see the footnote above).
The development from the highly didactic underpinnings of the pre-perestroika era to the perestroika era liberation, and finally to the almost fully democratic youth-oriented “youth policy” of the 1990s may offer us a rather clear-cut picture of top-level attitudes towards youth. However, the case is not that simple. Although almost all political parties in the 1990s emphasised the importance of a solution to the multiple social problems among youth,21 those parties which more or less relied on nationalistic views of Russia´s future saw youth still in the light of the Soviet-type of didactic control. In addition, the shift towards national emblems and patriotic values was formulating already before the Putin era. For example, Michael Gorham22 points out that the discourse on language as an instrument for an individually-oriented instrument for social change became preoccupied with national rather than civic identity during the post-perestroika years. Moreover, perestroika-era tropes of language stressing its instrumentality were now replaced with organic ones, highlighting different “impure”, “contaminating” and “perverse” forces threatening the language23. One of the most radical examples of this activated demand for purity of language, implying even nationalistic tones, was presented in 1994 by Lev Skvortsov, then the rector of the Gorky Literary Institute in Moscow24:
Just as nature has upper limits on levels of radiation, the gaseousness of atmosphere, the pollution (poisoning) of the aquatic environment, above which irreversible processes of destruction will begin, so too does language contain limits to its perversion, coarsening the violation of semantic, stylistic, and grammatical norms. Our environment – language environment included – must be healthy, cleansed of pernicious admixtures, and suitable for self-revival and renewal.
Although this radical view by Skvortsov works in a different social field than youth policy, it is not separate from that general social atmosphere which became established in Russia in the mid 1990s. Relying on the sociological polls conducted by VCIOM25, Boris Dubin26 points out, that the mid 1990s was the dividing line of values in the sphere of Russian national identity, the shift from western democratic ideals “back to Russianness”. The shift was first of all based on the catastrophic results of the failed economic reforms conducted in the beginning of the 1990s. Lev Gudkov27 explains this shift with the term “Russian neo-traditionalism”, a phenomenon in which various Western concepts, slogans, and rhetorical figures, used in political speeches in the beginning of the 1990s, began to lose their positive explanatory force for social and political processes of Russian society. Instead, these Western discursive borrowings (such as “civil society” or “liberal democracy”) began to appear as negative examples, emphasising the necessity to rely on the Russian experience of the past28. However, this emerged longing for the past after the Western-oriented euphoria of the beginning of the 1990s did not manifest in the sense of the restoration of the previous ideological regime, but rather as imagined, or nostalgiced vision of “good old times”29. Let us now see how these re-emerged underpinnings of national pride along with attempts at globally- oriented modernisation are present in the current youth policy of the Russian Federation, as well as in discourses of the two pro-governmental youth movements, Idushchie Vmeste and Nashi.
Russian youth policy 2006-2016
Douglas W. Blum30 writes that since 1991 all post-Soviet states have been embroiled in the process of nation-building, which involves the creation of new institutions of governance as well as new systems of meaning and order. However, in Russia the process of nation-building has been rather exceptional and extreme whilst so far a cohesive concept for national identity is missing31. There are coexistent desires to joining the developed West, pre-revolutionary “authentic” Russian constructs, as well as the restoration of Soviet practices, each having strong echoes in Russian public discussions. Since Putin´s presidency, the issue is not about struggles between different
political groups and parties but rather an internal competition between state level policies. As Blum32 notes, in Putin´s era
one finds consensual demand for modernity and normalcy, along with the wish to remain culturally distinct and unique in world politics. One also finds widespread agreement that national development requires creating market institutions and attracting foreign capital, as well as re-socializing the populace to behave like far-sighted, value-maximizing, rational individualists.
That coexistent ambition to seemingly different ideological and political directions is profoundly present on the questions of the socialisation of youth33. Furthermore, discussion of youth policy has not been limited to institutional proponents focusing on a variety of policy drafts and ideas, but it has wide social resonance in Russian society in general, including various mundane realisations, for example, in newspaper articles, web-blogs and other informal discussion forums34. The following account by Blum35 elaborates on the notion of tension which resembles perestroika-era visions of individual capabilities under the strict political rule in order to strengthen that rule:
The debate over youth policy expresses a basic tension in Russian society: a demand for civil society and democratic legitimacy, alongside an equally powerful demand for control, stability, and a guaranteed normative order.
However, the major difference between the attempts of Putin´s policies to modernise Russia and create cohesive outlines for the Russian national idea, and Gorbachev´s attempts to modernise the Soviet Union, is that for Russia since 1991 the limits of discussion are ultimately open. There are no such definite ideological borders for Putin in contemporary Russia as there were for Gorbachev who aimed to renew the whole system since this renewal had to happen “under the sacred principles of Lenin”. And, when this sacred pillar of communism could not guarantee its own legitimacy anymore, the whole socialist system lost its legitimacy. However, by aiming to read the tension between the idealised glasnost and the real glasnost of perestroika to Putin era pro-governmental youth activities, I am not arguing here that we could compare these eras and their socio-political tensions as equal phenomena. Instead, I argue that the perestroika-era tension between the idealised and the real glasnost can help us to conceptualize the implementation of the current youth policy by the actors who enthusiastically draw on “open” sources for political support which seemingly challenge the accounts of ideal nation-building in youth activity.
The official youth policy “Strategy of the State Youth Policy” for 2006-2016, completed by the Ministry of Education and Science in late October 2005, is an illuminative example of identity struggle between global pressures and needs to define national identity36. Although the Strategy emphasises the problems of youth, and points out the challenge of youth´s social and political passivity each time when the word or the derivative “youth” is mentioned, it nearly always is accompanied by a particular conceptual expansion, most often “national interests”, or “the interests of Russia”. For example, the first sentence in the section “The aims and principles of the realisation of the Strategy” is: “the aim of the state youth policy is the development and realisation of the potential of young people according to the interests of Russia”37. Hence, young people are not allowed to be presented as citizens with their own needs and problems but as a group of people whose potential must be utilized in the service of national interests. The difference from the outlines of youth policy of the 1990s mentioned above is rather clear; for instance, the need for cooperation of foreign youth movements and programs are not mentioned at all in the current policy. In this respect, we can point out that the Soviet-era understanding of youth as a national (and political) resource has made a comeback in the current policy, although these “Soviet underpinnings” are not the whole content of the policy38. The most evident proof of national rebirth in youth issues can be found in another, more specified youth policy program, “The Patriotic Upbringing of Russian Citizens”39 which explicitly underlines various didactic and educational functions of instances of society in the sense of patriotism.
From Idushchie Vmeste to Nashi
The appearance of the pro-governmental youth movements took place soon after the
inauguration of Vladimir Putin in 2000. The most visible such act since the days of
Komsomol took place on May 7, 2001, when thousands40 of youngsters gathered in the
centre of Moscow to celebrate Vladimir Putin´s first year in office. What was noteworthy
about this initiative was not only in the high number of the people but their rather
coherent visual image: the vast majority wore t-shirts with Putin´s portrait and the
intertextual phrase vsyo putyom (everything is on track) referring to order, and to the
surname of the president. These people – headed by the ex-employee of the president´s
administration Vassili Yakemenko – labeled themselves as members of the youth
movement Idushchie Vmeste. IV was officially registered on July 14, 2000, but through
this large scale action in May 2001 it became well known to the broader public as well41 (Savelev 2006, 77; Ivanov 2005; Iduschie Vmeste 7.5. 2001).
Although there were immediate accusations against IV concerning its role as a rubber stamp for the Kremlin´s policies, IV constantly emphasised its spontaneous position as an independent youth organization not belonging to any political party42. At first sight, it seems that the movement´s ideological agenda offers a rather clear connection to the ideals of the Soviet-era Komsomol as a youth organisation which fostered the moral norms of a good youngster. The main text of IV – Moral Codex – is a no doubt conscious intertextual referent to the Moral Code of the Builder of Communism established in 1961,43 or it is rather difficult to avoid such a connotation in post-Soviet Russia, especially in the case of a youth movement emphasizing strict moral norms44. This is interesting while the main political opponents for IV were communists. However, this is not the only reason why an analogy to the Soviet-era Komsomol is weak in many ways. The moral panic strongly emphasised in many texts of the movements differs from the moral control of Komsomol because of an absolutely different social and political context: IV is not a hegemonic actor in the field of youth activity as was the case with Komsomol and the Communist party45. In this respect, the conservative and moralistic ethos of IV works rather as symbolic capital; the ethos is believed to have better value than some other youth movements may have.46 Although the use of carrots by IV in maximising its own attractiveness – for example by offering free access to internet for its members47 – resembles Komsomol era-practices of offering various social and “non-political” activities48, the discourse of mobilisation for IV seems to be more exclusive than inclusive. The majority of key texts of the movement emphasise strict moral norms and the necessity of following these norms if a person wants be a member of the movement. Thus, although the ethos of IV well resembles the accounts of Komsomol as alternativeless choices in order to be and become a true youngster, in the context of Putin´s Russia, this “alternativelessness” is socially and politically distinctive option, not a total condition, as it was the Komsomol-era institutional and organisational alternativelessness49.
If we wish to conceptualise IV`s position as a form of glasnost, we can state that since coming to power Putin actively has begun to utilize piecemeal the emerging national and patriotic attitudes of the Russian people.50 Consequently, IV showed its own partial spontaneity by conducting social actions which worked as symbolic capital relying on the collective and re-emerged memories of the “Soviet happiness” although this capital was often targeted against communists51. However, this spontaneity did not match with the Kremlin´s expectations of adequate nation building.
Spontaneity and carnival: The Exchange of Books
Two themes which started to appear in various actions of IV were emphasised irony and a sort of carnival. The most illuminative example of this was IV´s well known action “The Exchange of Books”52 in 2002 in which the movement organised several points for book exchanges in different places in central Moscow. The idea was that people could bring the works of “postmodernist-pornographers”53 to these points and then obtain the works of “true Russian literature” – works of Russian classical literature – in exchange. The collected works of “degenerate” literature were marked by the stamp “to be returned to the author” and were packed into a sack with the same text. The action culminated in front of the Bolshoy Theatre in Moscow in summer 2002 where activists of IV protested against the theatre´s decision to perform a play based on Vladimir Sorokin´s text by throwing torn works of the writer into a huge toilet seat made of pasteboard54.
Although this was not the last large scale action by the movement, “The Exchange of Books” had obviously reverse results: the sale of works of accused writers rose dramatically, IV achieved a notorious position as “Putin Jugend”, and finally the Kremlin – now often regarded in the media as the ultimate benefactor of the movement – dissociated itself from the activities of the movement55.
Carnival continues: Nashi and the Bronze Soldier
The aspect which puts this kind of carnivalistic and at least partially spontaneous form of action beyond an individual case is its recurrence in the most visible action of the successor of IV – the movement Nashi. In late 2004, during the “Orange Revolution” in the Ukraine, the first rumors of the new youth movement supported by the Kremlin became public56. These rumors proved to be correct whilst in February 2005 the Antifascist Democratic Youth Movement Nashi was officially established57. The main difference in the agenda from IV was in its emphasised politicalness in relation to international issues and its emphasised position as an antifascist and democratic movement58. The size and systematic and professionally planned design were also rather distinctive from the programme of IV: Nashi established itself as a federal youth movement having tens of local branches along with the Moscow main office, and the utililization of the internet was clearly more professional than IV`s rather incoherent web-image and style. It is not difficult to find a connection with the emphasised and well-planned role of the web image and the focus of official youth policy which underline the importance of development of informational sources and technology59. This account seemingly matches with Nashi´s ethos to exemplify the capability of rational individuality, talent, and particular entrepreneurial spirit as pillars in the creation of an ideal young person, and in general this ethos borrows from the global discourses of success60. However, despite Nashi´s deep intention to manifest itself discursively as “globally up-to-date”, the agenda of Nashi includes many more accounts against “Western hegemony” than the more domestically and morally oriented agenda of IV.
Nashi´s struggle over fascism which from its beginning had made apparent the importance of the symbolic began, in addition, to receive carnivalistic elements, as was seen in the case of IV. The most visible – and carnivalistic – action around the topic of antifascism was the movement´s protest against the removal of the statue of the Bronze Soldier by Estonian authorities in Tallinn in late April 2007. This protest culminated around the Estonian embassy in Moscow where hundreds activists of Nashi along with activists from some other pro-Kremlin youth movements beset the embassy for almost one week. Protests against Estonia were held not only in Moscow, but became cornerstone of the movement´s activities in different regions as well. In addition, clearly repetitive feature in these actions along with their intensity was their carnivalistic elements, as the following example from the town of Kovrov shows61:
Kovrov: A saving “puncture” from eSStonian fascism
In May 28 commissars of the antifascist section – wearing white coats of medics – were walking in the streets of the town, and offered check-ups for passers-by in order to map frequency of the new horrible virus called “eSStonian fascism”.
A blank form arranged as a certificate of vaccination contained questions which elaborated the relation of the respondent to the government of the state which has violated our memory and arrogated the privilege to rewrite world history for itself alone.
These answers were immediately analyzed, and OUR “doctors” diagnosed the patient by giving a certificate. Symptoms of fascism were found in only nine persons from the sample of 150 respondents. Our nurses conducted a vaccination against fascism for all those who were infected by a long and convincing discussion on the heroic deeds of the Soviet soldiers and violent actions of the Estonian authorities.
This sort of carnivalistic symbolism is not a single case in the web-site of the movement but rather a fragment from hundreds of similar grass-roots actions. Along with this vaccination campaign – mainly conducted by the activists in the Vladimir filial – there were several actions in order to collect signatures from Russian citizens for posters which symbolised petitions against the removal of the Bronze Soldier, and demands for the removal of the building of Estonian embassy from its current locationth. Moreover, highly symbolic welcoming ceremonies were organized in the Moscow railway station for those activists who were expelled from Tallinn by the Estonian authorities. These activists called themselves “living statues”62. They traveled to Tallinn to stand around Tônismägi - the area where the Bronze soldier was located - wearing the World War II- era Red Army uniforms and carrying flags of the movement. As a result, the Estonian authorities refused to grant visas to several members of Nashi, which in the context of the Schengen treaty actually meant that these members were no longer allowed entry to the territory of the European Union63.
Conclusion: Gap between definitions of correct youth activity
In January 2008 the newspaper Kommersant64 wrote that Nashi will cease to exist in its current form and will be radically reorganized. According to the newspaper, one reason for the reorganization was the negative attitude of the new president Dmitry Medvedev towards the movement, and even Putin considered Nashi to be a problem for Russia´s relations to the West. The second possible account concerns the loss of the charismatic leader: Vassili Yakemenko was nominated as the head of the State youth committee, and a third view underlines the point of uselessness: the acute threat of the Orange Revolution was over. Although it way too early to speculate on the final destiny of Nashi (there were no signs of its demise in February 2009), it is clear that something changed in the attitudes of the political elite towards Nashi´s actions during 2007. My argument is that this “something” is first of all related to Nashi´s style to follow the political top´s ideas, but this following does not capture these ideas.
Both movements, IV and Nashi, work as an illuminative example of the tension in the sense of a “practice of hybridisation” mentioned by Blum65: a general approach to national youth identity formation in which certain global and hegemonic practices are imbued while rejecting other “excessive” ideas and asserting a unique, supposedly indigenous identity. My argument is that namely carnivalisation and the aesthetisation of nationalist and reactive topics by IV and Nashi are something which aims to manage this practice of hybridisation in the creation of national identity, and this spontaneity is something which radically challenges the trust of the political elite. In other words, activity and spontaneity are needed, and the “glasnost” of IV and Nashi clearly emanated from these nationalistic, post-perestroika values, in many ways supported by the political elite as well, but this ideologically-correct grass-roots activism caused such effects which the Kremlin regarded as harmful for its own “perestroika”. The following quote from Nashi´s web-page report66 interestingly shows the movement´s attitude to the headline: “Youth: subject or object, that´s the question”. The subjectivity of youth issues along with youth´s democratic rights is positioned as active and progressive patriotism as distinct from the silence and “objectivism” of adult politicians. Moreover, the “fight for your rights” in the last sentence interestingly adds the aspect of emancipatory grass-roots activism in fostering patriotism:
During the session youth was seen not only as a cadre reserve but also as a driving force in public opinion. A question which concerned the status of youth policy caused intensive debate. Nobody could give clear answers about that. An example which was given was the removal of the Bronze Soldier in Tallinn. Adult politicians tried to stonewall this issue but youth did not allow this <> Youth did not allow elders to be quiet concerning the violation of Russian history by the Estonian government.
In addition, history did not end here. Along with the accession of Estonia to the Schengen zone, the blacklists of person non grata block the entry to most of European countries for those people who did not do anything illegal, people who refused to forget their own history and were ready to fight for their rights with legal and democratic tools.
This quote reveals that Nashi “admits” the basic challenge for the mobilisation of youth in Russia: youth has been seen as a resource (here cadre reserve), a faceless mass whose needs are defined from an administrative and governmental point of view ignoring grass- roots needs of the young people themselves. This challenge is profoundly discussed by Russian scholars of youth as well67. However, the subjectivity and true voice of youth from Nashi´s point of view is something which goes beyond the national and patriotic underpinnings of the current youth policy programs by stating that: “(Y)outh did not allow elders to be quiet concerning the violation of Russian history by the Estonian government”. The case here is not to argue that “true” grass-roots initiatives would be only such which clearly challenge official youth policy values, and would be oriented toward democratic, or Western values. As the text of Nashi shows above, grass-roots activism can also be oriented towards official values and demands (patriotic civic position), but it draws on such forms of activity which seemingly do not fulfill the political elite´s expectations of decent behaviour of a youth movement.
On the one hand, it seems that namely the symbolic dimension of the movements´ activity conducted by various carnivalistic actions is the aspect which causes the major unintended results for the visions of the political elite. On the other hand, the carnivalisation is that dimension of activity by which the movements manage to show their true support towards conformist values, aiming to have a distinctive position in the competition with other actors (mainly youth movements) in the field of youth activity. This situation is actually quite close – although with different symbolic parameters – to Gorham´s point68 where the demands of perestroika/glasnost clashed with the actual skills of the people. As that commentator in 1988 put it: (A) person who holds a just position but who has not mastered the word can be compared to a well-armed soldier who holds in his hands everything needed for victory, but lacks just one thing – the ability to shoot well. Time will show if Nashi and other such movements learn to shoot better.