‘Putler Youth’: Russia’s Sad Trudge to Fascism


Soviet Young Pioneers

Soviet Young Pioneers

On Thursday, October 29th, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree creating a state-controlled ‘youth movement’ for Russian students. Officially called the ‘Social-State Movement of Schoolchildren,’ it appears to be rapidly drawing comparisons with the Soviet-era ‘Young Pioneers,’ a Soviet state youth league for secondary school students, controlled by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), and designed to prepare legions of young people for membership in the Communist Youth League, or ‘Komsomol.’

Italian Fascist Youth in the 1930s

Italian Fascist Youth in the 1930s

But the ‘Social-State Movement of Schoolchildren’ is not communist or even socialist. It is nationalist. The Putin regime touts Russian national glory as its public rallying point, and although it mixes Soviet hagiography into its message – confusing the people by honoring Soviet communist (and thus anti-Russian nationalist) leaders such as Lenin and Stalin – the propaganda message is at its core unquestionably nationalistic and imperialistic. With the Russian economy in crisis, Putin has turned to a mix of militarism and patriotic nationalism to buy time as living standards plummet around him and his clique.

A poster for the Hitler Youth: 'Youth Serves the Führer. All 10-Year-Olds into the Hitler Youth!'

A poster for the Hitler Youth: ‘Youth Serves the Führer. All 10-Year-Olds into the Hitler Youth’

The combination of nationalistic imperialism and state-controlled ideological youth leagues is an essential component of fascism. The ‘New Pioneers’ are not a vanguard of socialist revolution. They are the subjects of Russian nationalist ideological indoctrination. They are the nucleus of a new Russian chauvinism and bigotry, in which Russian national identity – ethnicity, language, religion, history – are to be borne aloft as superior to all others. The ‘New Pioneers’ are 21st-century Russia’s version of the Hitler Youth of the Nazi German Third Reich or the Gioventù Italiana del Littorio (Italian Youth of the Lictor) of Fascist Italy. They are the latest sad development in Russia’s post-Soviet, internal political trauma. As such, a better name for the new youth movement might be the ‘Putler Youth.’

A 'Nashi' rally in central Moscow

A ‘Nashi’ rally in central Moscow

The ‘New Pioneers’ are not without precedent. From 2005-2011, a state-funded nationalist Russian youth organization called Nashi (‘Ours’) was active in trying to recruit Russian youth into supporting the Putin regime. It reached the apogee of its visibility and activity during the one-term puppet-presidency of Dmitry Medvedev, when Vladimir Putin served formally as prime minister but in fact pulled the strings of state. As Putin was returning to reclaim the presidency, Nashi faded out of view, harmed by the widespread perception (never properly investigated) that its leader ordered an assault on the Russian dissident journalist Oleg Kashin, who was left with a metal plate in his head as a result. The attack and severe beating of Kashin was caught on video by a CCTV camera at night.

It was another sad demonstration of the perils of state-controlled ‘youth movements’ personifying ‘patriotism’ for the public. Youth leagues such as Nashi and the ‘New Pioneers’ are meant to be a medium for engaging a generation of Russians who might otherwise become delinquents or criminals in today’s Russia. Unfortunately, their members end up perpetrating criminal acts behind the badges and emblems of the organizations themselves.

Poster for the National Socialist German Student Union

Poster for the National Socialist German Student Union

Perhaps fortunately for Europe and the rest of the world, Russia is decrepit and broken-down nearly a quarter-century after the USSR’s demise. Unlike Germany under Hitler in the 1930s, Russia under Putin does not look capable of transforming itself into a major economic powerhouse. Its industry is shoddy and inefficient. Its goods are low quality. It is still mostly an exporter of raw materials and unfinished goods. Russians don’t appear to have the collective energy that Germans exhibited in the 1930s, building not only the autobahn and a competitive industrial infrastructure, but also a national war machine capable of terrorizing Europe and beyond. The outside world can feel relieved that Russia is inefficient and unproductive, and would have trouble posing the kind of danger to the civilized world that Nazi Germany did. But we can observe ordinary Russians with pity and dismay. They should feel little relief or comfort about their country’s metamorphosis into a run-down version of a fascist state. For them, the light at the end of the tunnel is still out of sight.

Putin has created a social-state movement of schoolchildren

29 October 2015 ~ Novaya Gazeta

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on the establishment of a ‘Russian Movement of Schoolchildren,’ the tasks of which are the same as those of the [Young] Pioneers in the USSR. The document was published on the official web portal of legal information.

Putin with members of 'Nashi'

Putin with members of ‘Nashi’

The movement is being created to, inter alia, ‘facilitate the formation of a person based on the intrinsic values ​​of Russian society.’

The founder of the organization is the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs (Rosmolodezh). As an intermediary between the movement and the government of Russia, it will direct the main activities of the movement and issue assignments.

'Nashi' rally in Russia

‘Nashi’ rally in Russia

For co-operation with the Ministry of Education, and the governments of Russia’s regions and municipal organs, the ‘Russian Children’s and Youth Center’ will be created under Rosmolodezh.

The budget for the needs of the movement will be allocated from the funds of the Ministry of Education. The decree entered into force today.

Russian fascists march during May Day festivities in 2010

Russian fascists march during May Day festivities in 2010

The initiative was supported by the Ministry of Education. ‘The ministry is ready to provide all necessary preparatory and methodological assistance in the organization of the movement in all regions of Russia,’ Minister Dmitry Livanov was quoted as saying by [Russian state news agency] RIA Novosti.

It is worth noting that today marks exactly 97 years since the establishment of the Communist Youth League (Komsomol).

Rosmolodezh previously organized the youth forum ‘Seliger’ and coordinated the pro-Putin movement ‘Nashi’. In addition, in April, it was reported that the agency had acted as the focal point for the development of the program of patriotic education of citizens for the years 2016-2020. To do this, the structure of the agency created a special department: ‘Rospatriotcenter.’

Путин создал общественно-государственное движение школьников

Russian fascists demonstrate

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