Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, June 19, 2017

Generation gap in Russia

It's probably overly simple, but there does appear to be a generation gap in Russian politics. Is it similar to the one in the UK?

Aleksei Navalny’s protesters are a force to be reckoned with
AT TWO O’CLOCK on the afternoon of June 12th, Elizaveta Chukicheva, a 16-year-old technical-college student, stood in the middle of Tverskaya Street in central Moscow next to a large reproduction of an idol from Russia’s pagan antiquity. Ms Chukicheva held a sign on which she had written the words “I love Russia”, and wore a T-shirt bearing the image of Aleksei Navalny, a Russian opposition leader. Against her parents’ advice, she had answered Mr Navalny’s call to attend a rally on Russia’s national holiday against corruption, and for his campaign for the presidential election in 2018. “My parents told me that we can’t change anything and that there are no prospects for us in this country,” she said. “But I don’t want to leave Russia, and I believe that we can change things.” It was her first political action ever, and she was nervous.

A few hours earlier, Mr Navalny had been arrested outside his apartment block for organising an “unsanctioned” rally. Moscow authorities had approved a gathering at a different location, but then sabotaged it…

There, the Kremlin had blocked off traffic for a pedestrian festival celebrating “Russia’s Victorious Past” (hence the pagan idol). The street was occupied with historical reconstructions of Russian military triumphs…

As Mr Navalny’s supporters, many of them young enough to have lived their entire lives under Vladimir Putin, entered the street, they found themselves surrounded by reconstructionists dressed in medieval body armour, 19th-century tsarist gowns and Stalin-era military and secret-police uniforms. The protesters chanted “Russia without Putin!” and “We are the power here!”…

As surreal as the scene was, it also encapsulated the current political confrontation in Russia. Vladimir Putin’s backwards-looking regime, which legitimises itself by restoring the symbols of Russia’s imperial past, is being challenged by a new generation of Russians who feel that their future has been hijacked by the corruption, hypocrisy and lies of the ruling elite…

The symbol of the protests was a rubber duck, a reference to a documentary video Mr Navalny released in March that accuses Dmitry Medvedev, the prime minister, of corruption. (The video depicts Mr Medvedev’s immense estate, allegedly donated to him by an oligarch, which includes a house for a pet duck.)…

A few years ago, such a video might have generated laughter. Now, it produces outrage. “We’re different from our parents’ generation in that we have no future,” said one of the young protesters…

The protests were held in some 170 cities across Russia, gathering a total of about 150,000 people, according to organisers. (An earlier round of protests on March 26th drew perhaps 100,000 people in about 90 cities.) About half of the protesters are aged between 18 and 29…

One reason for the unrest is economic. Russian real incomes have fallen by 13% over the past two and a half years… Retail consumption has shrunk by 15%. Investment has been falling for three years, reaching a cumulative decline of 12%…

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