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Nashi, Youth Voluntarism, and Potemkin NGOs: Making Sense of Civil Society in Post-Soviet Russia

  • Julie Hemment


By interrogating Putin-era civil society projects, this article tracks the aftermath of international development aid in post-Soviet Russian socialist space. State-run organizations such as the pro-Kremlin youth organization Nashi (Ours) are commonly read as evidence of an antidemocratic backlash and as confirmation of Russia's resurgent authoritarianism. Contributing to recent scholarship in the anthropology of postsocialism, Julie Hemment seeks here to account for Nashi by locating it in the context of twenty years of international democracy promotion, global processes of neoliberal governance, and the disenchantments they gave rise to. Drawing on a collaborative ethnographic research project involving scholars and students in the provincial city Tver', Hemment reveals Nashi's curiously hybrid nature: At the same time as it advances a trenchant critique of 1990s-era interventions and the models and paradigms that guided democracy assistance, it also draws on them. Nashi respins these resources to articulate a robust national-interest alternative that is persuasive to many young people. Moreover, rather than a static, top-down political technology project, Nashi offers its participants a range of registers and voices in which they can articulate their own individualized agendas.



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I would like to thank Mark D. Steinberg and Ruth Mandel for their encouragement of this piece, and my four anonymous reviewers for their critical engagement and comments, which substantially improved it. Early drafts were presented to the Colby-Bates-Bowdoin Mellon Faculty Seminar on the state, 5 October 2007, and to the Kennan Institute workshop, “International Development Assistance in Post-Soviet Space,” coordinated by Ruth Mandel. I am also grateful to Michele Rivkin-Fish, James Richter, and Kristen Ghodsee, who provided valuable insights and commentary on earlier versions of this article.

I draw on data gathered in the course of a collaborative ethnographic research project conducted with scholars and undergraduate students at Tver’ State University, 2006- 2010. Research was made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation (Grant No. 0822680), the National Council for Eurasian and East European Studies (NCEEER), and the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX). I am grateful for the input of my Tver’ colleagues, Valentina Uspenskaia, Dmitrii Borodin, and members of the student research team and to Yulia Stone at the University of Massachusetts for research assistance. The epigraph is taken from ITAR-TASS, 18 May 2006, accessed via EastView database on 12 August 2006.

1. Wilson, Andrew, Virtual Politics: Faking Democracy in the Post-Soviet World (New Haven, 2005).

2. Gillis, Charlie, “Putin the Terrible,” Maclean's 120, no. 34 (September 2007): 32-36 ; Lucas, Edward, The New Cold War: How the Kremlin Menaces Both Russia and the West (London, 2008); Steven Lee Myers, “Youth Groups Created by Kremlin Serve Putin's Cause,” New York Times, 8 July 2007, sec. 8. On “black PR,” see Wilson, Virtual Politics.

3. Dominant scholarly and journalistic accounts of Vladimir Putin and contemporary Russia bear the imprint of what Alexei Yurchak has called “binary socialism,” a term he uses to describe the problematic assumptions and binary categories encoded into scholarly and journalistic accounts of the Soviet Union, such as oppression/resistance; official culture/counterculture; state/people. Yurchak, Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation (Princeton, 2006), 4 - 5. Recent scholarship questions the binary democracy/authoritarianism and prompts us to think about Putin and what he represents in more nuanced terms. In these analyses, Russian people are agentic, playful bricoleurs, who are not uncritical about the state-emanating narratives that are offered them. See, for example, Julie A. Cassiday and Emily D.Johnson, “Putin, Putiniana and the Question of a Post-Soviet Cult of Personality,” Slavonic and East European Review %, no. 4 (October 2010): 681-707; Robertson, Graeme B., “Managing Society: Protest, Civil Society, and Regime in Putin's Russia,” Slavic Review 68, no. 3 (Fall 2009): 528-47.

4. Carothers, Thomas, “The Backlash against Democracy Promotion,” Foreign Affairs 85, no. 2 (March/April 2006): 55-68. In Carother's formulation, “backlash” is a global trend whereby local political actors (“Strongmen“) both denounce western democracy assistance as illegitimate and punish local groups who work with foreign identified actors associated with it. It is precipitated by the militarization of U.S. democratization aid and its aggressive coupling with U.S. foreign policy under die Bush administration (“freedom agenda“). Carothers sees Putin as one key Strongman.

5. Jessica Greenberg, “There's Nothing Anyone Can Do About It': Participation, Apathy, and ‘Successful’ Democratic Transition in Postsocialist Serbia,” Slavic Review 69, no. 1 (Spring 2010): 41-64; Coles, Kimberley, Democratic Designs: International Intervention and Electoral Practices in Postwar Bosnia-Herzegovina (Ann Arbor, 2007).

6. Greenberg, ‘“There's Nothing Anyone Can Do About It.'“

7. In his recent article, Douglas Rogers names three strategies contemporary anuhropologists of postsocialism have enacted as they consider the post-Soviet context, twenty years on. While early studies examined the impact of things (concepts, technologies) diat arrived in postsocialist space (unidirectional, viewing globalization as something that is “done to” formerly socialist states), more recent accounts seek to reverse the flow or allow for diverse directions. Rogers, Douglas, “Postsocialisms Unbound: Connections, Critiques, Comparisons,” Slavic Review 69, no. 1 (Spring 2010): 1-15.

8. Coles, Democratic Designs, 7. See also Greenberg, ‘“There's Nothing Anyone Can Do About It'“; Brown, Keith, Transacting Transition: The Micropolitics of Democracy Assistance in the Former Yugoslavia (Bloomfield, Conn., 2006); Paley, Julia, Marketing Democracy: Power and Social Movements in Post-Dictatorship Chile (Berkeley, 2001).

9. Here I am in dialogue with scholarship that points to the complex amalgam of logics and rationalities advanced by the Russian state during the Putin and Putin-Medvedev administrations. Although Putin has been hostile to liberal democratic values and has staked his identity on being anti-neoliberal, he has advanced some of the same policies in a “liberal blend” of politics that defies easy description. This stems from the dual objectives of protecting Russia's sovereignty while enabling it to compete in the global economy. See Matza, Tomas, “Moscow's Echo: Technologies of the Self, Publics, and Politics on the Russian Talk Show,” Cultural Anthropology 24, no. 3 (August 2009): 489-522 ; Collier, Stephen J., “Budgets and Bio-Politics,” in Ong, Aihwa and Collier, Stephen J., eds., Global Assemblages: Technology, Politics, and Ethics as Anthropological Problems (Maiden, Mass., 2005), 373-90; Richter, James, “The Ministry of Civil Society? The Public Chambers in die Regions,” Problems of Post-Communism 56, no. 6 (November/December 2009): 7-20. Douglas Blum discusses how this ambivalence is manifest in policy discussions concerning youdi. Blum, Douglas W., “Russian YouuS Policy: Shaping the Nation-State's Future,” SAIS Review 26, no. 2 (Summer/Fall 2006): 95-108.

10. Verdery, Katherine, What Was Socialism, and What Comes Next? (Princeton, 1996).

11. See Matza, “Moscow's Echo“; Coles, Democratic Designs; Greenberg, ‘“There's Nothing Anyone Can Do About It.'” The concept of “sovereign democracy” was coined by Vladislav Surkov, President Putin's deputy chief of staff, in 2005. It articulates an argument about Russia's own distinct path and approach to governance. What is crucial to my argument in diis article is that the concept signifies Putin's determination to seize control of Russia's padi to democracy and his refusal to allow foreign states to either guide the process or dictate to him. The concept has now become part of official discourse; in James Richter's analysis it is the template for the Kremlin's efforts to “sharpen the boundaries between the legitimate public sphere and ‘uncivil society.'“James Richter, “Putin and the Public Chamber,” Post-Soviet Affairs 25, no. 1 (January-March 2009): 45.

12. George E. Marcus, Critical Anthropology Now. Unexpected Contexts, Shifting Constituencies, Changing Agendas (Santa Fe, 1999); Marcus, George E. and Fischer, Michael M.J., Anthropology as Cultural Critique: An Experimental Moment in the Human Sciences (Chicago, 1986).

13. Here I am referring to two Tver’ based NGOs: die Center for Women's History and Gender Studies, which was supported by grants from the Ford Foundation and the Open Society Institute, and the women's crisis center Hortensia, which received grants from IREX, the American Bar Association, and the Open Society Institute. These grants dried up in 2004, when these agencies cut back substantially on their Russia programs.

14. Verdery, What Was Socialism, and What Comes Next?; Chris Hann and Elizabeth Dunn, eds., Civil Society: Challenging Western Models (London, 1996).

15. Comaroff, Jean and Comaroff, John L., “Millenial Capitalism: First Thoughts on a Second Coming,” in Comaroff, Jean and Comaroff, John L., eds., Millenial Capitalism and the Culture of Neoliberalism (Durham, 2001), 1-56.

16. Classically defined as the sphere of public interaction between family and state, the concept reemerged as analytically and politically salient in the 1980s, by Central European intellectuals seeking to express resistance to the communist regimes in power. The concept of civil society was central to the project of “anti-politics,” an oppositional stance that opposed the socialist state by addressing the individual. It implied a refusal to comply with official rhetoric about civic duties to conform to the collective needs and a decision to invest in private life. See David Ost, Solidarity and the Politics of Anti-Politics: Opposition and Reform in Poland since 1968 (Philadelphia, 1990); Hann and Dunn, eds., Civil Society; Timothy Garton-Ash, The Uses of Adversity: Esssays on the Fate of Central Europe (New York, 1989). Indeed, at this time, civil society came to mean that which was not determined by the Communist Party; as such it made a happy transfer to the postsocialist period. For discussions of tfiis, see Seligman, Adam B., The Idea of Civil Society (New York, 1992); Gellner, Ernest, Conditions of Liberty: Civil Society and Its Rivals (New York, 1994).

17. Ost, Solidarity and the Politics of Anti-Politics.

18. Robinson, Mark, “Governance, Democracy and Conditionality: NGOs and the New Policy Agenda,” in Clayton, Andrew, ed., Governance, Democracy and Conditionality: What Role for NGOs? (Oxford, 1994); Blair, Harry, “Donors, Democratization and Civil Society: Relating Theory to Practice,” in Hulme, David and Edwards, Michael, eds., NGOs, States and Donors: Too Close for Comfort? (New York, 1997), 23-43 ; Hann and Dunn, eds., Civil Society.

19. Sonia E. Alvarez, “Beyond the Civil Society Agenda? ‘Civic Participation’ and Practices of Governance, Governability and Governmentality” (paper delivered to the Watson Institute, Brown University, 17 September 2008).

20. Sampson, Steven, “The Social Life of Projects: Importing Civil Society to Albania,” in Hann, and Dunn, , eds., Civil Society, 121-42; Alvarez, Sonia E., Dagnino, Evelina, and Escobar, Arturo, “Introduction: The Cultural and the Political in Latin American Social Movements,” in Alvarez, Sonia E., Dagnino, Evelina, and Escobar, Arturo, eds., Cultures of Politics, Politics of Cultures: Re-Visioning Latin American Social Movements (Boulder, Colo., 1998), 1-25.

21. Ferguson, James and Gupta, Akhil, “Spatializing States: Toward an Ethnography of Neoliberal Governmentality,” American Ethnologist 29, no. 4 (November 2002): 981-1003 ; Coles, Democratic Designs.

22. Paley, , Marketing Democracy, 3.

23. Coles, , Democratic Designs, 8.

24. Sarah Henderson documents that in 2000 George Soros's Open Society Institute- Russia channeled over $56 million to NGOs, universities, and other civic organizations (such as women's groups, human rights, and environmental organizations); between 1993-2001, the Eurasia Foundation allocated almost $38 million to the nonprofit sector; between 1991 and 1998 die MacArthur Foundation approved over $17 million in grants to support civic initiatives in the former Soviet Union. Meanwhile, the U.S. and European governments channeled generous resources into this project, too. According to Janine Wedel, the U.S. Congress devoted $36 million to support “democratic institution building” in formerly communist states in 1990 and 1991. Henderson, Sarah L., Building Democracy in Contemporary Russia: Western Support for Grassroots Organizations (Ithaca, 2003). By 1995, the United States had obligated $164 million to promote political parry development, independent media, governance, and recipient NGOs. See also Wedel, Janine R., Collision and Collusion: The Strange Case of Western Aid to Eastern Europe, 1989-1998 (New York, 1998), 85.

25. Wedel, Collision and Collusion; Richter, James, “Evaluating Western Assistance to Russian Women's Organizations,” in Mendelson, Sarah E. and Glenn, John K., eds., The Power and Limits ofNGOs: A Critical Look at Building Democracy in Eastern Europe and Eurasia (New York, 2002), 54-90 ; Hemment, Julie, “The Riddle of the Third Sector: Civil Society, International Aid, and NGOs in Russia,” Anthropological Quarterly 77, no. 2 (Spring 2004): 215-41.

26. Richter, “Ministry of Civil Society?“

27. Ibid. As Richter points out, social science scholarship was complicit in this bias, either ignoring Soviet-era organizations or discounting them as in some way illegitimate.

28. Salmenniemi, Suvi, Democratization and Gender in Contemporary Russia (London, 2008).

29. For example, for human rights activists, women, and environmental activists, the civil society concept proved flexible and open to translation. My early research provided insight into this, see Hemment, Julie, Empowering Women in Russia: Activism, Aid, and NGOs (Bloomington, 2007). See also Susan Gal and Gail Kligman, The Politics of Gender after Socialism: A Comparative-Historical Essay (Princeton, 2000); Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt, “Transitions as Translations,” in Scott, Joan W., Kaplan, Cora, and Keates, Debra, eds., Transitions, Environments, Translations: Feminisms in International Politics (New York, 1997), 253-72.

30. Hemment, Empowering Women in Russia; Ishkanian, Armine, “Importing Civil Society? The Emergence of Armenia's NGO Sector and the Impact of Western Aid on Its Development,” Armenian Forum 3, no. 1 (Spring 2003): 7-36 ; Richter, “Evaluating Western Assistance to Russian Women's Organizations“; Wedel, Collision and Collusion.

31. During this time, funds to Russia were redirected to new programs more in line with the Bush administration's construal of democracy promotion. There were, however, some continuities between the priorities of the Clinton and Bush administrations. For example, the Russian Democracy Act of 2002 authorized $50 million for democracy-building programs such as training investigative journalists and cultural exchanges, programs that had received support through the 1990s. Funding to women's groups and the Russian women's movement was drastically reduced after 2001. In the perception of my activist interlocutors, some of these funds were diverted to issues of public health, such as HIV/AIDS prevention and drug abuse. Meanwhile, U.S. and other international agencies stepped up their investment in other newly independent states, particularly in Central Asia. According to statistics cited by Noor O'Neill Borbieva, die United States spent $12 million on programs promoting democracy in Kyrgystan during 2004, and this increased to $15 million in 2005. Noor O'Neill Borbieva, personal communication, Washington, D.C., December 2007.

32. This then is an argument about how Russian political elites took advantage of a kind of transitional phase in U.S. policies toward democracy promotion. I understand Putin's civil society project to have been prompted and enabled by two interconnected factors: partial donor withdrawal from the schemes that had predominated in the 1990s (and popular dissatisfaction with the “decade of democratization“), and popular concern about the new forms of democracy promotion that took place post-9/11 when democracy promotion was linked to military intervention. See also Carothers, “Backlash against Democracy Promotion.“

33. One bill proposed amending the tax code, another sought to give authorities increased powers to monitor the activities and finances of NGOs. While the legislation influenced all NGOs, foreign NGOs were disproportionately targeted. Legislation was introduced in late 2005; it was rushed through the federal Duma, and deputies had very little time to consider it. Representatives of both domestic and international NGOs were quick to rally against it, predicting that it would have dire effects on third-sector organizations. When the law came into effect in April 2006, its implications were uncertain and it was still under debate.

34. As James Richter notes, the Public Chamber can be viewed as an institutional enactment of Putin's civil society insofar as it embodies his formulation of civil society in the interest of the state. It is not a representative body where members advocate particular interests but an “apolitical body of prominent individuals,” including television personalities, sports stars, journalists, and members of officially sanctioned groups such as Nashi. Richter, “Putin and the Public Chamber,” 39-65. It performs a kind of expert analysis, submitting recommendations to members of the Duma about socially important legislation, and it also acts as a kind of clearing house for federal funds, disbursing grants to officially registered (and approved) NGOs. The first grant competition was announced in 2006. In the 2007 competition, $51 million (1.25 billion rubles) was disbursed. According to media reports, grants were disbursed to 1,225 NGOs in sums ranging from less than 100,000 rubles to several million. RFE/RL Newsline, 8 November 2007.

35. Youth slang played on the term liberal values where La-Ve became a slang term for cash; El'tsinism became Elt-tsinizm or Elt-cynicism. See Serguei Alex. Oushakine, The Patriotism of Despair: Nation, War, and Loss in Russia (Ithaca, 2009) ,112.

36. Ibid, 34.

37. See Greenberg, “There's Nothing Anyone Can Do About It.'“

38. President Dmitrii Medvedev was quick to embrace the civil society concept. Journalists seized upon his early statements as evidence of his inclination to support a more liberal democratic vision of civil society, in which organizations play an oppositional role vis-a-vis the state. For example, in his inaugural speech he spoke of “citizen's rights and freedoms“; his April 2009 interview in Novaia gazeta also seemed to give credence to this interpretation, (last accessed on 2 March 2012).

39. Assessments of these initiatives are mixed. While some local commentators and former dissidents have been consistently skeptical, more recent scholarship is varied. The primary beneficiaries of Public Chamber funding have been eidier pro-Kremlin organizations such as Nashi, or apolitical groups, notably social welfare and cultural organizations, but in recent years foreign-identified or human rights organizations have also been awarded grants. See Linda J. Cook and Elena Vinogradova, “Regional NGOs in Russia: Charitable Foundations, Social Service, and Policy Advocacy Organizations” (NCEEER Working Paper, 16 March 2006); Richter, “Putin and the Public Chamber.“

40. Putin's civil society project responds to the activities, not only of foreign actors, but of domestic ones, too. In the late 1990s, some Russian “oligarchs” established their own civil society projects and set up their own foundations. The most notable example was the Open Russia Foundation, founded by Mikhail Khodorkovskii, president of the giant oil company Yukos. It disbursed funds to a number of liberal-oriented organizations such as human rights groups. Some of them began to enter into alliance with foreign foundations; for example, the British Charities Aid Foundation worked with the Open Russia Foundation, and George Soros's Open Society Institute also had close ties with it. In March 2006, the bank accounts of the Open Russia Foundation were frozen, following the 2003 jailing of Khodorkovskii. Although he was officially jailed for tax evasion, his arrest is widely thought to have been politically motivated—as punishment for having provided funding to oppositional political parties and having entered political life.

41. Nashi was founded by Vasilii Iakemenko, but the organization's ideological founder was Putin's aide, Vladislav Surkov. Nashi has always claimed to be an independent political movement, supported by private donations; it is clear that die support of the presidential administration played an important role, however. Nashi founder Iakemenko boasted of the Kremlin's support and of the leverage it gave the organization, effectively guaranteeing it the financial support of businesses. Thus, the organization is sustained by a new form of corporate philandiropy that is taking shape in Russia.

42. Blum, “Russian Youth Policy.” In 2001, the Kremlin launched the State Patriotic Education Program, which aimed to raise patriotic feeling among youth and involved several ministries: the Education and Science Ministry, the ministries of Culture and Media, and Russia's “power ministries“—die Ministry of Defense, the Federal Security Service (FSB), and the Foreign Intelligence Service. A new federal agency, Russian State Military Historical-Cultural Center (Rosvoentsentr), was established to coordinate initiatives. While the first phase (or five-year plan) was relatively modestly funded, receiving 177 million rubles, the second phase of die program, which began in 2005, received more substantial funding; according to Valerie Sperling, 500 million rubles were devoted to it. Sperling, Valerie, “Making the Public Patriotic: Militarism and Anti-Militarism in Russia,” in Laruelle, Marlene, ed., Russian Nationalism and the National Reassertion of Russia (London, 2009), 218-71.

43. Nashi can be read as a response to internal discontent, too. A round of unpopular social welfare reforms initiated in late 2004 gave rise to widespread protests across the Russian Federation. While the majority of protestors were pensioners, the group most seriously disadvantaged by die reforms, youth were also involved. Indeed, some new oppositional youth organizations sprang up during die spring of 2005 in response to monetizing social welfare reforms; these included the online youth organization Skazhi-Net (Say No); Liudi v Kurse (People in die Know); Idushchiye Bez Putina (Walking Without Putin). According to the Nashi manifesto, the movement had three goals: to maintain Russia's sovereignty and values; to modernize die country; and to form an active civil society. Nashi campaigns and materials frequently refer critically to die Orange Revolution.

44. Wilson, Virtual Politics. Wilson's analysis focuses on the role of political technologists in contemporary Russian politics. Although he does not explicidy mention Nashi (his analysis predates die founding of die movement), he examines its precursors and his analysis pertains.

45. Robertson, “Managing Society,” 539.

46. Richter, “Putin and the Public Chamber.“

47. Some recent scholarship has sought to complicate dominant narratives about Nashi, by pointing both to the agency of youth participants and to the unpredictability of the movement. See Atwal, Maya, “Evaluating Nashi's Sustainability: Autonomy, Agency and Activism,” Europe-Asia Studies 61, no. 5 (July 2009): 743-58; Jussi Lassila, “Anticipating Ideal Youth in Putin's Russia: The Web-Texts, Communicative Demands, and Symbolic Capital of the Youth Movements Nashi and Idushchie Vmeste” (PhD diss., University of Jyvaskyla, Finland, 2011).

48. Although Nashi was launched by Kremlin ideologues in the administration's service, I view it as a political technology project run amuck. While many of its activities are in support of the Putin-Medvedev administration, it has a rogue energy about it that occasionally leads it into trouble. A series of anti-Estonian campaigns during 2007 (in response to the Estonian government's controversial decision to move a World War II monument commemorating Soviet losses) won Nashi some disapproval in the Kremlin; more recendy, activists at Seliger 2010 antagonized some of the organization's high-ranking supporters with a controversial exhibit that depicted prominent oppositionists with their heads on stakes (among them, former dissident Liudmila Alekseyeva, Boris Nemtsov, and jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovskii). Indeed, Nashi has fallen out of favor on a number of occasions. The year 2008 was a watershed for the movement; it was restructured after the federal elections, resulting in the closing down of the majority of regional branches. The liberal media, particularly the newspaper Kommersant, gleefully reported stern communiques from presidential aides and Kremlin insiders and announced the organization's demise, however, Nashi reemerged as a number of “directions” later that year. Ethnographically, I have found evidence of this confusion. Organizers of the youth educational summer camp Seliger 2009 downplayed Nashi's presence and significance, insisting it was no longer a Nashi-run event. Unofficially, however, Nashi activists had a strong presence at the camp and the komissars I spoke to during the spring of 2010jubilandy took credit for it. As this issue of Slavic Review goes to press, Nashi is again making headlines for the work it does at the Kremlin's behest. In the immediate aftermath of the contested December 2011 elections, Nashi activists organized pro-government demonstrations, going head-to-head with election fraud protestors. The organization has pledged to mobilize tens of thousands of youth to “protect” the March 2012 presidential election process from any “provocations” carried out by the opposition and their “foreign sponsors.“

49. Topalova, Viktoriya, “In Search of Heroes: Cultural Politics and Political Mobilization of Youths in Contemporary Russia and Ukraine,” Demokratizatsiia 14, no. 1 (Winter 2006): 23-41.

50. One komissar I spoke with explained to me that this was a new subfield, or area of study, that drew on psychology, public relations, and political science and aimed to provide a combination of skills, essential for a leader. By way of illustration, he told me that the course he attended had focused on images (obrazy)—the image of the enemy, the image of the hero, the image of the state—and on how to construct an image for a political organization. Another komissar I spoke with underscored how in the early days, the main goal was to demonstrate Nashi's ability to control the streets. When I quizzed him about the meaning of one mass campaign I attended in Moscow in 2006 (a huge event where Nashi activists dressed in Santa suits met with World War II veterans), he told me that its significance was not based on any ideology and that even the veterans were beside the point. If they had wanted to do nice things for veterans, they could have stayed in Tver': Growing impatient with my obtuseness he shouted, “The point was that we could pull people together! One hundred thousand people—there's been nothing like it since 1905! The point was—the very fact that WE COULD DO IT!“

51. See Atwal, Evaluating Nashi's Sustainability. In Nashi mass meetings, as in the prodemocracy demonstrations in Kiev, music plays an important role. At the Nashi rally I attended in Moscow on 17 December 2006, sound systems pumped out music as thousands of youth danced; young people danced and sang along to Soviet wartime songs mixed to a techno beat.

52. Ibid., 746. Nashi extends the epithet “fascist” to a wide variety of political foes— from National Bolshevik Party leader Eduard Limonov, to liberal democrats Grigorii Iavlinskii and Garry Kasparov. See, for example, the Nashi booklet, Fashisty Vchera. Segodniia. ZavtrafFor analysis of this booklet, see Belov, Oleg, “Nashi versus Nazi: An ti-Fascist Activity as a Means of Mass Youth Mobilization in Contemporary Russia,” trans. Borodin, Dmitry, Anthropology ojEast Europe Review 26, no. 2 (2008): 48-55.

53. Oushakine, , Patriotism of Despair, 79. According to Oushakine, the “genre of national tragedy” started as a way to make sense of the Soviet period but was subsequently applied to the decade of the 1990s. The Time of Troubles (Smyty) refers to the turbulent period during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries when Russian statehood was compromised.

54. Interestingly, the komissar described this film as the “forbidden commercial” by which he meant that Nashi had not approved it for broadcast due to its “harsh” message (other videos he screened that day were much more upbeat). I learned that it was screened frequendy to potential recruits and that it circulated widely on the Internet via YouTube. It was well known to members of the research team. When I subsequently obtained an electronic copy of these promotional materials, I received confirmation that this was a distinctive marketing strategy: the two videos were saved within the same file, one marked “forbidden commercial” and the other “permitted commercial.“

55. Recent scholarship has explored the ways in which Russia's contemporary national crisis is perceived in biological terms. Lilia Khabibullina's discussion of international adoption explores the “losing genofund” discourse and the medicalized or geneticized reading of the demographic crisis it exhibits. Khabibullina, “International Adoption in Russia: ‘Market,’ ‘Children for Organs’ and ‘Precious’ or ‘Bad’ Genes,” in Diana Marre and Laura Briggs, eds., International Adoption: Global Inequalities and the Circulation of Children (New York, 2009), 174-89. See also Michele Rivkin-Fish, “From ‘Demographic Crisis’ to ‘Dying Nation': The Politics of Language and Reproduction in Russia,” in Helena Goscilo and Andrea Lanoux, eds., Gender and National Identity in Twentieth-Century Russian Culture (DeKalb, 2006), 151-73.

56. As expressed, for example, in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's much cited 1978 Harvard address, his first public statement after arriving as a dissident in the United States, wherein he defied expectations by speaking, not of Soviet totalitarianism, but of die dysfunctions of western society and its rampant materialism.

57. Hilary Pilkington et al., Looking West? Cultural Globalization and Russian Youth Cultures (University Park, 2002); Oushakine, Patriotism of Despair.

58. Oushakine, Patriotism of Despair. As I have noted, Nashi exists in a crowded social field of youdi groups. Beyond the small but well-publicized liberal oppositional groups such as Oborona and die youdi wing of Iabloko, others exist, including groups sponsored by branches of die Russian Ordiodox Church. Sofia Tipaldou, ‘“Russian Is Orthodox, Ordiodox Is Russian:’ The Role of die Russian Orthodox Church to the Construction of an Orthodox National Identity” (paper delivered at die Sixteendi Annual Association for the Study of Nationalities World Convention, New York, April 2011).

59. Borenstein, Eliot, Overkill: Sex and Violence in Contemporary Russian Popular Culture (Ithaca, 2008); Pilkington etal., Looking West?; Michele R. Rivkin-Fish, Women's Health in Post-Soviet Russia: The Politics of Intervention (Bloomington, 2005).

60. Oushakine, Patriotism of Despair, 85. In his rich ethnography of postsocialist Russian life, Oushakine presents the interpretive frameworks used by marginalized provincial subjects as diey account for the dislocations they have experienced during the postsocialist period and discusses die nationalist oriented scholarship diey draw on. One of the autiiors he profiles specifically mentions the civil society concept, arguing that it functions in a form of imperceptible domination (“programming“) to accomplish the atomization of people, or “atomization of the crowd.“

61. This did not mark a refusal to engage with the OSCE, but rather a refusal to accept OSCE's terms. OSCE in Europe decided to boycott Russia's 2008 presidential election because of Moscow-imposed restrictions. The OSCE had been arguing with Russia over the size and scope of the observers’ mission. Russia's foreign ministry called the monitors’ decision “unacceptable.” The watchdog rejected concessions by Moscow aimed at averting a boycott.

62. Cassiday and Johnson, “Putin, Puuniana and the Question of a Post-Soviet Cult of Personality,” 706. Some have compellingly argued that Putin and Putinism is more appropriately viewed as a “brand” than a “cult.” Peter Baker and Susan Glasser, Kremlin Rising: Vladimir Putin's Russia and the End of Revolution (New York, 2005), cited in Borenstein, Overkill, 226; see also Cassiday and Johnson, “Putin, Putiniana and the Question of a Post- Soviet Cult of Personality.” Nashi activists embrace the language of “branding” to refer to their projects and campaigns. Indeed, a true postmodern product, Nashi is in constant flux, niche-marketed to successive cohorts of young people.

63. Alexei Yurchak defines stiob as a form of irony performed through over-identification with the object of irony such that it becomes impossible to distinguish between complete sincerity and ridicule. He describes it as a widespread “late socialist cultural disposition” that has continued in the postsocialist period. In his analysis, people can apply this “stiob-based” set of relations to any kind of dominant discourse to which they become exposed, including market reforms or western feminism. See Yurchak, , “Gagarin and die Rave Kids: Transforming Power, Identity, and Aesthetics in Post-Soviet Nightlife,” in Barker, Adele Marie, ed., Consuming Russia: Popular Culture, Sex, and Society since Gorbachev (Durham, 1999), 95. Nashi campaigns frequendy exhibit stiob-like characteristics and other forms of irony. One example is the Nashi spoof of a 2010 New York Times online interactive feature, inviting Russian citizens to post videos discussing social problems. While the Nexu York Times site features videos posted by citizens documenting serious abuses of power or official negligence, the Nashi site (entided “Help Us, America“) consists of a series of faux-earnest posts from individuals who parody liberal subjects, identities, and sexual politics. See (accessed 20 May 2011; no longer available).

64. Hoffman, Lisa M., Patriotic Professionalism in Urban China: Fostering Talent (Philadelphia, 2010).

65. For the Nashi manifesto, see (last accessed 2 March 2012).

66. Wilson, , Virtual Politics, 63.

67. See Rivkin-Fish, Michele R. and Trubina, Elena, eds., Dilemmas of Diversity after the Cold War: Analyses of “CulturalDifference” by U.S. and Russia-Based Scholars (Washington, D.C., 2010).

68. Humphrey, Caroline and Mandel, Ruth, “The Market in Everyday Life: Edinographies of Postsocialism,” in Humphrey, Caroline and Mandel, Ruth, eds., Markets and Moralities: Ethnographies of Postsocialism (Oxford, 2002), 1-16 ; Oushakine, Patriotism of Despair.

69. For the Nashi manifesto, see (last accessed 2 March 2012).

70. Nashi's inaugural mass rally of May 2005 involved a group of veterans passing a baton of love and loyalty to Nashi activists. At the mass rally I attended on 17 December 2006, the gift was reversed, as youth made gifts to World War II veterans.

71. This competitive system is extended to potential teachers as well as to youth participants. Although the format is similar, the content is quite different. The Nashi Seliger 2007 recruitment poster I saw posted in the political science department at Tver’ State University invited teachers to submit abstracts for lectures on topics such as: “The Modernization of Russia“; “Russia—Global Leader of the Twenty-first Century“; “Sovereign Democracy“; “The Orange Revolutions and Their Consequences“; “The Course of President Putin“; “The Role of Youth in the Preservation and Development of Russian Statehood.” This nationalist orientation was partly displaced at later Seliger camps; the 2009 camp placed a much greater emphasis on entrepreneurship, as I have noted, stressed the desirability of improving Russia's status in the global marketplace and was much less hostile to foreigners. Indeed, the Russian federal government offered partial funding to encourage youth from different countries to participate in special international sessions at the Seliger camps in 2010 and 2011.

72. I spoke with one Nashi kommissar who had recently completed an internship in the Tver’ regional administration; interestingly, however, rather than feeling more supportive of the authorities, he was more disenchanted than ever and complained that they had not paid his proposals any attention. His internship had confirmed his sense of the incompetence and inefficiency of local bureaucrats.

73. Natsional'nyi institut Vyshaia Shkola Upravleniia, at (last accessed 2 March 2012).

74. This entrepreneurial element has long been present, as some have noted. In 2008, Nashi activist Antonina Shapalova launched her own clothing line under the auspices of the organization. Her product line contains a strongly pro-Putin orientation and includes bikini-pants with the slogan, ‘Vova, ia s'toboi” (Vova, I'm with you), alluding to Vladimir (Vova) Putin. See Lassila, “Anticipating Ideal Youth in Putin's Russia.“

75. Nashi directs itself predominantly at educated youth from the provinces: ambitious young people aged 18-25 who lack the networks necessary for upward mobility. Our research suggests that many of those who are most active (komissars) are young people who do not have a secure foothold in cities; for example, recent migrants from other republics of the former Soviet Union or from the countryside.

76. Robert T. Kiyosaki with Sharon L. Lecter, Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids about MoneyThat the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! (New York, 2000); Nikolai Starikov, Crisi$: How Is It Organized (St. Petersburg, 2009). Rich Dad, Poor Dad was a New York Times best seller that offers individuals strategies to achieve financial independence in the new millenium via investing, real estate, owning businesses, and using strategies to protect your finances. Igor’ recalled the book as he reflected on his own trajectory and the lessons he had learned through Nashi. He explained that he was speaking, not about wealth, but about success, and how to define it and strive for it; the book exemplified a form of agency and taking control of ones’ destiny tfiat he identified with. An author and blogger who has published a number of historical and political novels, Starikov is also the organizer of the “Goebbels Award,” which is awarded to those who purportedly lie about, slander, or vilify Russia. One recipient is journalist and Public Chamber member Nikolai Svanidze, see (last accessed 2 March 2012).

77. Pilkington et al., Looking West?

78. Igor“s constructions recall the findings in Looking West?where youth embrace the “West” in terms of what it offers them in lifestyle or material well-being, but reject it in terms of “being“—that is, morally, spiritually. Pilkington et al., Looking West?

79. Yurchak, Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More.

80. Robertson, cited in Cassiday and Johnson, “Putin, Putiniana and die Question of a Post-Soviet Cult of Personality,” 76.

81. Gal and Kligman, Politics of Gender after Socialism, 4; Harvey, David, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (Oxford, 2005).

82. Oushakine, Patriotism of Despair; Ost, David, The Defeat of Solidarity: Anger and Politics in Postcommunist Europe (Ithaca, 2005).

83. Ost, Defeat of Solidarity.

84. Salmenniemi, Suvi, “Struggling for Citizenship: Civic Participation and the State in Russia,” Demokratizatsiia 18, no. 4 (Fall 2010): 309-28; Richter, “Ministry of Civil Society?“; Linda J. Cook, “Oil Wealth and Welfare in the Russian Federation” (paper presented at the conference, “Redefining the Common Good after Communism,” Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine, 1 May 2009).

85. Salmenniemi, “Struggling for Citizenship.“

86. Matza, “Moscow's Echo,” 494.

87. Coles, Democratic Designs; Paley, Marketing Democracy.

88. Comaroff, John L. and Comaroff, Jean, “Reflections on Youth, From the Past to the Postcolony,” in Honwana, Alcinda and Boek, Filip de, eds., Makers and Breakers, Made and Broken: Children and Youth as Emerging Categories in Postcolonial Africa (Oxford, 2005), 268.

89. Youth were implicated in some of the intense cultural debates of the immediate post-9/11 period in the United States. For example, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), founded by Senator Joseph Lieberman and Lynne Cheney made a series of pronouncements about the import of stressing U.S. values via history teaching that were markedly similar to Putin's initially exotic-sounding project of patriotic education. See Giroux, Henry A., The University in Chains: Confronting the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex (Boulder, Colo., 2007).

90. Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism; Susan Brin Hyatt, ‘“Service Learning,’ Applied Andiropology and the Production of Neoliberal Citizens,” Anthropology in Action 8, no. 1 (Spring 2001): 6-13.

91. Law 122 came into effect in January 2005; under this reform, social benefits to low-income people were “monetized,” that is, formerly free services were replaced by small cash payments. These policies once introduced resulted in large-scale social protests in Moscow and many provincial cities, including Tver'. In response, the federal and regional governments introduced amendments to this legislation and backed off from some of its most severe measures. I theorize the connections between this restructuring of social welfare and the emergence of youth organizations elsewhere. See Julie Hemment, “Soviet- Style Neoliberalism? Nashi, Youth Voluntarism, and the Restructuring of Social Welfare in Russia,” Problems of Post-Communism 56, no. 6 (November/December 2009): 36-50.

92. Hemment, Empowering Women in Russia.

93. Wilson, Virtual Politics.

94. Burawoy, Michael and Verdery, Katherine, “Introduction,” in Burawoy, Michael and Verdery, Katherine, eds., Uncertain Transition: Ethnographies of Change in the Postsocialist World (Lanham, Md., 1999), 1-17.

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Slavic Review
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