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Russia: Putin’s new pioneers

A new student movement will soon be set up in Russia again. Observers draw parallels to the Soviet era and emphasize the fact that Russian society is profoundly divided over its value system.
“The Russian Schoolchildren’s Movement” is the name of the newly founded state youth organization. The day on which Vladimir Putin signed the decree also marked the anniversary of the foundation of Komsomol, the youth division of the Soviet communist party, in 1918. Many structures and objectives of the new schoolchildren’s movement are reminiscent of Komsomol, observers in Russia criticize.

A member of the Russian parliament and famous singer, Joseph Kobzon, called the establishment of the new movement a “great gift on the day of Lenin’s Komsomol.” The crooner had often asked the president to create an organization that “supervises and educates our children.”

The schoolchildren’s movement was officially founded by Russia’s federal agency for youth affairs. The head of the authority, Sergei Pospelov, told Russian media that the president’s decree supports a request made by the leader of the parliamentary group in the state Duma, or parliament. In the near future, the Russian government will put together a list of real estate properties and other objects that will be handed over to the new youth organization.

‘Russia’s values must be fostered’

Under Putin’s decree, the new organization must improve state policies in the education of the younger generation and foster personality development based on Russia’s value system.

Irina Prokhorova, editor-in-chief of the literary magazine “Novoye Literaturnoye Obosreniye,” claims that a societal value consensus does not exist. She presents a show about Russia’s values on the Russian TV channel RBC. Prokhorova points out that the new youth organization has many opponents, as it is evokes memories of the Soviet era. The communist organizations of the past were characterized by their “militarization of consciousness, monitoring and lack of self-fulfillment.” The Russian journalist told DW that people lived very restrained lives back then.

Probation for society

In her view, the new youth organization backs the current Russian leaders’ policies. “Now that the screws are being turned even tighter, this looks like an attempt to get people under control again,” she says. Basically, the new organization is “an admission of the inability to work with young people.”

However, Prokhorova also admits that there are advocates of the new student movement in Russia who believe that an organization like it would “at least educate” young people. There are parents who consciously abdicate the responsibility of raising their children. “That frustrates me the most,” she says. Furthermore, Prokhorova fears the organization will “instill young people with ideologies again.” That is why the new schoolchildren’s movement is like a probation period for Russian society. Its success mostly depends on the people, especially the parents: Will they support the organization, or oppose it?

‘Russia is turning to the past’

Another opponent of Putin’s youth movement is the well-known Russian publicist and author Viktor Shenderovich, who also draws attention to the fact that one cannot speak of a uniform value system within Russian society. “Dozens of millions of Russians feel they need European values. This demand is being rejected. On the other hand, dozens of millions of Russians feel they need the values of the Soviet era. This is, of course, welcomed,” emphasizes Shenderovich in an interview with DW. He believes the demand for Soviet-style organizations has been intentionally reinforced by the Kremlin.

The new youth organization means the country is turning to the past. Shenderovich also assumes that a type of “Putinist value system” will be conveyed in the new Russian schoolchildren’s movement. “The only thing Putin is capable of is confining society,” criticizes the writer.

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Topics: putin russia

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