Former or Present Communist Countries: Eastern Europe and Russia
“Mother Mary, drive Putin away” and “Virgin Mary, Mother of God, become a feminist.” Russian Pussy Riot punk band song during 20-second flash takeover of a Moscow cathedral in 2012, punished by two years in a labor camp.
We are born in independent Ukraine and we are used to freedom and desire of constant development. Liuba, 17, f, Ukraine
Contents: Eastern Europe, Russia,
Communist countries replaced a philosophy of proletariat solidarity with materialism and nationalism led by a few patriarchs, Vladimir Putin in Russia and the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. Both approaches inhibit youth activism for freedom of expression.
Srdja Popovic (age 25) led the Serbian group that evolved into CANVAS, which continues to advise young international changemakers. Otpor (“resistance”) learned revolutionary tactics from Gene Sharp’s books The Politics of Nonviolent Action (1973) and From Dictatorship to Democracy (1993) about non-violent resistance (available online along with Otpor guides). Popovic was also inspired by Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Lech Walesa in Poland, and the Chilean movement against dictator Pinochet in another demonstration of global idea exchanges in action. A postmodern revolution, Otpor worked to create a lifestyle, identity and brand, a feeling of being heroic and cool. Young men competed to see who could get arrested most often to become celebrity stars. To generate media coverage they used street theater and stunts that made the government look silly. Young Serbians applied images and slogans on stickers and T-shirts, banging pans from their apartments during the state radio news (a tactic used in Argentina and later in other youth-led demonstrations in Spain, Canada and Turkey). They placed women, grandparents and veterans in front of demonstrators so police would feel less threatened. Popovic explained that the essence of Sharp’s teaching was, “The pillars of the regime support it out of fear. The moment the fear factor disappears and people are fearless with the police and hugging the military, you have lost your main pillars” or resources.
Otpor was hired to apply the Serbian formula for regime change in Ukraine in 2004. An unnamed Otpor organizer explained, “We trained them in how to identify the key weaknesses in society and what people’s most pressing problems were—what might be a motivating factor for people, and above all young people, to go to the ballot box and in this way shape their own identity.” Social Movement Theory would say they identify weakness in the elite and citizen discontent as their main resources or assets, along with creating a desired identity as a cool activist.
WikiLeak’s “Global Intelligence Files” revealed that Popovic and his wife had worked for Stratfor since 2007, a Texas global intelligence-gathering firm whose clients are large corporations and the US government. Popovic said in his defense that all his briefing papers are public and that CANVAS doesn’t take money from governments. CANVAS began to train opposition leaders in Venezuela in 2005: President Hugo Chávez called them the Coup D’Etat group. Popovic went to Texas to present Stratfor with a plan for how to unseat Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez in 2010 and forwarded emails he received from activists around the world to Stratfor. Otpor was assisted by the CIA funding in their work to oust Milosevic in Serbia. Otpor and other opposition groups were funded by US organizations including USAID, and NGOs that receive government funding including Freedom House, the National Endowment for Democracy and the International Republican Institute.
Popovic still leads CANVAS in Belgrade. It’s also called the Revolution Academy and stresses discipline and planning as it trains leaders from over 59 countries. Their books are available for free download. CANVAS “advises groups of young people on how to take on some of the worst governments in the world–and in Georgia, Ukraine, Syria-occupied Lebanon, the Maldives, and now Egypt, those young people won.” (A book describes the unemployment problem among young men in Georgia.) It also trained activists in Spain, Morocco, Azerbaijan, Venezuela, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Syria, Iran, Vietnam, Tibet, and Bolivia. CANVAS prefers to work with students because they’re idealistic and energetic. Reporter Tina Rosenberg described recent CANVAS training with Burmese resistance leaders in her article cited in the previous endnote.
Within a week of the start of Occupy Wall St. in 2011, Otpor activists came to New York to assist Americans. CANVAS was also involved in the 2014 Kiev uprising when they handed out a pamphlet previously given to Egyptian activists and paid university students and unemployed Ukrainians to take the bus to Kiev to demonstrate. Serbian journalist Ivana Mastilovic Jasnic accused CANVAS of being a “revolution consultancy” for the US. (More on Eastern European uprisings on the book webpage.) More on Serbia is found in After the Revolution: Youth, Democracy, and the Politics of Disappointment (2014) by Jessica Greenberg.
Austrian professor Florian Bieber pointed out that protests in Eastern Europe opposed the privatization of the commons such as in Gezi Park in Istanbul; Banja Luka, Bosnia; Tirana, Albania; Maribor, Slovenia, and the environmental degradation of the Roșia Montană mining project in Romania. This activism contributed to the fall of the Slovenian government, the resignation of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and the defeat of unpopular policies such as the Romanian health care bill. In 2013 Bosnians in Sarajevo blocked parliament over failure to act on providing citizen identification numbers and Bulgarian protests centered on high electricity prices and rejection of the appointment of a media mogul as security chief. An Open University was organized to discuss direct democracy.
A 15-year old Serbian boy, Vuk Visjnic succeeded in getting Zoja’s Law passed by parliament in 2015 to help children with rare diseases. Visjnic created an online petition and Facebook page and met with family groups. Unlike the Arab Spring, the Eastern European protests occurred in post-communist democracies with market economies. Over all, the social movements are “realigning the political space” with discussion of corruption and elite power. A film and book, Bastards of Utopia: Living Radical Politics after Socialism (2015) report on Serbian activists from the anti-globalization protests of the early 2000s to Occupy camps, along with After the Revolution.
Ukraine’s Maidan or Euromaiden
Ukraine gained independence after the collapse of the USSR in 1991. Since that date, the US spent $5 billion in Ukraine to develop “a good form of government,” according to Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State. George W. Bush’s administration spent $58 million to help Ukrainians foment a peaceful uprising against their dictator, although they complained his administration didn’t help sustain them. Journalist Andre Vichek charged that EU spent over $1 billion to foment the Euromaidan uprising including paying demonstrators: “I’m afraid that the West is making the last push to actually destroy and overrun anything standing in its way that is semi-independent or different.”
A problem is the Ukrainian GDP per capita is only about $6,000 a year, a third of Poland’s GDP. Few of the former Soviet Union states developed successful capitalist economies with the exception of Albania, Armenia, Belarus, and Estonia. In the less successful economies, a “get what you can” attitude developed a culture of corruption, as in Ukraine, making it difficult for young people to get ahead. Ukraine is divided by dependence on Russia for its energy supply and nearly 30% of its trade and ties to Europe. Russian influence is strongest in the industrialized and Russian-speaking east, while the west is closer to Poland and the EU, less populated and more agrarian. The south is the only area with a majority of ethnic Russians. As in Russia, oligarchs took control of former state assets after the dissolution of the USSR and got involved in politics to protect their wealth.
Government efforts to cheat in the 2004 presidential elections led to the “Orange Revolution,” the color brand of the opposition. Tens of thousands of Ukrainians, many of them young, camped out in Independence Square for almost three weeks. They used tents and concerts similar to earlier protests in 1986, 1991, and 2000. The tent city occupied by protesters was a precursor for Tahrir Square and other occupations. About a quarter of the population engaged in protest. This movement is compared with Argentina’s protests of 2001 in Mapping Mass Mobilizations by Olga Onuch (2014.) The youth movement was advised by Serbia’s Otpor and Georgia’s Kmara, and young people from other former Soviet republics came to learn how to lead a “color revolution.” To head off similar movements in Russia, in 2005 the Kremlin created a youth group it controlled called Nashi. Some of the Ukrainian protesters were trained and funded by American NGOs and government agencies like USAID, as in Serbia and Georgia the previous year. Large protests and rebellion by the media against government control resulted in mediation by the EU and a new election.
The president after the revolution, Viktor Yuschenko carried out some democratic reforms but his rivalry with Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko inhibited their ability to reverse economic problems after 2008. This led to a $16.5 billion loan from the IMF with all the usual austerity cuts. Their opponent in the Orange Revolution, Viktor Yanukovych won the 2010 presidential election, tilting Ukraine to the Russian side. He restricted media freedom and put rival politicians like Yulia Tymoshenko in jail. He tried to impose unpopular neoliberal measures although public pressure prevented them from becoming law.
Large protests occurred in western Ukraine in 2013 against Putin’s pressure on the government to resist closer ties to Europe with a proposed treaty with the European Union. President Yanukovych rejected a trade deal with the EU at the last moment partly because it would end gas subsidies from Russia. Young people hoped that joining the EU would lead to revolution from abroad to end government corruption. The government was also negotiating a $15 billion loan from the IMF, with the usual strings attached in terms of austerity cuts. After learning that the president dropped the proposed EU agreement, a small group of protesters gathered on Independence Square on November 21, 2013, organized by students, journalists and other activists. November was the ninth anniversary of the Orange Revolution. As students read Facebook and Twitter posts with the hashtag #EuroMaidan, they joined the crowd that grew to 250,000 when opposition leaders coordinated a pro-EU march on November 24.
The main slogan was “Ukraine is Europe.” Police assaulted the protesters camped out in the square on November 30; videos of the events went viral as usual, leading to discussion that the protests weren’t about the EU anymore, but about “saving Ukrainian democracy.” A group of protesters pulled down Kiev’s statue of Lenin and decapitated it. By December 2, more than a million Ukrainians participated in protests around the country. Crowds of over 300,000 gathered in Maidan, Kiev’s central square in December 2013 in the largest protests since the 2004 Orange Revolution. As in other occupations of squares, they built shelters and provided entertainment as well as speeches and services like first aid stations, food stalls, and a church tent. They chanted “Glory to Ukraine” and “Peaceful Protest,” but the police charged them anyway, causing Secretary of State John Kerry to express his disgust. Opposition leader Vitali Klitschko told the crowd, “This is an island of freedom and we will defend it.”
An opposition leader with the nationalist Svoboda Party, Oleh Tyahnybok told the crowd, “It’s not just a simple revolution. It’s a revolution of dignity,” a familiar theme in the global uprisings. Protestors called for end of government corruption. At first police arrests incited larger crowds in multiple cities, as in all the other global uprisings, but growing violence led to reduced crowd size, with women dropping out faster than men. Organizers said in interviews that they struggled to control young male right-wing nationalist protesters who used violent tactics, walking around the square wearing hard hats, bats in hand, chanting nationalist slogans. By this time the crowd was more diverse, including people of various ages, Russian speakers and various party affiliations, according to interviews in the square documented in the previous endnote.
Inspired by the Occupy movement and its organizing methods with tents and masks, the large student movement tried to stay clear of political parties asking them not to display party symbols. As reporter Marina Lewycka said, “For the young people in the square, this whole game of political tit-for-tat is what they reject.” (The endnote includes video documentaries.) These young people grew up in an independent Ukraine and see themselves as Europeans, while another group of protesters is aligned with political parties. However, they didn’t form assemblies in Independence Square as opposition parties took over organizing. An effort to form a liberal “Civic Council of Maidan” didn’t get off the ground and right-wing forces attacked some leftists who carried feminist slogans. Far-right groups joined the protests including Right Sector and Svoboda, critical of the EU for being too liberal. The Freedom Party and Right Sector organized militias that forced police from the streets of Kiev, without a unified left leadership. The EU and Western countries called for an end to violence after 82 people were killed in the protests.
A random survey of every sixth person in Midan from November 26, 2013, to January 10, 2014 (1304 people) reported that although the average protester was middle-aged, 35% were under age 24 and 18% were young professionals age 25 to 30, about half from Kiev. These young people wanted democracy and freedom and blamed the older generations for allowing corruption. Men outnumbered women, 59% to 41%, and the average person had at least some university education. In-depth interviews with 50 demonstrators indicated 30% were center or left activists and 12% from radical right groups. Researcher Olga Onuch observed that smaller protests took place all over the country, but the largest were in Kiev with 800,000 demonstrators by December 1. Most of the demonstrators were motivated by joining acquaintances or family members to defend their rights from the corrupt government, the concept that framed the demonstrations. They shared ideas on “Live Journal,” the most popular blogging site. As in other uprisings, social media reached a large audience but was not as instrumental in bringing people to the streets as personal contacts, and radio and TV was the main source of information about the protests.
Denis, a member of the Autonomous Workers’ Union in Kiev, reported the protesters initially were mainly students and urban “middle classes,” and then over the three months became more “proletarian.” However, the percent of workers was low and they didn’t think of themselves as a class. Denis used Marxist language to explain that the “intelligentsia and petty bourgeoisie were the main social forces supporting Ukrainian nationalism.” He said the collapse of the USSR was replaced by a mixture of nationalism and conservatism in Ukraine and other former republics like Poland, Hungary, and Romania.
Students held up banners in English stating, “Ukraine is part of Europe!” and “Back to Russia? Oh bitch, piss!” The common demand was for Yanukovych to resign, “Get out criminal! Death to the criminal!” He represented the eastern part of the country where people speak Russian, while demonstrators were more likely to speak Ukrainian and live in the western part of the country. The first three post-Soviet Ukrainian leaders wrote a press release stating that, “We express solidarity with the peaceful civil actions of hundreds of thousands of young Ukrainians.” The government sent a mass message to cell phones in use near the protests to intimidate them: “Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.”
I asked Max about the uprising; he’s a 28-year-old high school teacher in western Ukraine.
I support the initiatives of people in Kyiv Maydan. The vector of protests has been changed after the police violated the rights of people in Maydan. You won’t see many people there during the working days, but the number increasingly changes on weekends. It is a peaceful protest. But we have to be realistic; there are no legal backgrounds to overthrow the government now. [Parliament failed to pass a no-confidence vote to topple the government of President Yanukovych.] In my opinion these events will end up without any changes. The main problem is that the key opposition leader is imprisoned. [He suggested YouTube videos about the president’s corruption.]
The videos Max recommends show many police on the streets and evidence of lavish presidential lifestyle. A more recent video shows the interior after the president fled in a helicopter to Russia in February 2014. When I asked about on police presence, Max said Ukraine is a police state, not just in big cities where they have plain-clothes police, but in small towns too. The west is freer but in the east and south, “They are like North Korea, with access only to governmental TV channels as most of the independent media are blocked. The Internet helps, but propaganda is stronger coming from the authorities.” Anna, 18, one of his students, commented on corruption in her response to the book questionnaire:
I would prohibit bribes and try to decline the level of corruption in my country. I would improve the medical and educational systems by modernization and additional qualification improvement programs. I would decrease the number of unemployed people by rehabilitation of the old closed factories. I would do everything possible to make my country great and developed with European values, a healthy nation with high standards of living.
The government outlawed demonstrations in Kiev involving loudspeakers, tents, banners, and wearing helmets and masks on January 16, 2014. Protesters built barricades in the Maidan, by now a majority of young men with growing right-wing group influence. Everyone agreed that Yanukovych should resign. The crackdown only made the demonstrations more violent, which increased police violence, even kidnapping demonstrators. About 90 were killed, many of them under the age of 25, and about 600 injured in February. Protests spread to other western cities and even to eastern and southern Ukraine, and tents remained in Independence Square. Demonstrators lit firecrackers, beat rhythms on metal sheets, and burned tires as a circular barricade to keep police out. They fought with rocks, bats and firebombs. Women helped dig up paving stones and passed them down a line for fighters to throw at police, similar to Egypt’s rebels. Older women shouted at police, “Killers!” and “Shoot us, kill us, kill us, you bastards.” In negotiations with opposition leaders, Yanukovich promised to reshuffle his cabinet and release some jailed demonstrators. However, the crowd booed opposition leader Vitali Klitschko when he discussed compromising with the president, yelling “Shame!” and “Revolution!” They wanted the president out.
Two weeks later the president agreed to rescind anti-protest laws that outlawed masks, as demonstrators wore masks in defiance. But the government wouldn’t offer amnesty for jailed protesters unless demonstrators stopped their protests against Yanukovych. Protesters also wanted action to prevent election fraud. Thousands of anti-demonstrators tired of the protests rushed a Kiev barricade but retreated after meeting resistance.
Former President Leonid Kravchuk warned that Ukraine was gripped by revolution and on the verge of civil war. On February 18 Vladimir Putin criticized Western countries for backing the Arab Spring to advance their own economic interests, which he said resulting in the rise of religious extremism and backing a fascist coup in Ukraine. Putin offered the Ukraine $2 billion in aid by purchasing Ukrainian bonds and the conflict escalated. Deaths and thousands of injuries escalated as snipers picked off protesters, killing100 people as fires lit up the night sky in Kiev, and a policeman was shot in the head. A protester explained that the difference between protests in 2004 and 2014 was the military didn’t support the current protests. President Obama warned the government not to step over the line and bring in the army while President Putin accused the protesters of being brown shirts, a reference to Nazi troops, and fascist bandits. He blamed the US for fomenting a coup in Ukraine and other critics viewed the struggle as “an energy pipeline squabble” between the US and Russia.
When Yanukovych’s military protectors left him, as they did Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt, he boarded a helicopter for Russia on February 23. An activist reported as news spread that Yanukovych had left Kiev, “I have never seen so many people smiling. Everyone is overflowing with delight.” Ukrainians lined up to see his palace with its zoo, tennis court, swimming pool, car collection, and a huge mansion with gold bathroom fixtures. Parliament turned it into a public museum. In a speech given in Russian from Russia, Yanukovych said he was still the elected president and condemned the “bandit coup” that replaced him with a new head of parliament, Oleksandr Turchynov. He is a close ally of Tymoshenko and her Fatherland Party, accused of appalling corruption.
The new Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenjuk said “welcome to hell’ because Ukraine was bankrupt, “on the brink of a disaster” after $70 billion left the country during Yanukovych’s presidency. Yatsenjuk was 39, a fluent English speaker and member of the Fatherland Party, and one of the new breed of young leaders in Italy, Greece and Spain. Nominees for the new cabinet were introduced to 50,000 people in the square and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, just released from prison, addressed them. She told the crowd, “You are heroes, you are the best thing in Ukraine! I was dreaming to feel the power that changed everything.” Rumors were that she wanted to be president.
Russia sent troops into Crimea with uniforms with no insignia but Russian license plates on their vehicles. They took over the airport and military bases and public buildings because it has a majority of ethnic Russians and a large Russian naval base. A young Russian woman told me that she didn’t know if Russian troops were in Ukraine because the news didn’t cover it. Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev condemned the new Ukrainian government as “Kalashnikov-touting people in black masks,” terrorists backed by the US. Russians also blamed the US for the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine.
Putin got the highest public approval rating since he returned to the presidency in 2012, but said he would step down no later than 2024 in order to follow the constitution. He labeled the revolutionaries in Kiev fascist Nazis backed by the CIA and the EU and said any critics who tried to weaken Russia were like bacteria who sit inside you who would be crushed. Russian parliament member Nikolai Ryzhkov also blamed the West, saying, “They tore apart Yugoslavia, routed Egypt, Libya, Iraq and so on, and all this under the false guise of peaceful demonstrations. So we must be ready in case they will unleash the dogs on us.” Another member of parliament said President Obama insulted the Russian people. This rhetoric led to discussion of a new cold war, complicated by the fact that about 40% of Europe’s natural gas is supplied by Russia, mostly through Ukraine. Despite a cease-fire in 2015 and economic sanctions against Russia, fighting between Ukrainian and separatists supported by Russia continued.
When asked if the revolution made a difference in his life, Max said:
The revolution gave a big push to the volunteer movement in Ukraine. On one side it taught people to be united in the times of trouble. It has taught me to be proud to be Ukrainian more than ever before. As for the other side, it is always the long-terms effects of each revolution that brought us nothing but a collapse of our economy. Prices have increased while my salary is worth less. Everything is organized in a way to destroy the middle class; now we only have poor and really poor, rich and really rich. The government decided to overcome this crisis on the people’s backs and all our oligarchs remained sacred.
And in three years after revolution we kept on asking for aid from the USA, EU and IMF. That’s disappointing. So, I have mixed feeling of being proud to being disappointed. Still I hope that someday “all our enemies will fall as the dew on the Sun” [from the national anthem] and we will have a strong country with content, rich people and happy children.
As for Russians, these people are unpredictable. They say they won’t go farther at noon, but during the night their troops come up closer and closer. I don’t trust Russians and never did.
Russian speakers in the east who want to break away from Kiev seized a dozen cities’ government buildings, formed two “people’s republics,” and held a referendum for autonomy similar to the vote in Crimea that led to Russian annexation. Some workers formed vigilante groups to oppose them and took over positions in several locations. Max reported on the conflict with Russia in September 3, 2014, when I asked him about news reports of a civil war in Ukraine:
Russians were in the East from the very beginning. During my vacation in Carpathians I met a woman from Donetska region. She was very irate with uninvited Russians. They have destroyed her home and she moved to the Western part of Ukraine. There is no civil war in Ukraine. We have people from Luhanska region in my site. The attitude to those people is pretty much the same as to anyone else. Nobody violates their rights and no one cares about their language, which is Russian. So, it is open Russian aggression towards Ukraine. That woman I met in Carpathians told me that there were many people from her region involved in that conflict as so called “rebels,” are drug and alcohol addicted. She also said that 5 people out of 10 will be pro-Ukrainian, 3 neutral and 2 pro-Russian. And answering the question about the presence of Russian troops, not a single person can deny their presence.
Presidential elections were held on May 25, 2014, with few votes for the neo-fascist parties Right Sector and Svoboda much derided by Russian leaders. Petro Poroshenko was elected as a pro-western president, called the “chocolate king” because of his ownership of chocolate factories, one of Ukraine’s richest men. In second place was another wealthy oligarch, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Six months after the encampment began in Kiev, several hundred protesters remained in the camp, suspicious of the government. They planned to stay until reforms were implemented. Although a cease-fire was signed by separatists and the government in September 2014, almost 2,600 people died in ongoing fighting from mid-April to August with about 36 people killed each day, over 10,000 were wounded, and over 190,000 people fled their homes, according to a UN report. The underfunded and corrupt Ukrainian army is crowdfunded on a Facebook campaign called Help the Army of Ukraine led by Anna Sandalova. When she delivers supplies she also kisses unmarried soldiers. The most reliable news is found on the Facebook site “Information Resistance.”
When I was in Moscow when it was part of the USSR I became friends with Andrei, who later married a Swedish reporter and moved to Stockholm. I asked him to critique this section.
I´ve got a feeling that you manage to collect everything which is critical to Russia and Putin. I start with Crimea: I have a friend who before the event in Crimea wanted to buy a summer house there, he went to Crimea, came back and told me that he was amazed that the government in Kiev did absolutely nothing in Crimea during 20 years of independence!! Most, most of the people living there including Tatars preferred to be a part of Russia, they speak Russian, only Russian mass media was popular there and which is more important they think Russian, after 20 years!!!
Gayle, you know very well that I am not Stalinist, not conservative and not against West, but I want to ask one thing: Why it is forbidden to watch Russian TV in the free Ukraine, but you can watch Ukrainian TV in not very free Russia? You should not think that I approve of everything, but it was disgusting to watch high-level apparatchik from the Department of State in downtown Kiev distributing rolls to demonstrators. That does not mean that I support the former president, but if the new leaders are so good they should face the reality. Western mass media is very much one- sided. It is high time to understand that Russia has its own interests.
I asked Max for an update on Ukraine in 2015 when he commented on increase in prices but not salaries, explaining, “Our currency is undervalued for more than 60% due to the mediocre work of the national bank. Everything has been organized in a way to destroy the middle class in the society, now we only have poor and really poor, rich and really rich. Women may feel especially burdened as seen in the joke that kids are raised by a same-sex couple, their mothers and grandmothers.
President Poroshenko admitted in 2015 that a new $17.5 billion loan from the IMF would not help ordinary people, just pay foreign creditors and fund the military to fight the civil war. IMF austerity demands included raising the price of gas in a time when the economy is shrinking, corruption is widespread, and the population is aging, similar to Russia but much worse. Many people expected corrupt officials would siphon off much of the IMF loan. The author of Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy (2015), economist Michael Hudson argues that selling off public properties to repay IMF debts devastates the people and makes the situation worse—“finance is war.”
Ukraine is another example of how uprisings fought in the name of democracy can lead to destabilization and suffering: After 16 months of fighting, over 6,000 people were killed in the civil war. Corruption continued, along with fighting that killed more than 9,000 people in the eastern industrial area, and a shattered economy, although President Poroshenko declared a crackdown on the oligarchs. Separatists formed the Donetsk People’s Republic that continued to fight Ukrainian soldiers who charge that Russians continued to send military equipment such as tanks. These problems led Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to resign in April 2016. Olena Litvishko of the Ukrainian Initiative for Peaceful Protest reported the revolution inspired people with the energy for change but they lack the instruments for change, such as representative political parties. I talked with a Russian-speaking Ukrainian in June 2016 who said nothing has changed since the uprising, that the old guard still dominates parliament. He said communism isn’t relevant to youth; his 16-year-old son doesn’t know who Lenin is and his 21-year-old daughter has visited Europe many times, rather than Russia.
I visited Russia before the fall of communism when Moscow was drab and dour. People on the streets didn’t smile and when I visited my Russian friend Andrei he told me not to speak English so his neighbors wouldn’t report him to the secret police. After I returned home, the police told him not to correspond with me and jeans I mailed to him didn’t make it to him, as I found out years later after he moved to Sweden and found me on Facebook. Apartments were small and crowded. Women spent a lot of time waiting in line to buy food. To buy something in a drug store, I waited in one line to order, in another line to pay, and another line to pick it up. Clerks used an abacus to add up sales, as some still do today. However, modernization means fewer jobs with one person doing the job that four used to do. Consumer goods were in short supply, including birth control, so abortion was the main form of family planning. Soldiers checked under our train seats and used mirrors to look under the train when I left for Berlin, looking for people who might try to escape from Russia, so much has changed in terms of freedom to travels.
The Dissolution of the USSR
After the USSR dissolved in 1991, Russia went through a decade of turmoil. The documentary Red Army about the Soviet hockey team and the fictional Leviathan show the transition from the USSR to Russia (both 2014). Leviathan won prizes in the West for best foreign film, but its portrayal of corruption and vodka consumption in a small town was seen in Russia as another attempt to attack Russia and the Orthodox Church. The film tells the story of a mechanic whose home is taken over by a bishop and drunken mayor who has a portrait of Putin above his desk.
President Boris Yeltsin privatized many industries in the early 1990s, leading to the rise of nouveau riche businessmen called the oligarchs, as portrayed in Generation P. The popular independent Russian film is based on a bestselling novel, released in 2011 with 40,000 followers on its Facebook page. It takes place in the 1990s when Yeltsin was president. With few women characters, Generation P refers to the “Big Boys,” the oligarchs who control Russia behind the scenes with Mafia-like shootings. A character says, “Communism is out. The only idea left is money.” Another man reveals the resentment towards the US, which he feels hates Russians. He complains about the fact Russians watch US films, ride in their cars, use English words, smoke their cigarettes, and even eat their food (Pepsi and McDonalds), as they continue to do. Saying Russia is a great country, the character wants to reclaim “the Russian spirit” and national pride, just what Putin offered later as he expanded his control of Russia in the name of national pride, spending $50 billion on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and taking over Crimea, with troops on the Ukraine’s eastern border.
Generation P’s hero is Babylen Tatarsky, who works in advertising. He gets involved in rigged elections and advertising so false he helps create a virtual politician shown on mass media who looks like Putin and gets elected president. Tatarsky feels lost; illustrating hybrid global culture, he turns to a Ouija board for guidance where he channels Che Guevara, uses a mantra given to him by a Buddhist friend, tries cocaine and LSD, drinks vodka, and prays to God. In the end of the film, virtual duplicates of the fake politician increased his presence and power. Writer and director Victor Ginzburg explained, “I was interested in seeing the border between real and virtual in Babylen’s world gradually disappear, ultimately bringing the viewer to a place I hope they will recognize as the world we all live in today” (similar to the US Matrix films about virtual reality). Putin portrays Russia under his leadership standing up to American-led bullying and injustice from the corrupt West in what a Russian journalist calls “an imaginary, media-concocted universe. My countrymen have gone passive.”
The economy collapsed in 1998, but increases in oil and natural gas revenues strengthened the economy and government, enabling Vladimir Putin to be in charge since 2000. The GDP grew and unemployment was only 2.8% in Moscow in 2011, and the state controls 55% of the economy. Putin elevated his friends to be billionaires in crony capitalism, replacing the oligarchs who acquired fortunes under Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s and taking over control of media. Putin said the Internet is a “CIA project.” He also said the fall of the USSR was the major political disaster of the century and a poll by the Levada Center, only 28% felt positive about the breakup of the USSR. The poll was conducted in 2016 when Russians were spending more than half their incomes on food. Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich reported on how Russians feel after the breakup of the USSR in Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets (2016).
Maria, 31, a Russian woman who started school after the breakup of the USSR, describes generational differences in an email from Moscow:
I can say some words about three generations–my parents, me and my nieces and nephews. The education in the Soviet Union was very important; it was the only way to become a successful person. The discipline was strict but the knowledge you got at school was great. For example, my mum speaks German well even now after 50 years later. There were a lot of different workshops at school (art, science and sport). My grandparents had a high status at work, therefore had a lot of benefits – the best clinics, sanatoriums, they even bought food without queues in special shops. It is important to note that they were not in the party (which sounds strange even for Russians, but they just worked hard).
My generation is the most unlucky. I was at school just after the Soviet Union fell. Those were the worst years for my family and for thousands of families in Russia. Money instantly depreciated. My dad (with two higher education degrees) worked in a furniture factory in the nights after his day job, my mom worked as a cleaner after working all day in the publishing house. One winter she fell and broke 10 eggs and it was almost a tragedy. A lot of people got rich those years but not my honest and principled parents. We got humanitarian aid from other countries and we were offended by this. So you see, maybe the fall of the Soviet Union was a long-awaited holiday for some people but not for ordinary families such as mine.
In the 90s all the school workshops were closed. And we saw that education is not the way to become somebody. In those years, the most popular profession was to be a bandit. They were the heroes! But the level of education was still rather high because of inertia.
And now times have changed. My nieces and nephews study in a different cities (Moscow, Voronezh, Nizhniy Novgorod) and I see how different it is. They have a lot of very interesting programs, different workshops, and they go to sport and art academies. In general, the situation has changed. Moscow is the same as other European capitals, i.e. Paris or Berlin. But in the provinces the life is still difficult. My mother-in-law still lives in a house with wood heating (in the country, 1000 km from Moscow). But after living 20 years in the North she can get a flat in any city she wants so we are waiting!
A Russian urban youth trend that emerged at the end of the 1990s is desire to be glamorous in reaction to Soviet drabness and post-Soviet bleakness: “Russian glamour has become the cultural equivalent of unchallenged globalized capitalism.” A Russian scholar wrote that interest in “mass glamour signals the desire for social change, but this longing has been redirected into the sphere of consumption.” Urban women read books and go to workshops to learn how to be fashionable and use their sexuality to marry a rich man, in “the fine art of manipulating men.” Some middle class people spend much of their income to buy imitation fashion brands worn by wealthy celebrities. They read magazines and novels found in bookstores under the category “Glamorous Paperbacks.” Women’s magazines like Gloss provide this type of instruction, as do Russian editions of Glamour and Cosmopolitan, which are mostly advertisements like the English editions. (More on this topic in Brave Chapter 11.)
The Current Situation
The transition from communism to capitalism was difficult with the loss of government services and social security for many. A Pew Research Center survey found that two decades after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russians, Ukrainians and Lithuanians were unhappy with the outcome, disillusioned with democracy and capitalism, believing that the wealthy prosper while the average person suffers. A 2013 Credit Suisse report revealed that 35% of Russian household wealth is owned by only 110 people, although only 32% of Russians prefer a democracy to a strong leader and only 42% favor free market capitalism. Young people and well-educated urban adults are more likely to support the multiparty system and free market, while older Russians are nostalgic for the USSR.
Sveta, 34, describes the current situation in Moscow in an email, compared to life in the USSR:
Currently we are living in a different country. On the one hand, the service level (shops, transport, tourism and so on) has become better. We practically don’t have queues in the shops. Besides that Russian people can buy anything and travel anywhere if they have enough money for that. We have more possibilities to choose our own way of life – where to live, study, rest and what book to read and what film to watch and so on. On the other hand, the level of education and economy on the whole has fallen. Most people are too poor and disabled to have an adequate style of life. Only those that make a good salary in the major cities live comfortably.
Most villagers are poor. The retirees and other unprotected sectors of society (large families, persons living alone, disabled persons) present a sizeable part of the poor population in our country. Russia is a country for young, healthy and ambitious people. In the Soviet Union there were much better social programs to protect different social groups. For example, in the USSR an unmarried mother could bring up her child by getting child benefits until the child was 18-years-old. These benefits were enough to buy good food, clothes and get medical care. Now it is impossible for single women to bring up the child using only government assistance. Women are required to get additional money from their boyfriend or relatives. Besides that, currently single mothers don’t have any government-sponsored privileges such as time off work and paid vacation time.
Sveta makes an important distinction between urban areas like Moscow and St. Petersburg and rural areas stuck in the past where roads aren’t passable in winter, wooden cottages are heated with a wood stove or expensive diesel fuel, vegetables come from the garden, clothes are washed in a river, and structures built during the Soviet are crumbling. A truck driver told a US reporter that the people at the top “have their own world. They don’t know what is going on here…in a stagnant swamp. Nothing is changing.” Many children don’t go to school, renewing the tradition of child marriage. Young people with ambition leave villages to go the big cities, but the economic downturn in 2014 made jobs more difficult to find. Even in cities, a report by the Russian Union of Engineers found that 20% of dwellings lack hot water and 10% have no indoor plumbing. Soviet policies such as free higher education and health care are no longer affordable, resulting in budget cuts for teachers and other state employees and closures of health centers in rural areas. However, Putin’s base of support is in rural areas where voters don’t see a viable alternative to his leadership and feel he restored national pride.
As well as an active Internet, big cities display luxury department stores, fashionable cafes, McDonald’s, and pay-as-you-go cell phones. Urban youth have access to smart phones and the Russian counterpart of Facebook that provides free access to most films, TV shows and songs. A young American tourist in Moscow, Hank Leukart discussed TV shows like Glee and House with his Russian friends. He blogs about his travels around the world, including Russia.
Leukart met Pavel, a DJ who grew up in the early 1990s when the first McDonalds opened in Moscow resulting in long lines to try a big Mac. Pavel said they all listened to Michael Jackson and kids watched Sesame Street, but there wasn’t much food to eat. Misha, his wife, added, “every day was like a war” in the 1990s. People formed gangs and some became powerful, one of the reasons Russia is so corrupt. Bribes are part of university admission for some students and a bribe is a common way to get a drivers’ license without taking a test. Leukart commented to his friends about the lack of men at parties and was told by a woman named Vera, “They never come. Russian men are lazy and irresponsible.”
Despite the excellent and majestic marble subways, Moscow is home to four million cars. I wondered if things had changed since I visited the USSR and observed dour expressions on the street and much Vodka drinking. Many Russians scowl constantly Leukart reported and the kind women who befriended him consumed a lot of Vodka—twice as much alcohol as consumed in the US. A young woman named Olga told him, “Our country may have corruption problems, but you can’t buy friendship in Russia.” Maria, who lives in Moscow and studies English, emailed, “We never smile without a reason.” I paid attention today in the subway – nobody smiles, and, yes it looks unpleasant. But if you try to speak with someone, the situation changes at once. I think you can see that Russians are very smiley. Like me.”
Anne Garrels, who reported on Russia for decades and speaks Russian, told National Public Radio, “The issue is corruption, lack of trust in the authorities, lack of trust in the police, and that has to be dealt with because it is utterly corrosive.” A former Russian deputy prime minister, opposition leader Boris Nemtsov estimated that between $20 billion and $30 billion was spent on “embezzlement and kick backs” in preparation for the 2014 Olympics. The most expensive Olympics, the government spent more than $50 billion but reporters complained about hotel rooms with undrinkable water and unflushable toilets. When asked why Putin allowed corruption, Nemtsov said, “Putin is part of a mafia; they do not turn in their own.” Just before he was assassinated in 2015 Nemtsov reported, “Three years ago we were an opposition. Now we are no more than dissidents. The task is to organize a real opposition again.” He referred to Putin’s Ukraine policy as insane.
Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s granddaughter, Nina Krushcheva, explained that Putin’s message is the West is out to get Russia with the NATO expansion. She observed, “Gorbachev collapsed the Soviet Union, and Putin is painstakingly putting it back together to have a greater country.” She said that Russia is wrapped up in the past; “We almost don’t have a present.” Putin said in annual speech to the nation in December 2014 that although the West has pursued a policy of trying to restrain Russia for decades, if not centuries, he didn’t want to restore the Iron Curtain. He also said that the collapse of the USSR was a tragedy. I asked my Russian friend Andrei what motivates Putin, egoic love of power or nationalism. He said, “I honestly think that he is mainly motivated by love of Russia. Russia is not only Moscow, St. Petersburg and a few very big cities, but the countryside as well. Russians have become tired of constant humiliation. The only thing that I really do not like with Putin is that he is at the top for the very long time,” alternating between being Prime Minister or President.
CSUC Russian History Professor Kate Transchel’s driver asked her how much it cost in the US to keep a police officer from writing a traffic ticket, to get a business license, or ship something illegal abroad. She said bribery isn’t accepted in the US (although one can look at lobbyist gifts and campaign financing as bribes to legislators). The driver commented, “The US must be very inefficient.” A Russian democracy activist told BBC reporter Paul Mason, “There is no freedom to own property, to do business. There is so much corruption; people don’t work with any real professionalism or sincerity. There is a culture of learned helplessness. There’s is very little trust in society; people are naturally suspicious of each other’s motives.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky said in the 19th century, “The most basic, most rudimentary spiritual need of the Russian people is the need for suffering, every-present and unquenchable, everywhere and in everything.” If you ask a Russian how are you, they’re likely to tell you’re their troubles, while an American will say “fine,” according to a Russian who lives in the US. The rate of teenage suicides is three times the world average (an average of 1,500 a year) and failed attempts may result in being committed to a psychiatric hospital (only Kazakhstan and Belarus have higher suicide rates). Girls are more likely to commit suicide than boys and suicides are likely to occur during exams and holidays. The major cause of suicide is family problems but few support centers exist.
Russia has a high rate of alcohol consumption and resulting health problems, including adolescent alcoholism. Andrei told me this joke, “75% of the Russian population are happy, 25% do not drink alcoholic beverages!” About half of all deaths of Russians ages 15 to 54 between 1990 and 2001 were caused in some way by alcohol. Transchel told me that social gatherings often end with many of the guests passed out or vomiting: The tradition is to drink until you can’t drink anymore. She said it’s problematic if a guest doesn’t drink, including celebrations at work of an occasion like the boss’s birthday. A Russian language professor at CSUC, Julia Kobrina-Coolidge, modified Transchel’s observations; “I wouldn’t call it a tradition. Sometimes people, especially men, drink excessively. However, it doesn’t happen at every social gathering.” Recognizing this problem, in 2012 the government banned late-night alcohol sales, drinking in public places, alcohol advertisements, and added new taxes on alcohol.
Government Youth Organizations
In the Bolshevik era, youth were an important symbol of a vanguard for revolutionary change. Youth surfaced again in the last years of the USSR to express their dissatisfaction with the youth organization, the Komsomol. Its earliest form was in 1918 but the organization for Russians age 14 and older became uninspiring and staid. Gorbachev again used youth as a symbol for change in perestroika, but conservative authorities criticized youth for listening to western music or using computers, leading to generational tension. After the fall of the USSR, the criticism of the old system was multi-generational so that youth were no longer seen as the vanguard. The shift to a market economy saw reduced government spending on education and public welfare that made life difficult for many young people.
Around 15 years after the dissolution of the USSR youth led the Color Revolution in Eastern Europe that frightened Putin who became president of Russia in 2000. He also feared the influence of NGOs that received western funding. Therefore, pro-Putin youth organizations like Nashi (2005) or Young Guards (youth wing of Putin’s United Russia party) were organized to use “the energy of youth” to oppose western influence and protect Putin from enemies. In 2011 a new leader took over Nashi; Vvacheslav Volodin wanted to build a less divisive and more inclusive youth organization that provided youth with new skills. Around the same time, a youth opposition group called My! organized sarcastic protests with slogans like “Give us censorship” and “Putin our leader.” The most radical group was Vanguard of Red Youth. They put up a banner stating, “Putin, it’s time to leave” and invaded Nashi rallies with anti-Nashi banners. On the right, youth skinhead groups opposed immigrants.
Concerned about the youth-led “color revolutions” in Serbia (2000), Georgia (2003), and Ukraine (2004), Russia proactively created Nashi (Ours), youth organization in 2005, recruiting in the provinces. These nationalistic youth admired Putin for restoring Russian power. A young man living in Moscow, Ash emailed in 2016, “Our government takes the youth policy very seriously, so there is no room for any young organization that would be opposite to the officials.”
Vasily Yakemenko led Nashi, which mobilized more than 50,000 youth in a pro-Putin demonstration in Moscow on May 12, 2005. The Kremlin thought that the US was behind the color revolutions, telling Nashi youth that the Americans wanted to foment revolution. Nashi targeted liberals and fascists. Members were promised special favors in their career path, just as Komsomol did for youth who used it as a bridge to succeed in the Communist Party. Critics in the Solidarity opposition movement accused Nashi of being sexist and authoritarian, and called it “Putinjugend” after Hitler youth. Activist Ilya Yashin explained that if a young person wants a career, they have to be pro-Putin. Yashin’s outspokenness resulted in thugs vandalizing his car, harassing him in public speeches and online, and attempting to trap him into having sex and using cocaine with a woman name Katya who would have videotaped the incident. Pro-Putin youth groups physically attacked anti-Putin journalists, breaking their fingers, and practiced breaking up tent occupations like those used in the color revolution occupations. Although the government controlled Nashi, Maya Atwal argued that some leaders became more autonomous.
Former President Dmitri Medvedev distanced himself from Nashi due to scandals about its “dirty tricks” against opponents. At a rally they stomped on photos of human rights activists and opposition leaders. At their annual summer camp, they posted photo collages of decapitated opposition leaders or their heads superimposed on photos of prostitutes stuffing money in their underwear. They learned to shoot guns and received other military training and were encouraged to have sex and have babies. In 2013 Nashi was renamed the All Russia Youth Forum and redirected to nonpolitical social projects such as fitness, consumer rights, and ending traffic violations. Putin’s United Russia party has its own youth wing.
A 2007 poll reported that 89% of young people didn’t want an Orange Revolution in Russia, as they approved of Putin’s efforts to return Russia to its former power. Macho photos showed Putin hunting shirtless, doing judo with a black belt, shooting a gun and scuba diving, although a young Russian woman told me she had never seen such photos. In a 2007 meeting with German Chancellor Angela Mekel, knowing she is afraid of dogs, he called his black Lab into the room, enjoying her fear. A Russian speaker, she later told reporters, “I understand why he has to do this—to prove he’s a man. He’s afraid of his own weakness. Russia has nothing, no successful politics or economy. All they have is this.” She understands Putin believes the West is decadent in its acceptance of homosexuality and women with beards—a reference to an Austrian drag queen who won the 2014 Eurovision singing contest. In 2016 posturing, Russian jets harassed US jets, such flying a barrel roll over a US jet over the Baltic Sea and passed over a destroyer in the Baltic.
A 28-year-old human rights activist explained that Putin is popular because his generation is “more conservative, more nationalistic, more Stalinist that the generation before it.” Another activist, age 27, said people don’t trust or understand the human rights movement. However, young people demonstrated in Moscow and St. Petersburg when Duma legislators wanted to shut down a cartoon TV station called 2×2 because a religious group was offended by episodes of American TV shows South Park, The Simpsons and Family Guy. Protesters carried signs such as “Putin Kills Kenny,” a character in South Park. The young people won when the station was saved. Like their urban peers in the West, they love their smartphones and surf the Net daily where they can get uncensored news.
A recent survey of young people in 26 cities by sociologist Olga Kryshtanovskaya found “a complete collapse of norms and values” due to the dissolution of the social fabric after the fall of the Soviet system. She reported, “Today’s youth believes that Russia has a glorious past and a bright future, but its present is miserable.” Because of prevailing corruption, they don’t anticipate being able to succeed by working honestly and they blame corrupt bureaucrats for this problem. Many would like to move away from their present area. They tend to look to Putin to solve the problem, not to opposition leaders, because he’s a strong “dragon.” A Carnegie report found that about one-fifth of young people view Stalin favorably. More than 90% don’t trust a political party to represent their interests and many would support “the complete destruction of the system.”
Only 25% of the young people surveyed by Kryshtanovskaya in December 2012 and February 2013 considered themselves liberals or democrats, while many would like to see a “nationalist, monarchist or anarchist party” in power. They younger ones were more likely to believe that Russia is a great power. Only one-fourth were interested in politics or understood government, and 90% don’t know a political party that expresses their interests. Young Russians are critical of both corrupt bureaucrats and the opposition leaders—40% think the opposition is weak, not following Alexei Navalny or others like him. They are increasingly interested in volunteering, “becoming heroes themselves.” An American author of a parenting book who spoke with journalism students at a top Russian university reported that most of them wanted to work abroad. They told Pamela Druckerman that Russian mothers sacrifice for their children so they will care for them when they’re old, to prevent being put in an old-age home.
The head of the Center for Youth Studies in Moscow, Elena Omelchenko observed that a large percent of the youth who support the government do so in hopes of getting a secure job and that there is no clear youth opposition movement. However, she reports, “Since November 2011 Russia has been living in a different climate. City squares, on the Internet, and on Twitter, have become real sites of battle between those showing solidarity for the system and those showing solidarity outside of the system.” She reported, “Young people’s brains are in a mess. Nationalist views coexist with liberal ideas, and homophobia is mixed with aspiration to freedom for all.” Omelchenko and two co-authors described the impact of western culture in Looking West? Cultural Globalization and Russian Youth Culture (2003).
On a positive note, Omelchenko reports youth are increasingly active in charity work, volunteering and environmentalism—similar to their global peers. An associated trend is “an extremely correct way of life, rejecting drugs, alcohol, and sexual promiscuity,” in favor of health measures like exercise. An odd mixture, some neo-Nazi youth follow these “straight edge” beliefs that originated with US punk musicians in the 1980s. Anne Garrels reported in Putin Country (2016) that teens aren’t activists for reasons familiar globally: their priority is doing well on their collage entrance exams, chatting with their friends on VKontaite and blogs, playing online games like “Defense of the Ancients” and listening to Western and Russian music.
Putin said that young Russians suffer from a moral vacuum left by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and they need better cultural education, meaning “they need to be raised with good artistic taste and the ability to understand and value the theatrical, dramatic and musical arts.” This was in reaction to a school shooter in Moscow in February 2014, while a member of the Duma blamed violent American media. The “model student” 10th grade killer called his mother from the classroom after he shot the teacher and his father came to talk him into surrendering.
A horrifying documentary titled Hunted shows young Russians in groups like Occupy Pedophilia tracking down and beating up gay men and posting the violent videos, watched by tens of thousands. This prejudice was heightened by 2013 legislation that prohibited discussing “non-traditional sexual relations” with minors, punished with fines. Attacks on GLBT people are a common method to restrict civil society, not confined to Russia. The nation as a whole struggles to shape a post-Soviet national identity with nationalism and a resurgent Russian Orthodox Church. Putin aimed to be the champion of traditional values, supporting the Orthodox Church, telling women to have three children, opposing homosexuality, censoring Internet use, even signing a law in 2014 mandating heavy fines for using profanity in the arts.
Pavel Durov (born in 1984), was called Russia’s Mark Zuckerberg and a cult figure because he founded the social media giant VKontakte (called VK) in 2006, inspired by Facebook. VK is the largest social network, followed by Odnoklassniki (“classmates”). When an 11-year-old boy named Stepan Saveliev was teased by schoolmates for being a loser for not having “likes” on his Vkontakte page, his mother asked people on Facebook to like Stephan’s page and thousands responded. He also appeared on various TV shows.
When Durov was in charge of his company, the government demanded that he delete the pages of opposition politicians in 2011, to which he responded by tweeting a picture of a dog wearing a hoodie with its tongue out. “I like to make fun of serious matters,” he said. Durov said the authorities also pressured him to remove content critical of Ukrainian policy.
Putin’s allies took control of the company and fired him as CEO, so Durov went into exile with a group of his engineers and his brilliant older brother in 2014, saying, “I consider myself a legal citizen of the world” without property anywhere.” He became what one writer called a global nomad and stays centered with yoga and mediation. He said he was looking for a place to settle that matched their values: “We like freedoms, strong judicial systems, small governments, free markets, neutrality and civil rights.” What he doesn’t like is “bureaucracy, police states, big governments, wars, socialism and excessive regulation.“ He said in a 2016 interview, “I believe in small governments or no governments. I think the majority of people want to have big government, a big brother taking care of them.”
Urban youth rely on the Internet for information (i.e., www.slon.ru) rather than state-controlled TV propaganda. They grew up watching American cartoons like The Simpsons, and dream of democracy and a free press, according to German reporter Benjamin Bidder. He quotes a 20-year-old law student who told him, “We no longer live under the heel of the Soviet Union, which imposed its positions on every citizen. Today, we have a free choice.” However, most Russians get their news from state-controlled TV.
Russian-speaker Gary Shteyngart watched the three main channels non-stop for a week in 2014, reporting they’re “indistinguishable in their love of homeland and Putin and their disdain for what they see as the floundering, morally corrupt and increasingly lady-bearded West.” This is a reference to the Eurovision talent show won by a bearded drag queen named Conchita. Criticism continued with a Ukrainian song critical of Russia; a Tartar, Jamala won the Eurovision contest in 2016. Putin stated in his 2014 New Year’s address that “Love of homeland is one of the most powerful, elevating feelings,” but his TV speech was followed by American movies including Avatar and The Chronicles of Narnia. Shteyngart also reported a media trend similar to China’s of portraying unhappy unmarried women in a move to increase the birth rate.
Young Russians get their news from the Internet, scorning state TV as propaganda, but don’t protest if their favorite news sites are closed down. When asked about their heroes none listed an opposition leader, many didn’t have one, and others listed Joseph Stalin, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Gandhi—the only political reformer. When a foreign teacher asked them to discuss issues evoked in TED Talks, they said, “The government, which is wiser than us, will decide.” Students told her that although elections are rigged and the government controls mainstream media, Putin provides stability for their country. One issue young men do care about is avoiding the military draft, bribing doctors or draft board members to get out.
Education is problematic now because students are expected to pay fees and give “donations.” Garrels said in Putin Country, “Money is now the key to everything.” Schools only provide basics for free and don’t offer sports programs, after-school programs are fee based. With the ruble dropping in value, teacher pay averaged about $250 a month, requiring a second job such as many hours of tutoring. Good teachers are especially hard to find in villages where parents can’t pay for school fees. Universities used to be free but now departments have various quota systems for paid and scholarship students. Administrators may take bribes and pressure faculty to tolerate students who pay even if they fail or cheat. Faculty salaries are even lower than in secondary schools and even students graduating in fields like business aren’t getting jobs.
In the Russian Winter youth and adults protested together, as they did in the few demonstrations against Russian involvement in the Ukraine in 2011, and against election fraud in 2011 and 2012. Groups like My! dissolved as their members were no longer youths and new youth leaders didn’t come forth. Academic Felix Krawatzek concluded in his chapter on youth activism that with political stability under Putin, “youth mobilization disappeared again, from headlines and streets and rebels silenced.”
Putin organized a new youth group called Network (Set); it’s website launched in April 2016. Unlike Nashi that appealed to working-class rural youth, Network is aimed at the urban middle-class who protested the rigged elections, although some of its leaders are former leaders of Nashi. The head of the St. Petersburg branch explained, “Network offers them an alternative agenda so that draft projects make it onto Putin’s desk.” The group favors Orthodox Christian values, opposes homosexuality, and aims to protect Russian language from foreign influences. A Vice News video includes interviews with some of the members.
Large Anti-Putin Demonstrations
Putin dismantled democratic elections and independent media that emerged under Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost (openness). Putin’s government intimidated critics and journalists and was suspected of ordering that some of them be killed or jailed. He perpetuated systemic corruption and bribes in business transactions. In the largest demonstrations since the fall of the Soviet Union, tens of thousands of protesters led by the usual young urban middle-class people took to the streets in 2011 after charges of ballot stuffing in the December 4 legislative elections. Activists posted many online videos of ballot rigging. They demanded annulment of the recent elections because of fraud by Putin’s United Russia party. In Moscow older secondary school students were required to stay in school until 6 PM to keep them off the street during demonstrations on December 3, and authorities instituted a mandatory Russian exam on December 9 during the time of the planned protest. On December 10 tens of thousands demonstrated in Bolotnaia Square. Putin’s press secretary called for protesters’ livers to be “smeared on the asphalt.” Prior to 2011, protests were local and about narrower issues such as the environment or pension cuts, so the large “Snow Revolution” demonstrations took academics by surprise, similar to the Arab Spring uprisings. Most of the organizers had previous experience with protests.
Another large protest took place on December 24. A poll conducted by the Levada Center on that day found that one-quarter of the protesters were ages 18 to 24, 55% were between the ages of 18 and 39 and 81% had completed some university education. Most (89%) learned of the demonstration from the Internet, mostly from blogs. There were furious about blatant cheating in the December election documented on YouTube. They chanted, “We are not cattle! We are the Russian people!” The regime posted a video on YouTube portraying the protesters as monster orcs from The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, chanting “Russia without Putin” as they storm into a castle. Again we see the prevalence of western media applied as a global symbol system. Protesters also use YouTube to post satirical humor and music that generates millions of hits. The last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev commented on radio, “I’m happy that I have lived to see the people waking up. This raises big hopes.” But after Putin’s third presidential election, as predicted, parliament passed repressive bills meant to stifle opposition, along with arrests and searches of activists’ homes.
Led by middle-class protesters, they blamed President Putin’s corrupt United Russia party. Demonstrators chanted “We exist!” and “We are the Power!” Some students demonstrated with tape on their mouths to signify their votes being silenced. Others wore stickers reading “For fair elections” with a picture of Putin crossed out, just as Otpor used a similar image in the Serbian revolution overthrowing Slobodan Milosevic’s regime in 2000. Putin told a summer youth camp that political progress would be slow and evolutionary, not revolutionary. He blamed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for “setting the tone for some opposition activists.”
President Dmitry Medvedev responded on Facebook that he had ordered an investigation into election fraud, but within hours his post elicited thousands of mostly negative and skeptical comments such as “shame!” and “you’re pathetic.” A doctor wrote, “Leave now, and don’t wait for the Tahrir Spring. It is going to happen, I promise you.” In his final address to parliament at the end of December, Medvedev told them, “We should learn to respect public opinion and not force our decisions on the public.”
The demonstrations took place in around 90 cities, as shown in photos, despite efforts to silence organizing on Twitter. Putin responded sarcastically that the white ribbons worn by demonstrators to demonstrate for fair elections were condoms and that they were paid agents of the West, but as large demonstrations continued he offered reforms to enable more political competition in elections and protesters added condoms to their ribbons.
Protests occurred again on February 4 and May 6, 2012. On the eve of Putin’s third inauguration as president, tens of thousands protested in a second Million Man March, carrying banners advocating “Start the Pussy Riot” (a reference to the fearless punk feminist band) and chanting “Russia without Putin.” Ironically, the 12,000 police who monitored the march wore their ceremonial white uniforms, the color symbolizing the protest. A student, 22, was arrested for throwing “an unidentified yellow object of spherical shape” at riot police. He said it was a lemon. Hundreds demonstrated outside the court, including the two freed members of Pussy Riot and famous blogger and opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Police arrested about 50 of the protesters plus dozens more who demonstrated near the Kremlin. Seven of the accused were convicted of rioting on May 6, 2012. The eighth defendant, a 20-year-old woman, got a suspended sentence.
Shortly before presidential elections in March 2012, the anti-Kremlin protesters formed a human chain along the Big White Circle, Moscow’s ring highway. People waved unfurled rolls of paper towels and wore white to identify their brand. Demonstrators were handed joke “tickets” to get on police buses set aside for arrested demonstrators. Other large demonstrations continued in the fall of 2014, with the Pussy Riot punk band’s symbol of colorful balaclavas painted on large balloons carried in the marches. A government film titled The Anatomy of Protest claimed that protesters were given “money and cookies” to get them on the streets. That’s the first time protesters were accused of turning out for cookies, although Libya’s Gaddafi said youth must have had “hallucinogenic pills in their coffee with milk, like Nescafe.”
At the June 2012 protests environmental activist Evgenia Chirikova read aloud the movement’s manifesto, calling for more scrutiny of parliamentary elections, limiting the president’s years in office, direct election of governors (Putin banned direct elections for provincial governors in 2004), and a better standard of living for the poor. Protesters turned out on the streets despite new laws setting fines as high as $9,000 and years in jail for participating in an unauthorized protest, more than the fine for building dangerous radioactive nuclear energy facilities. Mila Basenko, 25, commented, “It’s typical, this kind of crackdown. We won’t be afraid.” She carried a sign telling Putin to “shoo.” (For more on female activists including Pussy Riot, see the chapter on socialist countries in Brave: The Global Girl Revolution.) The Duma passed a law feared to be the first step towards Internet censorship, presented as a law to protect children from harmful websites.
Putin was supported by youth organizations Nashi and Young Guard and won a majority of votes everywhere but Moscow. (A national survey conducted in 1992 found that people with higher incomes were less likely to vote but more likely to participate in sustained activism.) In June 2012 the government enacted heavy penalties for unauthorized assemblies and participation in the Opposition Coordination Council. Political analyst Masha Lipman observed that young professionals have “effectively gotten rid of habitual paternalism — the attitude of ‘nothing depends on us’ or ‘what can we do’? Of reliance on the state even as you resist the state. They are relying on themselves.” The most online votes for the council went to Alexei Navalny (born 1976).
He mobilized thousands of young people in a movement called Generation Navalny who read his blogs and campaigned for him in a uniquely free council election. He reported two million people read his blog each month and he was featured in a documentary titled The Term (2014). Navalny was arrested for demonstrating, along with Pussy Riot’s Maria Alyokhina. Pussy Riot is a fearless women’s punk band that criticize Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church and advocate feminism and GLBT right. Two of the band members were jailed for singing a short song in the part of a cathedral where women are prohibited. In December 2014 pro-Kremlin activists distributed condoms with pictures of opposition leaders like Navalny who they blamed for collapse of the ruble. Navalny organized anti-Maidan protests against Kremlin intervention in Ukraine and formed a new political party called Party of Progress. It merged with the party founded by murdered opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in April 2015 to prepare for parliamentary elections in 2016. The “Open Russia” movement organized by Mikhail Khodorkovsky backed 18 candidates for the Duma in 2016 but opposition forces weren’t able to unite and they had no TV time. Democratic political parties included Parnas and Yabloko. The head of Parnas, former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, was targeted in 2016 with a hidden camera revealing his extramarital affair with a staffer. Other opposition figures were murdered, usually poisoned like Alexander Litvienko, or shot like Boris Nemtsov. Putin’s supporters won control of the Duma again, with low voter turnout.
Andrei commented on this section:
All the facts that you mentioned are correct, but Alexey Navalny is known much better in the West then in Russia (I am writing not only about Moscow and St. Petersburg but about the whole of Russia). Same story with the Pussy Riot, they can criticize Putin but they cannot do it in the Church, when they defile the Temple, they insulted me and millions of believers. And please do not call their “performance” as art, I would call them for cheap clowns. The Nashi movement has practically disappeared.
Putin is a very popular leader, but not among the middle class, but this middle class in Russia is not very big and not really active politically. Those big demonstrations in Moscow led to nowhere. I attended one of them in September 2013, about 40,000 came and shouted “Putin – thief!” I went away, not because of my big love to Putin, but it was not really serious. My friend, who is one of the opposition leaders, Vladimir Ryzkov, told me that I was right: to shout Putin thief is simply not clever.
You may ask me if I miss Soviet Union? The answer in no, I do not miss Soviet, but I miss Union! You wrote about 50 billions for the Olympic Games, but you know that most of the Russians were proud of the ABSOLUTELY the BEST WINTER GAMES EVER!
Alexei Navalnysaid he would run for President if reforms were enacted but didn’t achieve his goal. He is called Putin’s fiercest critic, along with Boris Nemtsov who was murdered in 2015, just before revealing his research on Russian involvement in the Ukraine. Navalny became a Moscow mayoral candidate, charging rigged elections, but came in second to Putin’s candidate. An anti-corruption lawyer, he called Putin’s United Russia “the party of crooks and thieves.” He blogged that Russian inertia, “The main enemy—Mister Nothing Can Ever Change—is not dead, but he has suffered a stroke.” He explained, “They can laugh and call us microbloggers. They can call us the hamsters of the Internet. Fine. I am an Internet hamster. But I know they are afraid of us.” From jail, he wrote, “It’s impossible to beat and arrest hundreds of thousands, millions. We are not cattle or slaves. We have voices and votes, and we have the power to uphold them.” (However, he has been associated with anti-immigrant groups and policies.) A Facebook page called “Putin Must Leave” attracted thousands of “hamsters.”
After the mayoral election, Navalny was charged with theft from a state timber company and threatened with a 10-year prison sentence. In July 2013, he was sentenced to five years in prison, and then sentenced to house arrest with no access to the Internet or a phone in February 2014. He was supported by around ten thousand of his middle-class urban demonstrators who chanted “Freedom!” and “Putin is a thief!” Author Masha Gessen reported that this was the largest unauthorized protest in recent history. Demonstrators with no criminal records were jailed for years, including eight middle-class young Muscovites who participated in the May 6, 2012 demonstrations. One of them was a woman. These arrests are seen as a warning to educated professionals to stay away from street demonstrations, but they kept showing up. In February 2014, eight activists were sentenced to two to four years in prison camp for their participation in a 2012 anti-Putin rally. The day they were convicted, the police, mostly young men, detained over two hundred demonstrators and most were released. The same month Pussy Riot released a video about human rights violations.
Opposition leaders formed the People’s Freedom Party in 2010, including Vladimir Milov, who became deputy energy minister when he was 38. Now he’s part of the Democratic Choice movement. In a BBC interview in 2016, Milov acknowledged the common criticism that opposition leaders fight among themselves and didn’t succeed in forming the umbrella organization they attempted in 2015. He reported they are worn out from constant government surveillance, have few media outlets to get their message of democracy and voting rights to the people and most of them are banned from running for office. Some of their leaders have been killed so it’s not safe to live in Russia but he intends to stay to fight for democracy. They were hurt by the release of a sex tape including two of the leaders that added to what Milov referred to as an “image problem.”
The largest demonstrations in two years occurred in Moscow, March 15, 2014, against Putin’s takeover of the Crimean region of Ukraine and the anti-American media coverage of the fighting in eastern Ukraine. Some reports counted over 100,000 people on the streets in a “March of Truth.” A woman wearing the traditional Ukrainian wreath on her hair held up a photo of Putin with the caption “Stop lying.” A protester interviewed by BBC said Putin was playing a “dirty game.” Activists, including Pussy Riot members, chanted “Putin, go away,” and “Say no to war!” They were branded as fascists by the state media. However, Putin’s popularity ratings went up with nationalistic Russians. He said the worst catastrophe of the 20th century was the break up of the USSR, so he’s trying to extend Russia’s empire and defy the Western powers he fears are threatening Russia with expansion of NATO to Ukraine. A Russian think tank reported that young people born in the 1980s are “increasingly suspicious” about the US global ambitions, but newspaper editor Maxim Trudolyubov noted the brightest young people want to leave Russia.
A Russian commentator, Vladimir Frolov believes Putin used the struggle against “the US-sponsored fascist coup” in Ukraine to shift the political discussion away from democratic alternatives to Putin’s government and an economic system where 110 families control 39% of the wealth. Putin justified his takeover of Crimea in 2014 as a correction to the humiliation suffered after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The missile destruction of a passenger airline flying over eastern Ukraine in July that killed 298 on board increased Western anger and economic sanctions of Russia. The missile was thought to shot down by a Buk M1 missile fired by a Russian Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade in the area. Despite urban protests, Putin’s popularity increased. A Gallup poll published in July 2014 reported he had an 83% approval rating, a record high for him and that 76% of the respondents believed state media is reliable. A 2016 poll revealed similar high favorable ratings.
However, Western sanctions hurt the Russian economy with growing inflation, decreasing value of the ruble, and large corporate debt owed to Western banks. Food prices rose and GDP fell, leading former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin to warn parliament that the economy in 2015 entered a “full-fledged crisis.” More than 23 million Russians lived below the poverty line, an increase of three million from 2014, but the government reduced social services like health clinics and schools. Putin advocated using the economic problems to become more self-sufficient economically and resist Western attempts to harm Russia. He jointed in the Chinese-led New Development Bank (it has 57 members and started loans in June 2016) and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank set up to rival the World Bank and IMF.
About 3,000 protesters gathered in Manezh Square outside the Kremlin on December 31, 2014, chanting: “We are the power!,” “Russia without Putin!,” and slogans of support for Ukraine. Pro-Putin counter-demonstrators chanted, “Those who don’t like Russia should go to the United States!” Riot police pushed most of the crowd into subway passages, leaving a few hundred who spent the night in the cold square before being arrested. Many rebels were jailed, went into exile to escape arrest, or dropped out. Putin critic Kseniya Bochak became editor of a fashion magazine but continued hosting a critical TV talk show, causing her to be put on a contract hit list in 2015. Navalny explained, “People are afraid. Totally destroyed,” with 45 criminal cases against 20 members of the coordinating council that organized the 2012 protests. Also, he said the Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine conflicts made the discussion of corruption and democratic elections “look kind of silly.”
The Kremlin went after the White Ribbon movement. In December 2014 Alexei Navalny and his brother Oleg were convicted of cheating a French cosmetics company; despite lack of evidence, both were given a three-year sentence, but only Navalny’s was suspended so as not to make him a martyr. A huge protest was organized on Facebook for January 15, 2015, so the sentence against Navalny was announced earlier. Pussy Riot released a YouTube video urging people to come to the streets to protest. Dressed like glamorous 1920s flappers in high heels with Harry Potter-style brooms they sweep the square of symbolic corruption and then fly off on their broomsticks repeating “clean” and “fair.” A Facebook page calling for demonstrations on December 30 also generated thousands of views.
Dimitry Gudkov, an independent member of the Duma, confirmed in December 2014 that Putin succeeded in suppressing the protests of 2011 and 2012 led by the urban middle class. But he predicted that economic problems would lead to more protests, even though government control of the media prevents leaders from gathering supporters. Future novelists like Vladimir Sorokin obliquely criticize government repression in popular books like his Day of the Oprichnik. Sorokin’s novel is about a Tzar in the Kremlin in 2028. A law critics call the Big Brother law passed in 2016 increased jail terms for “extremism,” used against critics of the regime, increased prison terms from four to eight years. Inciting people to participate in “mass disturbances” became a crime punished by five to 10 years in prison. I talked with a Russian young woman who said Putin is popular because he provides stability. A Levada poll in 2016 reported that 82% of Russians would vote for Putin because they think he can rescue them from economic difficulties. Many youth activists support Putin’s “sovereign democracy” for fear of returning to the chaos of the 1990s and fear of Western values, concluded professor Felix Krawatzek. He said, “Young Russians, unlike during perestroika, no longer desire democracy or individual freedom but are increasingly attracted by Putin’s nationalist ideas and visions of stable order.” However, German reporter Benjamin Bidder views young urban Russians as transforming the country; he titled his 12 article “Putin’s Unruly Children: A New Generation Aims to Revitalize Russia.” He refers to youth like Vera Kichanova, 20, write for the Novaya Gazeta, a newspaper that criticizes Putin, although other critical journalists have been shot, like Anastasia Baburova and Anna Politkovskaya. Vera is an activist who participates in protests in Moscow where she gets interrogated by police and works for the unregistered Libertarian Party. She lives with her parents whose generation “have been worn down by crises and wars,” so they associate stability associated with Putin. Another example is hip-hop star known as Noize MC whose fans protested when the government tried to muzzle him and other popular musicians. He said he has 75 times more VK fans than Network, the pro-Putin youth group. Most of Noize MC’s shows were cancelled after he accepted a Ukrainian flag from a fan during a music festival in Ukraine. Alexei Kornev, 19, said, “Nobody and nothing should stand in the way of music.
Demonstrations kicked up again in 2016 because of economic problems and increasing budget deficit caused by falling oil prices, rising inflation, and shrinking value of the ruble. Corruption scandals revolving close Putin friends surfaced, publicized by blogger Alexei Navalny who calls Putin a Mafia boss and gets millions of viewers on YouTube and by Pussy Riot music videos. A truck driver said about Putin, “He’s sticking his nose into everything—Syria, Turkey—so good, so powerful, but in his own country, he can’t even talk to the people.” Despite these problems, a Levada poll in 2016 showed that 82% would vote for Putin—the next elections were in 2018.
We’ve seen that former communist countries replaced service to the masses with individual consumption. Russia’s Putin retained popular support due to his appeals to national pride, control of media and improvement of the economy. China is a country with a large youth population fairly quiet since the violence in Tiananmen Square in 1989, due to government censorship of the media, invasive security forces, low unemployment and increasing prosperity. The next chapter moves across the world to Latin America, the home of many organizing models referred to frequently in global uprisings.
Discussion Questions and Activities
- What’s a postmodern revolution? Is Ukraine better off after ousting President Yanukovych?
- Why has President Vladimir Putin retained his power and popularity in Russia since 2000?
- “Young people’s brains are in a mess,” observed Russian Elena Omelchenko. Comment.
- See the Russian film Generation Pi (2011). How does it help you understand Russian politics today? The same questions for Kolya, about a five-year-old Russian boy cared for by a Czech bachelor during the Russian occupation in the 1980s. 1996
4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days takes place in Romania in the late 1980s before the fall of communism when abortion was illegal. Two university students try to arrange for an abortion when one of them gets pregnant. 2007
 Gene Sharp. From Dictatorship to Democracy. The Albert Einstein Institution. Fourth edition, 2010.
 Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “Shy U.S. Intellectual Created Playbook Used in a Revolution,” New York Times, February 16, 2011.
 Carl Gibson and Steve Horn, “Exposed: Globally Renowned Activist Collaborated with Intelligence Firm Stratfor,” Counter Punch, December 3, 2013.
Jesus Diaz, “WikiLeaks Reveals Privately Run CIA’s Dirty Secrets,” Gizmodo, February 26, 2012.
 Ivana Mastilovic Jasnic, “CIA in Shadow,” BLIC online, November 18, 2013.
CANVAS articles http://canvasopedia.org/articles/
 Tina Rosenberg, “Revolution U,” FP: Foreign Policy, February 16, 2011. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/02/16/revolution_u&page=full
 Martin Frederiksen. Young Men, Time, and Boredom in the Republic of Georgia. Temple University Pess, 2016.
 William Engdahl, “US NGO Uncovered in Ukraine Protests,” Boiling Frogs Post, January 7, 2014.
 Ivana Mastilovic Jasnic, “CIA in Shadow,” BLIC online, November 18, 2013.
 https://globalyouthbook.wordpress.com/2014/07/31/ /s
 Florian Bieber, “The New Tragedy of the Commons,” Council of European Studies, February 2014.
 Maple Razsa. Bastards of Utopia. Indiana University Press, 2015.
Jessica Greenberg. After the Revolution: Youth, Democracy, and the Politics of Disappointment in Serbia. Stanford University Press, 2014.
 Shown on video posted by the Information Clearing House, February 9, 2014.
 Joel Brinkley, “Obstacles to Democracy Remain for Libya, Tunisia,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 30, 2011.
 Sonali Kolhatkar, “From Elections to Mass Movements: How Wealthy Elites Are Hijacking Democracy All Over the World,” AlterNet, May 30, 2014.
 David Brooks, “The Legacy of Fear,” New York Times, November 10, 2014.
 Olga Onuch and Gwendolyn Sasse, “What Does Ukraine’s #Euromaidan Teach Us About Protest?,” Monkey Cage, December 6, 2014.
 Olga Onuch, “Who Were the Protesters?” Journal of Democracy, Vol. 25, No. 3, July 2014, pp. 44-51.
 Marina Lewychka, “Optimistic Young Ukrainians Look to Europe.” The Guardian, December 1, 2013.
Winter on Fire docuementary (2015) http://www.traileraddict.com/winter-on-fire/trailer
 Olga Onuch, “EuropMaidan Protests in Ukraine,” Problems of Post-Communism, Vol. 62, No. 1-19, 2015.
 Roar Collective, “The Contradictions of the Euromaidan Uprising,” ROAR Magazine, February 21, 2014.
 Gregory Feifer. Russians: The People Behind the Power. Twelve, 2014, p. 344.
 Joe Fitzgerald Rodriquez, “Project Censored 2014,” San Francisco Bay Guardian, September 30, 2014.
 Alison Smale and Steven Erlanger, “Ukraine Mobilizes Reserve Troops, Threatening War,” New York Times, March 1, 2014.
 “Ukraine: UN Report Shows Rising Civilian Deaths, Ongoing Rights Abuses,” UN News Centre, August 29, 2014.
 “Ukrainian President: Enormous IMF Loan Won’t Help Ordinary Ukrainians,” TruthDig, March 15, 2015.
 Robin Emmott and Phil Stewart, “Syria and Ukraine,” Reuters, October 1, 2015.
 David Herszenhorn, “In Ukraine, Corruption Concerns Linger a Year After a Revolution,” New York Times, May 17, 2015.
 Ulrich Heyden, “New Fighting in Eastern Ukraine,” Counter Punch, April 5, 2016.
 Thomas Friedman, “Ukraine Democracy Takes Root,” Times Union, April 24, 2014.
 Maxim Trudolyubov, “Russia’s Virtual Universe,” New York Times, July 5, 2015.
 “A Recent Poll Revealed that Most Russians would like to see the Return of the Soviet Union and Socialism,” TeleSUR, April 20, 2016.
 Birgit Menzel, “Russian Discourse on Glamour,” Kultura, December, 2008.
 Kseniya Gusarova, ”The Deviant Norm: Glamour in Russian Fashion,” Kultura, December 6, 2008, p. 19.
 David Schonauer, “The Russian ‘Sterva’ [bitch] Class,” PopPhoto.com, February 9, 2007.
 “Confidence in Democracy and Capitalism Waves in Former Soviet Union,” Pew Research Center, December 5, 2011.
 Richard Kersley, “Global Wealth Reaches new All-Time High,” Credit Suisse, September 10, 2013.
 Ellen Barry, “The Russia Left Behind,” New York Times, October 13, 2013. Included photographs.
 Michael Haverluck, “Putin, Arguably World’s Wealthiest Man, Cuts Salaries,” One News Now, March 11, 2015.
 Hank Leukart, Without Baggage blog, August 2012.
 Diane Francis, “Winter Olympics 2014,” Financial Post, February 7, 2014.
 Kathy Gilsinan, “Boris Nemtsov and the End of Two Eras,” The Atlantic, March 3, 2015.
 Cathy Newman, “Is Putin Reassembling Soviet Union?,” National Geographic, March 3, 2014.
 Aina Simone, “The ‘How Are You?’ Culture Clash,” New York Times, January 19, 2014.
 Alexandra Odynova, “Teen Suicide Rate Ranks 3rd Highest,” The Moscow Times, December 1, 2011.
 According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Russia had the third-highest per capita alcohol consumption, after Moldova and Reunion. If unrecorded alcohol produced for home consumption or illegal trade on the black market is included, Russia comes second. http://www.forbes.com/2009/07/27/russia-alcohol-health-business-oxford-analytica.html
 William Dobson. The Dictator’s Learning Curve: Inside the Global Battle for Democracy. Doubleday, 2012, p. 167.
 Maya Atwal, “Evaluating Nashi’s Sustainability,” Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 61, No. 5, 2009.
 George Packer, “The Quiet German,” New Yorker, December 1, 2014.
 William Dobson. The Dictator’s Learning Curve. Doubleday, 2012, pp. 170-171.
 Donald Jensen, “Putin’s Lost Children,” Institute of Modern Russia, May 2, 2013.
 Svetlana Smetanina, “Russia’s Youth Demands Change, Not Revolution,” Russia Beyond the Headlines, March 19, 2013.
 Pamela Druckerman, “The Russians Love Their Children, Too,” New York Times, May 8, 2014.
 Anne Garrels. Putin Country: A Journey Into Real Russia. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016, Chapter 10.
 “Two Killed in Moscow School Shooting,” USA News, February 3, 2014.
 Ingrid Lunden, “Ousted VK.com CEO Durov Posts on Facebook,” Tech Crunch, April 24, 2014.
 Patrick Daniel, “A Conversation with Pavel Durov,” The Huffington Post, February 7, 2016.
 Benjamin Bidder, “Putin’s Unruly Children,” Der Spiegel, February 9, 2012.
 Gary Shteyngart, “Out of My Mouth Comes Unimpeachable Manly Truth,” New York Times, February 18, 2015.
 Felix Krawatzek, “Fallen Vanguards and Vanished Rebels?” chapter in Eastern European Youth Cultures in a Global Context, edited by Matthias Schwartz and Heike Winkel. Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.
 Tom Balmforth, “Network, Son of Nashi,” Radio Free Europe, August 9, 2016.
 Graeme Robertson, “Protesting Putinism: The Election Protests of 2011-2012 in Broader Perspective,” Problems of Post Communism, Vol. 60, No. 2, March, 2013, p. 11.
 Ammon Cheskin and Luke March, “State-Society Relations in Contemporary Russia,” East European Politics, Vol. 31, No. 3, pp. 261-273.
 Graeme Robertson, “Protesting Putinism,” p. 21.
 Fiona Hill and Hannah Thoburn, “We Are Not Cattle: Protesters in Turkey and Russia,” Brookings Institution, June 24, 2013.
 Brian Browdie, “Russia Prime Minister Putin Blames U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for Encouraging Violence,” New York Daily News, December 8, 2011.
 Kathy Lally, “Russians Scoff at Medvedev Election Inquiry,” The Washington Post, December 11, 2011.
 Donna Bahry and Lucan Way, “Citizen Activism in the Russian Transition,” Journal of Economic Literature, /vi. 10, No. 4, May 15, 2013, pp. 330-366.
 Tom Balmforth, “Generation N,” Radio Free Europe, August 6, 2015.
 Andrew Kramer, “More of Kremlin’s Opponents are Ending Up Dead,” New York Times, August 20, 2016.
 Stephen Ennis, “Profile: Russian Blogger Alexei Navalny,” BBC News, December 20, 2011.
 BBC Hard Talk, May 9, 2016.
 Maxim Trudolyubov, “Russia’s Anti-West Isolation,” New York Times, July 20, 2014.
 Vladamir Frolov, “How Putin Uses Ukraine to Undermine His Rivals,” The Moscow Times, June 22, 2014.
 “MH17—Potential Suspects and Witnesses,” Bellingcat, February 23, 2016.
 Armin Rosen, “Sanctions Have Little Effect on Putin’s Incredible Popularity in Russia,” Business Insider, July 29, 2014.
 Maxim Trudolyubov, “Russia’s Virtual Universe,” New York Times, July 5, 2015.
 David Herszenhorn, “Anti-Putin Protest Fizzles as Police Sweep Square,” New York Times, December 31, 2014.
 Amy Knight, “The End of Illusion?,” New York Review of Books, February 23, 2016.
 Benjamin Bidder, “Putin’s Unruly Children: A New Generation Aims to Revitalize Russia,” Der Siegel, February 9, 2012.
 Amy Knight, “Russia: The End of the Illusion?,” New York Review of Books, February 23, 2016.