From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]
Sinister Santas in Moscow march
BY Adrian Blomfield / December 19, 2006
Nashi activists in seasonal garb gather in Moscow, ostensibly to give
gifts to war veterans.
UNDER Moscow’s leaden skies, an army gathered on a central avenue of
the former capital of the Soviet Empire to declare its loyalty to the
Its purpose and appearance had been painstakingly created to appear
benign. Few of the 70,000 or so who gathered were older than teenagers
and their uniforms were so incongruous as to be unthreatening. Each was
dressed as Grandfather Frost or the Snow Maiden, traditional Russian
New Year characters.
Yet, according to Russia’s liberal democrats, scenes like this are less
a display of benevolence than a show of force. For them, Nashi, the
Kremlin-backed youth group behind Sunday’s parade, is an alarming
throwback to the Soviet era.
As the youngsters swayed to the “patriotic karaoke” emanating from the
stage, a voice boomed out from the loudspeakers exhorting them to
reinvent Russia’s lost glory.
“Let the miracle happen,” the voice cried out. “Let heart reach out to
heart so our country can rise once more.”
Nashi insists there is nothing sinister about such parades. Leader
Vasily Yakemenko said Sunday’s was designed so that members could hand
out gifts to war veterans.
Nashi, which mean “ours” in Russian, is far from a charity. Analysts
say it is born of Kremlin terror at the 2004 Orange Revolution in
Ukraine, when people power swept out the corrupt Moscow-backed regime.
“The Orange Revolution came to (Russian President) Putin as a shock,”
said Stanislav Belkovsky, a leading Kremlinologist. “He ordered the
formation of a mass youth organisation which, if needed, could be used
to fight opponents.”
From its inception, Nashi pandered to nostalgia for the Soviet era –
not its bread queues but its superpower status.
The movement’s rhetoric is profoundly anti-Western and Nashi apes many
elements of the Komsomol, the Communist Party’s youth league.
Ostensibly, Nashi’s main political aim is to fight fascism but liberals
call it “Nashisti”, a play on the Russian “fascisti”.
There is doubt about how powerful Nashi is. Although Mr Yakemenko
boasts of 10,000 commissars and 200,000 volunteers, Nashi is not the
Komsomol of old.