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“Negotiating History: Memory Wars in the Near Abroad and Pro-Kremlin Youth Movements,” Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization 19, no. 3 (2011): 233-252.



Since the second half of the 2000s, political tension surrounding memory questions and their weight in relations between post-Communist states has increased. Memory stakes also occupy a key place in the strategies of pro-presidential youth movements—in particular the group " Nashi " —to establish youth identities that are both contestatory and recognized by the political authorities and public opinion. This article examines the role played by memory wars in the structuring of some youth movements— giving them a recognized status in society and providing their members with specific identity logic. It discusses the focusing of these memory wars on the Near Abroad and the high-level politicization of the youth historical debates. ussian society is fragmented in terms of living standards, contact with the external world, access to information, and political and identity-based perceptions. It has very few elements with which to create a social bond or an ideological unity. In this context, the memory of World War II plays a key role as a driver of historical consensus. Polls conducted about this question are very revealing: in 1998, 70 percent of Russian citizens considered the victory of 1945 to be the most important event of the 20th century , and today that figure has reached 90 percent.
Negotiating History
Memory Wars in the Near Abroad and
Pro–Kremlin Youth Movements
Marlène Laruelle
Abstract: Since the second half of the 2000s, political tension surrounding memory
questions and their weight in relations between post-Communist states has increased.
Memory stakes also occupy a key place in the strategies of pro-presidential youth
movements—in particular the group “Nashi”—to establish youth identities that are both
contestatory and recognized by the political authorities and public opinion. This article
examines the role played by memory wars in the structuring of some youth movements—
giving them a recognized status in society and providing their members with specific
identity logic. It discusses the focusing of these memory wars on the Near Abroad and the
high-level politicization of the youth historical debates.
Keywords: memory, nationalism, Russia, World War II, youth
ussian society is fragmented in terms of living standards, contact with the
external world, access to information, and political and identity-based perceptions. It
has very few elements with which to create a social bond or an ideological unity. In this
context, the memory of World War II plays a key role as a driver of historical consensus.
Polls conducted about this question are very revealing: in 1998, 70 percent of Russian
citizens considered the victory of 1945 to be the most important event of the 20th cen-
tury, and today that figure has reached 90 percent.1 There is also a large unanimity in
Russian public opinion concerning the notion that the neighboring post-Soviet states blame
Russia for multiple evils and tend to undermine the Soviet version of 20th century history.
Marlène Laruelle is a Research Professor at the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian
Studies (IERES), The Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University. She is
the author of Russian Eurasianism: An Ideology of Empire (2008) and In the Name of the Nation:
Nationalism and Politics in Contemporary Russia (2009). Copyright © 2011 World Affairs Institute
Since the second half of the 2000s, political tension regarding memory questions and their
weight in the relationships between post-Communist states has grown, in particular in the
Russia–Ukraine–Baltic countries and in Poland—two of the zones that were most affected
by the violence of World War II and the brutal (re)Sovietization that followed.
Memory stakes also occupy a prime spot within the strategies of pro-presidential
youth movements, particularly the group “Nashi”—who are at the core of this analysis,
though not exclusively—to establish youth identities that are both contestatory and
recognized by the political authorities and public opinion. Youth activists have no direct
memory of the Soviet past; instead, their identity is shaped by a more global cultural
context, through textbooks, films, media, and official and familial narratives. They
thereby advance a mimetic and consensual interpretation of these memory wars, one that
is in sync with the mainstream, and simultaneously give off an image of themselves as
bearers of a specific youth counter-culture, one rather critical of older generations. Two
central references have made it possible to gain this paradoxical place within society as
they elicit near total unanimity from public opinion and the ruling elites in Russia: first,
the remembrance of the Great Patriotic War; and second, the engagement in the struggle
against the so-called falsifications of history by neighboring states.
This article examines the role played by the memory wars in structuring some youth
movements, giving them a recognized status in society, and providing their members
with specific identity logic. It discusses the focusing of these memory wars on the Near
Abroad and the high-level politicization of the youth’s historical debates. In conclu-
sion, it inquires into the stakes of Russia’s Europeanness for the youth movements, the
role of historical narrative in creating powerful mechanisms of mobilization, the politi-
cal dependency of movements claiming youth autonomy, and the absence of ideological
and organizational barriers between the official and the more radical movements.2 This
work is part of a several-years-long research project on youth politicization and youth
memory of the Soviet Union that began in 2008. The studies are based on interviews
with youth activists and observer participation in their activities, and the fieldwork has
thus far been undertaken in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Petrozavodsk, and Vladivostok.
“Managed Democracy,” Managed History
Public Memories, or Public Memory?: Fighting Against a Pluralism of Remembrance
The positive reassessment of the Soviet past has been especially visible, since
Vladimir Putin’s assumption of power, in the symbols of the Russian state (hymn, wreath,
etc.), official commemorations, and public discourses, but the process had already begun
during the second half of the 1990s.3 While the Perestroika years were enlivened by very
contradictory debates on Soviet history, in the 2000s the accent was placed on the victory of
World War II, Stalin’s repressions being discretely set aside. During Putin’s second mandate
(2004–2008), the state tried to exercise stronger control over the memory debates and to
silence dissident voices. In 2005, upon the 60th anniversary of the victory of 1945, a first
memory policy appeared to take shape when Putin stated out loud what most Russians actu-
ally thought but did not say: that “the collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopoliti-
cal catastrophe of the century.4
In the following year, media sources close to the authorities and several official fig-
ures ferociously denounced the so-called falsifiers of history who, allegedly financed by
234 Demokratizatsiya
the West, dared to discuss or to qualify the Soviet contribution to World War II. They
encouraged historians to write “objective” school textbooks; such an orientation is embod-
ied by the textbook written by Filipov, published in 2007, which defends statism as a major
axis of Russian history, and excuses Stalinist crimes in the name of the need to modern-
ize the Soviet Union.5 In 2008, Memorial, a NGO dedicated to human rights, had its
documents seized just as Gleb Pavlovsky, Kremlin’s longterm primary image-maker,
accused the organization of having the self-ascribed goal of shaping public memory in
Russia and of spreading a distorted view of national history—in particular of Stalinism.6
The authorities’ desire to exert their influence on historical narratives accelerated
in 2009. Sergey Shoigu, the Minister of Emergency Situations and an important fig-
ure within United Russia, suggested that it should be considered criminal to criticize
the Soviet victory. A few months later, the Regnum web portal announced that the
deputies of the presidential party would table a bill on history in the Duma that made
provisions for the creation of a civil tribunal to supervise the preservation of national
memory; it also stipulated that amendments would be made to the penal code to punish
with three-to-five-year prison terms rehabilitations of Nazism, accusations against the
Allied Forces, and misrepresentations of the Nuremberg trials’ outcome.7
The bill’s text included several ambiguities and inaccuracies, which probably partly
explain why it was not put to a vote in the Parliament. In the first place, the bill pur-
ported to be applicable not only to Russian citizens but to all citizens of the post-Soviet
states, on the pretext that they were Soviet citizens on the day that the conflict broke
out, June 22, 1941—which is legally impossible. Secondly, the bill does not target
worldwide revisionism but focuses on relations between the post-Soviet states; the text
seems to have been drafted by the Duma Committee for CIS affairs, led by Konstantin
Zatulin, close to the then-mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzhkov and known for his virulence
against Russia’s “refractory” neighbors—namely, the Baltic countries, the Ukraine, and
Georgia. Thirdly, the bill makes reference to the Nuremberg trials, but Moscow avoids
discourses that deny the trials’ conclusions, since there exist only a few extremist groups
that seek to rehabilitate the Nazi regime—and these groups are Russian as much as
Baltic or Ukrainian. In addition, the judgment contains very harsh words against the
German–Soviet pact of August 1939, although the Russian authorities are in denial in
regard to this subject; they are content to explain it as a provisional tactical maneuver,
and merely aim to quash debate on World War II.8
The bill on memory was not put to a vote of deputies, but the requests to modify
the penal code were, with no success. On May 7, 2009, President Dmitry Medvedev
announced on his blog that he had decided to create a “Commission to fight against
falsifications of history to the detriment of Russia’s interests. The commission, led by
Chief of the Presidential Administration Sergey Naryshkin, contains 28 members, all of
whom are appointed by the president, and only three of whom are historians involved
with the Academy of Sciences. The commission has restricted powers in comparison
to those envisaged in the bill that had preceded it.9 In addition, it provides no legal
definition of the term “falsification”: the key element in its title is in fact not “falsi-
fication, per se, but actions done “to the detriment of Russia’s interests.The com-
mission is therefore not designed to judge classical revisionism, such as that found in
Western Europe (for example, the denial of the existence of the gas chambers), but
“misleading” interpretations of the victory of 1945.10
Negotiating History 235
Faced with international and domestic criticisms, Naryshkin defended the commis-
sion by recalling that it did not judge historical academic works and therefore had no
censorship role, and that it only combated attempts to negate Russia’s international pres-
tige. Since its creation, the Commission has not made a show of much activism, a sign
that it was essentially about creating a symbol and an instrument that could be activated
whenever the authorities deemed it necessary to present ideological legitimization for a
political decision. However, the administrative pressures that have been put on associa-
tions such as Memorial, or on the historians that work on the Gulag, are being brought
to bear via other means than those of the commission. This was shown, for example, in
the case of Mikhail Suprun, a professor of history at Arkhangelsk’s university, who was
briefly arrested for having investigated the fate of Soviet Germans and German soldiers
imprisoned in Arkhangelsk gulags.11
Attempts by the authorities to provide a single narrative about World War II have
become increasingly frequent and take multiple forms. The main targets are public
commemorations, the academic framework, and museology. These attempts are, how-
ever, well received by the large majority of public opinion: about two-thirds of those
surveyed consider it normal that there be a single history textbook, are worried about
the multiplication of contradictory narratives and their impact on the formation of the
younger generations, and agree that those who “falsify” history should be pursued via
legal means.12 This unanimity of the interpretation of World War II can be explained
by the role that it plays in the post-Soviet social consensus in Russia. In the 1990s,
while many elements of Soviet culture were sharply questioned or rendered obsolete,
the image of the war managed to survive these contextual changes.
Today, the war’s international context has been partially erased. Not only are refer-
ences to the allies less explicit, but claims about the strictly Russian character of the
event are growing. The role of the other Soviet peoples is increasingly denied, with
claims that almost exclusively Russians actually took part in the fight.13 In addition, the
analysis of the massive Soviet losses has worked to reinforce the link between war and
suffering. The loss of men allegedly reflects the heroism of the Russian people, and is
thus exalted in spite of its human suffering. As the sociologist Lev Gudkov explains,
the “Great Patriotic War” allows individuals to talk about themselves without referring
to the state or the authorities—notions that today are perceived negatively.14 The extent
of the casualties amassed during World War II is decreasingly associated with Soviet
mismanagement and Stalin’s lack of military preparation, but is explained by Russia
having been surprised by “German aggression.”
However, the situation is more complex than it first seems: despite the regu-
lar attempts to forgive Stalin—for example, the initiative of the Moscow town
hall to put up portraits of the “people’s father” in celebration of the anniver-
sary of the victory in 2010—and the regular administrative pressure placed on
those who study Stalin’s repressions, the cult of rehabilitation has not fully taken
hold. The Russian Orthodox Church, for instance, fosters an alternative memory
in which the victims of the repression are sanctified, and even canonized—while
simultaneously cultivating its ties with the political authorities.15 In 2007, for
the 70-year commemoration of the great trials of 1937, Putin visited the site of
Butovo, a major memorial site devoted to the victims of the Stalinist purges.16 In
addition, since the election of Medvedev, more nuanced remarks have emerged
236 Demokratizatsiya
in public space: on May 7, 2010, on the eve of the commemorations, the Russian
president tried to dissociate the victory of 1945 from Stalin—relation to whom is unam-
biguously negative. He used the term totalitarianism to define the nature of the Stalinist
regime and stated that the massive organized crimes committed against his own people
“cannot be pardoned.”17
The debates regarding the figure of Stalin must therefore be separated from the
narrative about World War II; if the former give rise to contradictory statements, opinion
around the latter is unanimous. However, the president’s use of totalitarianism poten-
tially opens up the door to a debate on the date that this totalitarianism came to an end,
and its coverage over part of Europe.
Memory as Part of Foreign Policy
in the Post–Socialist World
The memory of the war displays an
international facet that cannot be forgot-
ten: the memory policy implemented in
the countries of Central Europe attack
frontally both the Soviet narrative and
the Western one. The interpretation of
World War II has, in fact, become one
of the identity matrices of the Central
European members of the European
Union, who have sought for some years
to inflect the Western European-centered interpretation of the war that figures Russia as an
ally and does not debate the transition from Nazi to Communist totalitarianism. A narrative
escalation among all actors has intensified the radical character of some of the notions being
espoused, and has transformed the debate into a component of foreign policy strategies.
From the start of the 1990s, Czechoslovakia and Poland set up so-called lustration
policies and purged the administration of figures considered to be too closely tied to the
socialist regime.18 The progressive criminalization of the Soviet Communist legacy deeply
shocked Russian public opinion, which was by no means prepared for such polemics. The
memory wars grew in magnitude with the entry of several former socialist states into the
European Union, a sign of the intrinsic link between the assertion of European identity
and a judgment on the totalitarian past of the continent.19 In 2004, Tallinn and Riga made
an official request to Moscow for damages of several hundreds of millions of dollars for
what they defined as the Soviet occupation, while the Estonian and Lithuanian presidents
refused to participate in the commemorations of the victory in Moscow on May 9, 2005.20
In the same year, a White Book was published by the Estonian State Commission on
“Examination of the Policies of Repression,” and in 2007 the Polish minister of culture
proposed removing all the statues tied to World War II that were erected during the Soviet
period. The official remembrances of the anti-Soviet resistance movements—even when
they were fought in German uniforms—have also risen in number. And, lastly, Ukraine has
tried to have the Holodomor (the Ukrainian famine of 1932–1933) recognized internation-
ally, not only as a crime against humanity but as genocide.21
The events surrounding a bronze statue in Tallinn in 2007 have played a lead-
ing role in the rise of Russian concerns about the interpretation of World War II.
“Attempts by the authorities to provide
a single narrative about World War II
have become increasingly frequent and
take multiple forms.
Negotiating History 237
They resulted from a long process of reinterpretation of history by the Estonian
authorities, as well as by Estonian nationalist associations, who push for those who
combated the Soviet troops to be actively remembered. In 2002, a monument built to the
Estonians who fought for the liberation of their country on the German side, therefore
represented in Nazi uniforms, was erected in Pärnu, then taken down and moved to Lihula,
where after an international outcry the authorities also ended up removing it. In 2007 when
the Estonian government decided to remove the eternal flame that was burning in front of
the “Liberating Soldier” and re-baptize it as the “Monument to Fallen Soldiers of World
War II,” the Russian community of Estonia came out in numbers, deeming May 9 to be its
celebration day.22 In order to avoid the bronze soldier becoming a meeting place for the
country’s Russian speakers, the authorities decided to move it from the center of the town
to a nearby military cemetery, giving rise to violent clashes between ethnic Russians and
Estonian forces that led to the death of one person on the Russian side.
For Russia, the attempts to internationalize divergent interpretations of history are imbued
with a political objective—namely, to undermine Moscow’s legitimacy on the international
scene. The twists and turns of the Vassily Kononov affair—the only Soviet soldier to have
been accused of committing a crime against humanity, sentenced by Latvian courts but
acquitted by the European Court of Human Rights23—heightened the Russian feeling that
the Baltic countries, Ukraine, and Poland were working side by side to weaken Moscow’s
position. In addition, after a bill was put forward by the Baltic countries, the Council of
Europe Parliamentary Assembly decided in 2006 to vote on Resolution 1481, called the
“Need for International Condemnation of Crimes of Totalitarian Communist Regimes.
The resolution asserts the equation between Nazism and Stalinism, and thus sharply under-
mines one of the central pillars of the Russian regime: for the Kremlin, supported by the
majority of its citizens, fascism can by no means be compared to the Communist experi-
ence. In response to this internationalization of memory wars, Russia has sponsored UN
resolutions opposing the resurgence of Nazism. In 2009, the General Assembly adopted a
draft resolution, proposed by Russia (but refused by the USA, with the majority of Euro-
pean countries abstaining), to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and relat-
ed intolerance, including attempts to heroize the Nazi movement and former Waffen SS
members and to desecrate monuments to the fighters against Nazism.24 Russia had there-
fore hoped to create international legislation that it could draw upon in future memory
wars with its neighbors.
These conflicts over memory, which are highly symbolic, have both domestic and
international dimensions. The domestic component derives from memory’s shaping of
the state identity—which is under permanent reconstruction—and the consensus within
society. For Estonia, the gap between the informational worlds in which the Estonian
and Russian communities live, within in the same country, is one of the key drivers of
the conflict over historical symbols.25 The international component comes from the fact
that a commonly shared European memory is supposedly at stake here—which is, in fact,
paradoxical. For Russia, the USSR cannot be accused of having accelerated Europe’s total
war on the pretext of the German–Soviet pact: for Moscow, the pact is at best the equiva-
lent of the Munich Agreement, but is not a Soviet–German alliance for carving up some
European states. Similarly, in Russian public opinion, the totalitarian interpretations of the
Communist regime, which place it in comparison to Nazism, are illegitimate, both
in principle (the “nature” of the two regimes is not the same), and historically
238 Demokratizatsiya
(Communism combatted fascism, and paid a heavy price in terms of human lives); the
entry of the Baltic states into the Soviet Union in 1939/1945 cannot be considered as an
occupation subject to legal sanctions. Hence, in June 2010, the Russian lawmaker Kon-
stantin Kosachev explicitly stated the fundamental contradiction of the Russian Federation,
maintaining that it fulfills all the international obligations of the USSR as its successor
state but does not recognize any moral responsibility or any legal obligations for crimes
committed by the Soviet authorities.26
For the Central European states, the conventional narrative on the “victory” of 1945—
shared by both Western Europe and Moscow—entirely obliterates the lived experience of
the region, which saw itself as being passed from one form of totalitarianism to another.27
The states thus request to be recognized fully within the construction of European memory,
and therefore raise the question of the place of Russia within Europe. By drawing a paral-
lel between the Soviet experience and the Nazi regime, Russia no longer appears as the
liberator of Europe, which both weakens the legitimacy of its claim to be able to participate
in the affairs of the continent and opens up the path to a severe symbolic undermining of
its Europeanness. Seen from Moscow’s perspective, these memory stakes are therefore
Shaping Domestic Memory: Bringing Up the Youth
These memory debates take place in a Russian domestic context that is more and more
affected by the will of the authorities to control so-called civil society and to shape youth
orientations.28 During the Soviet period, the authorities regularly expressed concern about
the lack of youth politicization. The youth was considered to be the least reliable of the
regime’s age brackets, and the one through which Western influences were most likely to
infuse society as a whole. In the 1990s, youth political movements were rare and seemed
confined to the extreme fringes of far right or Soviet nostalgia: Zhirinovsky’s Falcons
claimed to have nearly 30,000 sympathizers, the Communist Youth Union counted nearly
40,000 members, and the Avant-Garde of Red Youth had about 6,000 militants.29 With the
exception of the National Bolshevik Party, the other parties and movements were little
interested in the youth, considering them apolitical.
This situation first changed during the 1999–2000 elections, when the Kremlin decided
to found a presidential party and to assume more open control of associative groups. In
2000–2001, a movement called “Walking Together” (Idushchie Vmeste, i.e., with Putin)
was formed whose ideological orientation consisted essentially in supporting the presi-
dential figure. With the catharsis of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004, Russian
political circles reacted with alarm at the capacity of a peaceful social movement to
topple established powers. The role of youth movements in the “colored revolutions” was
widely discussed in the media and extensively analyzed by circles of political advisors.30
Parties opposed to Vladimir Putin also came to think they might transform the youth into
a force for change, basing their strategies on those of coalitions such as Otpor in Serbia,
Kmara in Georgia, and Pora in Ukraine. Thus, movements were formed such as Defense,
which gathered together the youth of the Union of Right Forces; Change, a group affili-
ated with the oppositional Other Russia; Yabloko; and various ecological and human rights
Having coincided with the “colored revolutions,” the promotion of a state-centered
patriotism that specifically targets the youth is considered by the Kremlin to be a matrix
Negotiating History 239
of political stability. Its patriotic agenda focuses on the three driving forces of consensus:
first, the rehabilitation of symbols of the fatherland and of institutionalized historical
memory, which in large part intersects, albeit not completely, with the memory of the
Soviet Union; second, the instrumentalization of Orthodoxy to build symbolic capital;
and third, militarized programs of patriotic education designed for the young. In 2001, the
Kremlin instructed the Duma to vote on the first state program for the “patriotic education
of the citizens of the Russian Federation for 2001–2005.” The text of the second program,
whose mandate spanned from 2006 to 2010, hoped to “make the patriotic consciousness
of Russian citizens one of the most important values, one of the foundations of moral and
spiritual unity” and to make patriotism
the “spiritual backbone” of the coun-
try.32 The third program was adopted
at the end of 2010, and given a budget
of $25 million.33 Like the two preced-
ing programs, it focuses mainly on the
memory of the Soviet Union—espe-
cially its involvement in World War II.
The Kremlin has also sought to take
advantage of this dynamic to transform
the youth into a resource for social
mobilization, a tactic designed both
to demonstrate that the younger gen-
eration’s apolitical posture has ceased
and to prevent its involvement in oppositional revolutions.34 This was the role attributed to
Nashi (Ours), which has become the most visible pro-presidential youth movement in the
domestic and international arena; while the presidential party United Russia also formed its
own youth movement, the Youth Guard (Molodaia Gvardiya), and other groups connected
to local powers were structured at the regional or municipal levels—for instance, Young
Russia (Molodaia Rossiya) in Moscow. Nashi reported to have about 100,000 supporters
in 2008 (with about 8,000 regular activists).35 Its aim has been to channel the youth’s
desires for change and their growing feelings of generational conflict. The movement thus
defines “Our revolution” (playing on the double meaning of our, as a possessive adjective
and as membership in the movement) as a renewal of the political elite by youth starved
of control of the country. Nashi maintains a virulent critique of politicians and deputies,
including those of United Russia, but proclaims its unfailing loyalty to the president and
the prime minister.36
Taking the Komsomols as model, the movement organizes many social actions
as part of what it calls a “politics of small acts”: visiting orphanages and retire-
ment homes, bringing together children and aged persons, giving aid to the handi-
capped, providing recreational activities for adolescents in socially disadvantaged
neighborhoods, participating in the restoration of churches, and giving aid to
libraries. Nashi does not hide its moral conservatism. It has announced strug-
gles against alcoholism, drug use, and “uncontrolled sex”; has launched cam-
paigns against bikinis on beaches and abortions; has promoted marriage,
heterosexuality, and large families; and has encouraged respect for social, religious
and military hierarchies. But further still, Nashi organizes political lobbyism in
“The promotion of a state-centered
patriotism that specifically targets the
youth is considered by the Kremlin to
be a matrix of political stability.
240 Demokratizatsiya
favor of the youth and serves as a social elevator for its members, who gain possible
career-development options through internships with major state-run companies and
the administration.37
The pro-presidential youth movements have been through many upheavals during their
brief existences. Heavily instrumentalized during the 2007 election campaign, they were
partially removed from media attention after 2008, as the authorities grew concerned by a
lack of control over them and their contestatory character. Nashi was swiftly denounced,
including by the official media, for engaging in “hooligan activities,” and underwent
a major reorganization that limited its autonomy. Its main leaders, including Vassily
Yakemenko, were nominated to the State Youth Committee, and its contestatory potential
was defused. Today, these pro-Kremlin movements continue to occupy the youth scene,
in a manner that is less ostentatious but perhaps more durable, thanks to their growing
number of activities and increases in state financing. They remain in a grey zone, since
they have privileged access to public financing, but are also under suspicion for being too
radical in their anti-Westernism, which presents a problem for the brand that the Kremlin
is trying to promote abroad.
Memory Wars in the Near Abroad: Russia’s Europeanness at Stake
Paradoxical Matrices of Youth Patriotism
A central component of the Nashi project is to develop a “nationally oriented civism”38
among the young generations. It takes up, on its own behalf, the argumentation of the
Kremlin, according to which the constitution prohibits all state ideology—but, never-
theless, there is no state without an idea of statehood/nationhood. Nashi’s narrative on
Russian identity is thus built on three primary references: first, the friendship of peoples’
pathos; second, anti-fascism; and, third, World War II. Between all of these elements, the
contradictions and paradoxes are numerous. The reference to the “friendship of peoples,”
stamped by the Soviet tradition of essentializing so-called ethnic differences, is combined
with xenophobic statements against the allegedly inappropriate behavior of migrants
toward Russian culture.39 The same ambiguities crop up with Molodaia Gvardiya, which
has denounced the xenophobic violence of the skinheads but also orchestrated demon-
strations against migrants.40 As for it, “fascism” is used as a global term, not linked to
historical fascism or even to Nazism, and turns out to be a defamatory catch-all category
for Islamic fundamentalism, terrorism, the nationalism of the other peoples of Russia,
skinhead violence, and Vladimir Putin’s political opponents—ranging from Eduard
Limonov to Gennadi Ziuganov, Dmitri Rogozin and Garry Kasparov.
The Nashi manifesto reveals other paradoxes, both in relation to the established
elites and to history. The movement thinks of itself as future-oriented, since it holds
that the new generation’s mission is to give life to what it calls “megaproject Russia,”
consisting of making Russia the global leader of the 21st century.41 At the same time,
several passages of the manifesto focus on history, whose interpretation is seen to clarify
the present and create the future. Nashi’s interpretation of history is paradoxical, combin-
ing openness and closeness. It underscores three key periods, which are celebrated for the
unity, stability, and great power they give to Russia: first, medieval Muscovy shut off from
Western influence; second, the Russia of Peter the Great and Catherine the Second, opened
Negotiating History 241
onto the world; and third, the Soviet Union from Stalin to Brezhnev, after the troubles of
the 1920s–1930s and before those of the 1980s. Similar paradoxes emerge in geopoliti-
cal terms: Russia is celebrated as being the “geographical centre of the world economic
system,42 yet Nashi’s publications present a vision of Russia as a country encircled by
external and internal enemies that are working in concert to destroy it.43
Nashi’s manifesto claims that Russia has been a leader of world history on three
occasions: in 1917, 1945, and 1991. Each occasion is defined in positive terms: the
installation of a Communist regime is to have accelerated Russia’s modernization and
the progression of socialist ideas in the world; the result of the Russian victory over
fascism was “the idea of the right of each people to independent development”;44
and the disappearance of the USSR has permitted a public recognition of individual
freedom. Once again, the historical contradictions underlying interpretations of the
Soviet past are overcome via the notion of a reconciliation of opposites. If individual
freedom is glorified as the founding principle both of the new Russia and the Nashi
movement, the manifesto also insists that personal freedom is possible only insofar
as a state is free from external influence and sovereign democracy is established. The
legal training that Nashi offers to some of its members contains a similar paradox:
the program mentions not only some delicate subjects—such as the rights of army
conscripts and the relationship between citizens and the security services—but also
states that “it hopes to show to all the defenders of human rights … that one can work
without being subject to orders from the West, by looking for solutions that come
from within Russia. [And that] subordination to external influence can be avoided
by discarding cosmopolitan theories and cleaving to the experience of Russia and of
the peoples living in it. Such is the sure path to decreasing Western influence and to
preserving the country’s sovereignty.45
In keeping with the Kremlin’s curriculum of patriotic education, one of the movement’s
priorities is quite naturally to facilitate reconciliation between the youth and the army.
Its reconciliation campaign is conducted as part of a program called “Our army,” (Nasha
armiya), which organizes a multitude of activities: leaflet-drops to relate details about
army life; meetings between military personnel and youths of call-up age; and tactical
paramilitary games designed to make the army attractive to young men by pointing up its
access to technology, cutting-edge vehicles, weapons handling, and martial arts training. At
Yaroslavl, the Nashi team has offered training sessions involving shooting at targets
that depict the leaders of the Other Russia.46 However, the movement remains conscious
of the key problems that cause young conscripts to flee, as is shown in its plea, thus
far refused by the armed forces, to establish Nashi cells in military units in order to
counter hazing (dedovshchina). Some Nashi members also wish to promote Orthodoxy.
However, the religion issue is a sensitive one: foregrounding Orthodoxy occupies a
marginal place among the movement’s multiple activities and is reserved only for their
professional activists. Nashi’s aim on religious matters is nevertheless clearly formu-
lated: “To show to all those from 16 to 26 years of age that Orthodoxy is not the religion
of the old and of losers.”47 The religious education program offered by Nashi, validated
personally by the Patriarch (first Aleksiy II and then Kirill), provides for a modern-
ized presentation of Orthodoxy—one that does not get bogged down in holy texts, but
shows that faith also permits social engagement and therefore professional success.
Orthodoxy is valorized as an element of identity and not as a transcendental principle.
242 Demokratizatsiya
The Great Patriotic War: A Mirror for Today’s Challenges
Nashi cultivates Soviet nostalgia. Its website is registered under the “.su” (Soviet Union)
domain, and several organizational terms are borrowed from the Soviet register. For
instance, those with positions of political responsibility in the organization are called
“commissars.The majority of patriotic activities offered are linked to remembrance of
World War II: restoring soldiers’ tombs and monuments dedicated to the war organizing
commemorations of the main battles, hosting regular meetings with veterans, making
memorial trips to the sites of great battles, and so on.48 Each year, the commemoration of
May 9 comprises one of Nashi’s most media-driven events. Called Nasha Pobeda (Our
Victory), it gathers several tens of thousands of activists, and in 2010 aimed to symbolize
the passing of the flame from the war veterans with the central slogan “Remember the
War, Preserve the Fatherland!”49
The Great Patriotic War is endowed with a sacred character, and thought of as a total
event, in the sense where no nuance of interpretation or partial reading is accepted without
undermining the grand narrative. Nashi’s sacralizing of war is accompanied by the feeling
of losing contact with the vital force of this remembrance—namely veterans, whose ranks
are thinning. The attempt begun in 2010 to preserve the personalization of the war by
filming the last remaining veterans will not make it possible to avoid a profound undermin-
ing, in the years to come, of the way in which the cult of the war is passed on to younger
generations in Russia. The movement thus combines collective methods of action directly
inherited from the Komsomols while trying to modernize the acts of public mourning at
the level of technology.50 The war is also conceived as the embodiment of the nation, hence
the heavily symbolic activities organized by Nashi—such as the opening of a small World
War II museum at Grozny in 2006, which is supposed to embody Chechnya’s “return”
within the Russian nation.51
The war takes its place amid a historical conceptualization that is marked by strong gen-
erational conflicts. While the 1990s were largely decried by Nashi—which views the decade
as a period of state failure, of non-defense of national interests, and of hypocrisy from the
elites as regards the transition to the market economy and democracy52—the war years,
and more broadly the Soviet decades of the second half of the 20th century, are positively
evaluated. One historical time is thus superimposed onto another, and enables a link to be
drawn between World War II and Putin’s Russia by presenting the 1990s as a simple histori-
cal “parenthesis.” Indeed, Nashi insists on a parallel between World War II and the alleged
threat of dismemberment currently weighing on Russia. This historical transposition is direct
and unambiguous: with the mission to rejuvenate Russia, the younger generations cast them-
selves as part of the heroic heritage of the war veterans, while the enemies of contemporary
Russia are cast as part of the Nazi heritage. Each year, Nasha Pobeda is thus accompanied
by statements about the need to “continue the fight against those who want the downfall of
Russia,defined by Nashi as the “opponents of modernization, corrupted liberals, fascists,
those media which publish lies and terrorist declarations, and the falsifiers of history.53
The tendency to amalgamate all opponents into a single category, creating the
impression of an immense conspiracy with multiple ramifications both within the country
and abroad, forms one of the underpinnings of Nashi political discourse. “Falsifiers of
history” are accused by name: Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko; Estonian prime
minister Andrus Ansip; Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili; Russian journalist human
rights activist and editor-in-chief of Prima Alexander Podrabrinek, after he denounced the
Negotiating History 243
Soviet past as bloody and shameful; and popular writer Viktor Suvorov (Rezin).54 What
emerges clearly from this list is the eminently political character of the “falsification of
history” narrative. Targeted are those countries of the Near Abroad that are refractory to
Russian influence and with which relations are difficult. Viktor Suvorov, denounced as a
“traitor of the fatherland,can also be added to this list of external enemies; a former Soviet
military man exiled in Great Britain, he has published pop-history bestsellers accusing
Stalin of having escalated tensions in Europe by providing economic and military support
to Hitler, and has claimed that the USSR was just as responsible for the war as Germany
In 2010, the demonstrations of Nashi against the “falsifiers of history” called upon
activists to come with the decried works in hand, and the event almost took on the
appearance of a book-burning. The eminently demonstrative character of Nashi actions
constitutes one of its strengths, as it has managed to capture media attention and its
provocative acts have won over many young people. But it has also drawn concern from
the authorities, whose leaders do not find such acts amusing.
The Near Abroad, a Battlefield for Memory
Remembrance of the Great Patriotic War has taken its place at the summit of a pantheon
that is more political than historical, in which dominate the actions of Nashi against
Kosovo’s independence, NATO’s eastward expansion, Georgia’s military operation in
South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and so on. One of the matrix elements of this focus on war is
the memory conflict with the Baltic countries that materialized around the bronze solider
statue in Tallinn. Nashi has tried to galvanize public opinion and the Russian authorities
by means of highly symbolic and mediatic actions: a one-week blockade of the Estonian
embassy in Moscow; the launching of a popular quest to finance the resettlement of the
bronze soldier in front of the embassy; a request to rename the street where the embassy
is situated after the young Russian who died in the Tallinn riots, Dmitri Ganin; a call to
boycott Estonian products;56 and the sending of young Russians in World War II uniforms
to Tynismiagi square to serve as “living monuments” to the memory of the war.57 These
events worked to confirm the heavily symbolic character of Nashi’s patriotism, which
grants strategic importance to modifications of the urban landscape, architectural heritage,
and toponymy. Thus, the debates have crystallized around questions of urban development
(the question of moving of the soldier to another part of the town), relegating to the shad-
ows the real historical polemics linked to the qualification of the 1939/1941–1991 period
as a Soviet “occupation” or “invasion.
All of the pro-presidential movements, Nashi and Molodaia Gvardiya in the lead, have
concentrated on denouncing so-called Estonian fascism. Each of their websites devotes
one of its pages to this issue,58 and much wordplay has been crafted for the occasion—
such as, for example, “eSStonian” and “Andrus AnSSip”—while expressions such as
“state vandalism” or “state fascism” have become widespread throughout the rest of public
opinion and gained a certain notoriety.59 The communications strategies of the youth move-
ments around this Tallin event have been rather successful, but have also had unforeseen
consequences. The illegal entry of Nashi youth into Estonian territory in Soviet military
uniforms merited their being arrested, expelled, and above all prohibited from having a
Schengen visa for ten years.60 Where the Kremlin flaunts pro-European discourses, Nashi’s
contestatory behavior toward one of the EU member states has damaged the Kremlin’s
244 Demokratizatsiya
political correctness and contributed to the partial discrediting of the movement among
the ruling elite.
The pro-presidential youth movements also distinctly target Ukraine, especially as the
Orange Revolution played a key role in their structuring as “anti-orange movements.61 Thus,
the patriotic group Stal’ (steel), a sub-branch of the Nashi that calls for more direct action on
the streets and whose name alludes to Stalin, protested against the attempt of the Ukrainian
authorities to declare Stepan Bandera, head of the Organization of Ukrainian nationalists
during World War II, a national hero.62 Nashi set up a web page specifically devoted to the
fight against the “falsification of history” in Ukrainian school textbooks: they protested
not only against the image of a bureaucratic and criminal Russia—judged responsible for
the famine of the 1930s—but also revived old historiographical debates about the identity
of Kievian Rus’, disputed to be the first state of the Russians, the Ukrainians, and/or the
For a period of many years, Georgia has been decried for its anti-Russian
geopolitical posturing and its attraction to NATO: during the conflict of August
2008, Nashi integrally reproduced the official version of events, just as did Rus-
sian public opinion, revealing its delight at Moscow’s military victory, at the
“liberation” of the South Ossetians and Abkhazians in danger of “genocide,” and
at the international discrediting of Mikhail Saakashvili. In 2009, the focus gradu-
ally shifted onto the question of memory. On December 21, 2009—the birthday of
Saakashvili—the Georgian authorities destroyed the Memorial of Glory that was built
in Kutaisi to commemorate the victory of 1945, officially for urban improvement.
This event shocked Russian public opinion and both Nashi and Molodaia Gvardiya
produced reams of commentary about it. The youth movements also criticized the
Georgian historical narrative at the time of the erection of a monument to the 3,500
Georgians who died for independence: those who in 1918 fell in combat against the
Red Army, those who fell in 1924 during the uprising against Soviet power, and those
who fell in summer 2008 during the Russia-Georgia War.64 In 2010, Molodaia Gvard-
iya attached great importance to the erection of a similar monument to that of Kutaisi
in Moscow, intended to represent the memory war with Tbilisi.65
In 2010, these memory wars shifted to Moldova, which had announced the creation of a
Commission of Judgment on the Communist past.66 The decision was made by the presi-
dent of the parliament and interim president Mikhai Gimpu, whose eminently domestic
aim was to fight against the powerful Moldovan Communist party of Vladimir Voronin.
Claiming that he remained in the framework of the above-mentioned Council of Europe
resolution, Gimpu also decided to deem June 28 the “day of memory for victims of the
Soviet occupation.” As a result, several representatives of Molodaya Gvardiya went to
Kishinau to organize conferences about the “falsification of history.Moldovan history
textbooks were thus accused of glorifying the Romanian dictator Ion Antonescu, of valo-
rizing the fascist groups of the 1930s, and of presenting Moldova as the fatherland since
time immemorial of uniquely Romanian-speaking populations, with no room for Slavic
ones. The suspicion was put forward that Mikhai Gimpu’s unique goals were to gain entry
to the EU, to have NATO military bases installed on Moldavian territory, and to mark his
“first steps toward the repression of Russophile sentiments in the republic.67 The youth
movements thus played an external support role for domestic political forces, the authori-
ties of Pridnestrovie and the Russian Orthodox Church, all of which objected to these
Negotiating History 245
rewritings in terms of identity. They also had the support of the Institute of the Diaspora and
Integration, and were financed by the the- mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzhkov.68
In 2009, the 70th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact also incited Nashi and
Molodaia Gvardiya to discuss this event. While Nashi remained very reserved in its
remarks, United Russia youth movement went so far as to organize a conference with
the aim of “preserving historical memory and countering attempts to falsify history.”69 In
doing so, its aim was to challenge the OSCE resolution, which the movement claimed was
signed “under the dictates of the [same] countries that validated the Munich Agreement
of 1938,” and to rise up in protest against the bill to make August 23 a day for honoring
victims of Nazism and Stalinism. Molodaia Gvardiya’s point of view replicates the official
positions of the Russian state. As such, its members also participated in the official com-
memoratory celebrations in Katyn, recognizing that the massacre was organized by the
Soviet and not the Nazi armies, a viewpoint that, for example, Communist youth continues
to reject.70
Discussing the Issue of Ideological Borders and Mobilization Mechanisms
Several elements of this analysis would merit further investigation, in particular the diffi-
culty in perceiving the ideological borders and the differences in mobilization mechanisms
that distinguish so-called extremist movements from official currents.
Nashi and the other pro-presidential movements share common traits with the most
radical and self-avowedly anti-establishment movements. They share, for instance, mecha-
nisms for direct street action and a passionate commitment to ideological struggle, yet they
distinguish themselves in that they offer their members prospects for social promotion
and political careers that the opposition movements cannot. This challenges prevailing
assumptions about the organizational bases of extremist movements and their relationship
to mainstream politics. A sociological analysis of transfers from one movement to another
would likely reveal similar mechanisms of engagement; indeed, cross-belongings that, for
example, go from the skinhead movements to Nashi, and vice versa, do appear to exist.71
Among the unifying themes shared both by the Kremlin-backed youth and oppositional
movements, that of the “information war” being waged against Russia is extremely wide-
spread. All the youth movements are sensitive to the role played by images and narratives
in the construction of a Russian “brand,and are convinced that the Soviet Union, fol-
lowed by Russia, has lost the image war against the West many times.72 The fact that the
countries with which the memory wars are the fiercest are also those that support NATO’s
eastward expansion and militate for the European Union to be more offensive in relation to
Moscow, heightens the feeling of geopolitical encirclement and containment in the name of
historical interpretation. The youth movement Stal’ has, for instance, made its main objec-
tive to “develop pro-Russian networks abroad, with the goal of creating a positive image
of Russia, and this will give us a strategic superiority. We will change the world, turning
ignorance and incomprehension of Russia into respect and even into a fashion for it.”73
The question of Russia’s autonomy is also central and experienced as an emotional
commitment by all youth groups, regardless of their political positioning. The texts
published by the youth movements about the “the falsification of history” elaborate at length
on their feelings that foreign countries are interfering in the writing of history, a key element
of national sovereignty that abides no presence from abroad. The financing of historical
works thanks to Western foundations is therefore heavily criticized: for Stal’, the aim of this
246 Demokratizatsiya
financing is to “convince the whole world, including us, that our people is not autonomous
(nesamosostoiatelen) and has no right not only to participate in global leadership, but not
even to the autonomous development of its own freedom and its own natural resources.”74
The equating of an eminently economic question—the Russian state’s control over its natu-
ral resources—and the interpretation of World War II reveals the prism through which his-
tory is viewed. As it is formulated by the Stal’ movement, “the victory in the Great Patriotic
War is the foundation of the contemporary sovereignty of the Russian Federation.75 With
sovereignty being understood as a driver of the Europeanness of Russia, the interpretation
of history is therefore formulated in terms of state security and relation to Europe.
The complex relationship between the “imperial paradigm” and the “post-Yalta order”
must also be questioned. If the end of World War II spelled the abandon—more or less
consensual or conflictual—of the colonial system by Western Europe, for Russia the link
created is more complex, and has considerable domestic implications. The world views
promoted by Nashi reject any reinterpretation of the post-Yalta order and posit as unques-
tionable given the historical legitimacy of the USSR in its incorporating the Baltic states
and Bessarabia into its borders and in instituting a socialist bloc of brother countries. Fur-
ther, today it also denies the autonomy of the independent states to write their own history
of the 20th century. The Nashi viewpoint, therefore, indirectly implies the illegitimacy of
the new states’ sovereignty and of their historical narrative, and instead confirms Russia’s
right to oversee them in the name of its former imperial domination. To deny the interpre-
tation of 1945 as a victory would thus go hand-in-hand with some sort of contemporary
political and identity illegitimacy. This parallel would merit further discussion in order to
highlight the ideological articulations between exiting from the imperial tradition, shap-
ing the memory of the continent in the 20th century, and articulating the Europeanness
of Russia.
These youth movements are thus part of the mainstream—that of a political and dis-
cursive cotinuum linking them to more extremist youth movements, as well as to the
Patriarchate, the secessionist movements in Moldova, Georgia or the Ukraine, and the
commercial and corporate dynamics in force in Russian political life. They also reproduce
the Kremlin’s own ambiguities: they express both the Russian state’s claims to European-
ness and its refusal to adhere to what it considers to be an EU dictate; its celebration of
the emergence of the Communist regime and of the end of the Soviet Union; its appeal to
human rights as the normative concept and its practice promoting an “autonomy of civili-
zation” (sovereign democracy); its will for legality and its providing support to secessionist
movements in the so-called post-Soviet “frozen conflicts”; a cult of personal commitment
to an ideological goal and career strategies or defense of corporate interests.
The contradictions inherent to the youth movements, and to the narratives and strategies
by which they insert themselves in public space, reveal their acceptance of the evolutions
of the Russian social and cultural landscapes. Even as they endorse the importance of
collective action, the young activists of Nashi and Molodaia Gvardiya deploy
individualist logic pertaining to private self-realization, the quest for professional success,
the link between personal happiness, and the pride of being Russian. Ambitions to change
the world are directly articulated with the political and economic future of the country;
the motto is that anything is possible provided one gives oneself the means to do it:
Negotiating History 247
“We can create Russia such as we envisage it.76 Thus, these groups do not challenge the
principles of the liberal reforms of the 1990s, but only the way in which they have been
applied. The narrative they use to justify their social action even claims to be grounded in
the idea that people should be independent of the state—that is, no longer be “assisted”
by the former Soviet welfare state. These youth movements are therefore Soviet-neoliberal
hybrids, as Julie Hemment has very rightly called them.77
These youth movements are thus obliged to combine modes of action that are linked
to counterculture protests (street actions, provocations, carnivalistic strategies, humor,
sometimes passing over into illegality) and to support the authorities, who are themselves
much more prudent and concerned to uphold “political correctness.” They promote an
explosive mixture of Soviet nostalgia, focused on past greatness and the victory of 1945,
with calls for Russia to assume a leading role in the 21st century and be at the forefront
of globalization. Their actions against the “falsification of history” are almost entirely
connected with the Near Abroad. They conduct very few debates about domestic “falsifi-
ers,” who incite less mobilization among the youths than does the idea of a supposed threat
to state sovereignty. Nashi is therefore continually grappling with the conflict between
Russia’s international integration and the protection of its national autonomy. The appar-
ent inconsistencies of its narratives reprise those of the Kremlin, and do not appear as a
factor hampering political mobilization—to the contrary, in fact, since the multiplicity
and flexibility of narratives makes it possible to speak to the vast majority of people. The
interpretation of history is thus posited as a powerful mechanism of mobilization and of
consensus, but the support of the authorities has also proven to be a central element, as
these youth groups need both to cultivate their counterculture image and to receive the
support of the Kremlin, without which they would probably not exist. They have to manage
their dependency upon the political authorities, a dependency that they refuse to accept
fully since they see themselves as the spontaneous expression of a youth culture.
Behind the question of sovereignty, which seems to constitute one of the matrices of
youth-group narratives, resides that of Russia’s Europeanness. The discourses on the return
of great power, the desire to become one of the world’s leaders of the 21st century, and the
theme of “Orthodox/Slavic civilization,” are paradoxically part of a will to assert a specific
form of Europeanness: its common cultural and philosophical references, its modern and
developed society, the universalism of its values, and its right to have a say in the affairs
of the rest of the world. However, this Europeanness is not that of the European Union
and the normative character of this latter is refused. For the youth movements, the sudden
competition over Europeanness with the former allies of the socialist bloc is comprehended
as disloyal, and raises the specter of a backward, barbaric and dangerous Russia that has no
place in Europe. By accepting the intrusion of narratives from Central and Eastern Europe
that undermine the “victory” of 1945, the European Union is charged with adopting a
Russophobic stance, such that Moscow seems to be alone in continuing to uphold the
authentic European values contained in the “victory against Fascism. 78
The recognition that the pluralism of memories does not undermine state legitimacy,
or collective belonging, involves a long process of learning on which Europe has worked
for many centuries. The growing circulation of national imaginaries and historical narra-
tives presumes that the memories of World War II in Europe be recognized as multiple,
even when the sentiment is dominant that two narratives stand in complete contradic-
tion with one another, such as those of the Soviet regime as liberator and as aggressor.
248 Demokratizatsiya
An ambiguous successor of the USSR, the legitimacy of the Russian state in relation
to its own public opinion—as well as to other countries—is founded on the fact of its
being a liberator of Europe, not its aggressor. Resentment against Europe, which itself is
nonetheless also valued positively in numerous everyday practices, is therefore a matrix
for these young identities. Their Russian narrative on the Great Patriotic War comes
into competition with a European narrative on World War II, which tends to distance
itself from the Russian version to the extent that the states of Central Europe deflect in
favor of making an equation between the two totalitarianisms of the 20th century. For
the youth movements—and in this case, they are in sync with Russian public opinion
and the Kremlin’s strategies—the issue of historical responsibility cannot be raised if it
means putting into question that narrative that shapes collective and individual identity.
Moreover, they consider that Russian memory-construction is by no means obliged to
adapt itself to the European framework—but that it does not aim to present itself as
outside of it, either.
1. Lev Gudkov, “Istoriya v soznaniy nashikh grazhdan ostaetsia sovetskoi,Novye izvestiya,
October 19, 2010, available at (accessed January
14, 2011).
2. I would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their very useful comments.
3. Marlene Laruelle, In the Name of the Nation: Nationalism and Politics in contemporary Russia
(New York: Palgrave/MacMillan, 2009): 120-125.
4. Vladimir V. Putin, “Poslanie Federal’nomu Sobraniyu Rossiyskoi Federatsiy,”,
April 25, 2005, available at
4type82634_87049.shtml (accessed November 12, 2007).
5. David Wedgwood Benn, “The Teaching of History in Present-Day Russia,Europe-Asia Stud-
ies 62, no. 1 (2010): 173-177; and Miguel Vázquez Liñán, “History as a propaganda tool in Putin’s
Russia,” Communist and Post-Communist Studies 43, no. 2 (2010): 167-178.
6. Irina Lagunina, “Ataki na Memorial i alternativnaia istoriya,”, December 11,
2008, available at (accessed January
6, 2011).
7. Nikolay Kolosov, “The debate in Russia over the ‘history’ laws,” Liberté Pour L’histoire, July
5, 2009, available at
(accessed January 6, 2011); and Nikolay Kolosov, “Does Russia need a memory law?,” Open
Democracy, June 16, 2010, available at
does-russia-need-memory-law (accessed January 14, 2011).
8. Nikolay Kolosov, “Istoriya i pravosudie. Kak istoricheskaia politika pytaetsia prikryt’sia Niu-
rnbergom,”, April 26, 2010, available at
html (accessed January 6, 2011).
9. Decree No. 549, “O Komissiy pri Prezidente Rossiyskoi Federatsiy po protivodeistviyu popyt-
kam fal’sifikatsiy istoriy v ushcherb interesam Rossiy.”
10. Mikhail Zakharov, “Kommissia protiv istoriy,, May 19, 2009, http://www.polit.
ru/country/2009/05/19/history.html (accessed January 8, 2011).
11. Luke Harding, “Russian historian arrested in clampdown on Stalin era,” The Guardian,
October 15, 2009, available at
rian-arrested, (accessed January 8, 2011).
12. “Boiazn’ proshlogo,” Vedomosti, October 22, 2009, available at
newspaper/article/2009/10/22/217043 (accessed January 7, 2011).
Negotiating History 249
13. Lev Gudkov, “‘Pamiat’o voine i massovaia identichnost’ rossiyan,” in Pamiat’ o voine 60 let
spustia: Rossiya, Germaniya, Evropa (Moscow: NLO, 2005): 83-103.
14. Lev Gudkov, “Pobeda v voine: k sotsiologiy odnogo natsional’nogo simvola,” in Lev Gudkov,
Negativnaia identichnost’: Stati 1997-2002 gg. (Moscow: NLO, 2004), p. 39.
15. Zoe Knox, Russian Society and the Orthodox Church (London: Routledge, 2005).
16. S. Kishkovsky, “Putin visits memorial to victims of Stalinist Great Terror, International
Herald Tribune, October 30, 2007, available at
shtm (accessed November 26, 2007). On Butovo, see Kathy Rousselet, “Butovo. La création d’un
lieu de pèlerinages sur une terre de massacres,Politix, 77 (2007): 55-78.
17. “Dmitri Medvedev: ‘Prestupleniyam Stalina protiv sobstvennogo naroda net proshcheniya,, May 7, 2010, available at (accessed January 8,
18. Roman David, “Lustration Laws in Action: The Motives and Evaluation of Lustration Policy
in Czech Republic and Poland (1989-2001),” Law & Social Inquiry 28, no. 2 (2003): 387-439.
19. On the Letton case, see Eva-Clarita Onken, “Ot istoriy osvobozhdeniya k istoriy okkupatsiy.
Vospriatie Vtoroi mirovoi voiny i pamiat’ o nee v Latviy posle 1945 goda,” in Pamiat’ o voine 60
let spustia. Rossiya, Germaniya, Evropa, pp. 436-451.
20. Eva-Clarita Onken, “The Baltic States and Moscow’s 9 May Commemoration: Analysing
Memory Politics in Europe, Europe-Asia Studies 59, no. 1 (2007): pp. 23-46.
21. The crime against humanity was accepted by the European Parliament, the Parliamentary
Assembly of the Council of Europe, the OSCE and the UN General Assembly, but the accusation of
genocide was rejected by the majority of states and international bodies, and only a dozen countries
recognized it, including Georgia.
22. Heiko Pääbo, “ War of Memories: Explaining ‘Memorials War’ in Estonia,” Baltic Security
& Defense Review 10 (2008): 5-28.
23. “ Latvian war crime case overturned on technicality,The Baltic Times, July 25, 2008, avail-
able at (accessed May 23, 2011).
24. See the Russian viewpoint in Remarks by Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Alex-
ander Yakovenko at Press Conference at Interfax News Agency, Moscow, September 19, 2008,
available at (accessed
January 16, 2011).
25. See the ongoing research on the Politics of Memory in the Baltic countries by Daina Eglitis
and Laura Ardava.
26. Konstantin Kosachev, “Sovetskaia li Rossiya?,” Ekho Moskvy, June 29, 2010, available at (accessed January 16, 2011).
27. Timothy Snyder, “The Historical Reality of Eastern Europe,East European Politics and
Societies 23, no. 1(2009): 11.
28. Graeme Robertson, “Managing Society: Protest, Civil Society, and Regime in Putin’s Russia,
Slavic Review 68, no. 3 (2009): 528-547.
29. More details in I. Iakovlev, Iu. Ryshkina, and E. Loskutova (eds.), Molodezhnye politicheskie
organizatsiy: Programmy i liudi (Moscow: Panorama, 2007).
30. Especially in publications of the Evropa publishers, close to United Russia.
31. Several books have been published in Russian on this subject. See, for instance, Pavel Danilin,
Novaya molodezhnaia politika 2003-2005 (Moscow: Evropa, 2006); Viktor Savel’ev, Goriachaia
molodezh’ Rossiy: Lidery, organizatsiy i dvizheniya, taktika ulichnykh bitv, kontakty (Moscow:
Kvanta, 2006); and O.M. Karpenko, and I.A. Lamanov, Molodezh v sovremennom politicheskom
protsesse v Rossiy (Moscow: Sovremennaia gumanitarnaia akademiya, 2006).
32. On the patriotic programs, see Marlene Laruelle, In the Name of the Nation: Nationalism and Poli-
tics in contemporary Russia, 175-180, and Valerie Sperling, “The last Refuge of a Scoundrel: Patriotism,
Militarism and the Russian National Idea,Nations and Nationalism 9, no. 2 (2003): 235-253.
33. See
q-2011-2015-q&catid=86:-2011-2015-&Itemid=57 (accessed January 16, 2011).
34. See Viktoriya Topalova, “In Search of Heroes: Cultural Politics and Political Mobilization of
Youth in Contemporary Russia and Ukraine,” Demokratizatsiya 14, no. 1 (2006): 23-41.
250 Demokratizatsiya
35. Ekaterina Levintova, and Jim Butterfield, “History Education and Historical Remembrance
in Contemporary Russia: Sources of Political Attitudes of pro-Kremlin Youth,” Communist and
Post-Communist Studies 43 (2010): 158.
36. See their manifesto, “Manifest molodezhnogo dvizheniya ‘Nashi’,” available at http://www. (accessed January 16, 2011).
37. Interviews with Nashi activists, Moscow, November 2007, and October 2010.
38. From, no longer online.
39. Interviews with Nashi activists, Moscow, November 2007, and October 2010; and the collec-
tion of Nashi brochures on the “friendship of peoples.”
40. See “Molodaia Gvardiya protiv nelegal’nykh migratov,Molodaia Gvardiya, January 18,
2011, available at (accessed January 23,
41“Manifest molodezhnogo dvizheniya ‘Nashi’.”
42. Ibid.
43. L. Borusiak. “‘Nashi’: kogo i kak uchat spasat’ Rossiyu,” Vestnik obshchestvennogo mneniya,
no. 5, 2005, pp. 17-29.
44.“Manifest molodezhnogo dvizheniya ‘Nashi’.”
45. From, no longer online.
46. Ibid.
47. Ibid.
48. Ibid.
49. “Na aktsiy ‘Nasha Pobeda’ razdali 70,000 patronov,Nashi, May 15, 2010, available at http:// (accessed January 22, 2011).
50. Voir les détails du projet “O Vserossiyskom proekte Nasha obshchaia pobeda,” available at (accessed January 22, 2011)
51.“Stanut li chechentsy ‘Nashimi’?, Nashi, July 5, 2006, available at
news/220 (accessed January 22, 2011)
52. Ekaterina Levintova and Jim Butterfield, “History Education and Historical Remembrance in
Contemporary Russia: Sources of Political Attitudes of pro-Kremlin Youth,” op. cit., 144-154.
53. “Nasha pobeda,” available at (accessed January 22, 2011).
54. “Na aktsiy ‘Nasha Pobeda’ razdali 70,000 patronov.
55. On Viktor Suvorov, read David Glantz, “Review: Icebreaker: Who Started the Second World
War?,” The Journal of Military History 55, no. 2 (1991): 263–264.
56. “Ostanovim fashism v Estoniy,” available at (accessed January
22, 2011).
57. “Nashi aktiviski vernulis’ na Rodinu,” Nashi, June 30, 2007, available at http://www.nashi.
su/news/19564 (accessed January 22, 2011).
58. See, for instance,;
daya-gvardiya/page/6/ (accessed January 25, 2011).
59. “Patriotizm i dvizheniya “NASHI’,Levada-Tsentr, January 21, 2008, available at http:// (accessed January 26, 2011).
60. “Nashi aktivisty rasskazali vsiu pravdu o svoem prebyvaniy v Estoniy,” Nashi, June 30, 2007,
available at ((accessed January 26, 2011)
61. See the article by Jussi Lassila in the issue.
62. See
_ne_geroy_Ukraini_147 (accessed January 26, 2011).
63. “Fal’sifikatsiya istoriy v ukrainskikh uchebnikakh istoriy,Nashi, available at
sificate/31655 (accessed January 26, 2011). The fact that official Ukrainian discourses depict the
country as the main victim of the Second World War is obviously at the heart of the Nashi resent-
ment. Viktor Yushchenko’s proposal to create an international tribunal to judge communism for
crimes against humanity also provoked fierce reactions on the blogs of the youth movements.
64. “Andrei Vorob’ev: Memorial Slavy—napominanie o nashem obshchem podvige,”
Molodaia Gvardiya, December 21, 2010, available at
es/2010/12/21/24304 (accessed January 26, 2011).
Negotiating History 251
65. “Putin otkryl v Moskve memorial pavshim geroiam,” Molodaia Gvardiya, December 21,
2010, available at (accessed January 26,
66. “Moldaviya otkazalas’ shchadit’ proshloe radi otnosheniy s Rossiei,, January
15, 2010, available at
radi-/282479.html (accessed January 30, 2011).
67. “23ogo fevralia 2010 g. v Kishineve sostoialsia kruglyi stol, posviashchennyi problem
fal’sifikatsiy istoriy,” Molodaia Gvardiya, February 23, 2010, available at http://www.molgvardia.
ru/mg/2010/02/23/14376 (accessed January 30, 2011).
68. “Fal’sifikatsiya istoriy—put’ v nikuda,” Russkaya Liniya, December 2, 2008, available at (accessed January 30, 2011).
69. “Molodaia Gvardiya o Pakte Molotova-Ribbentropa,” Molodaia Gvardiya, August 23, 2009,
available at mg/2009/08/23/8909 (accessed January 30, 2011).
70. “Kirovskie komsomol’tsy proveli aktsiyu protiv fal’sifikatsiy istoriy,”, December
12, 2008, available at (accessed January 30, 2011); and “Katyn-
skomu memorialu ispolnilos’ 10 let,” Molodaia Gvardiya, June 29, 2010, available at http://www. (accessed January 30, 2011).
71. Several young Nashi members confirmed that they have recruited members from among
radical skinhead movements. They say that they recognize the flexibility of belonging for some
youths, whom they had hoped to “set on the right path,” but I have not yet been able to meet any
of these “passers” personally.
72. Interviews with Nashi activists, Moscow, November 2007, and October 2010.
73. See (accessed January 18, 2011).
74. See (accessed January 18,
75. Ibid.
76. “Manifest molodezhnogo dvizheniya ‘Nashi’.”
77. Julie Hemment, “Soviet-Style Neoliberalism?: Nashi, Youth Voluntarism, and the Restructur-
ing Social Welfare in Russia,Problems of Post-Communism 56, no. 6 (2009): 44-45.
78. Richard Sakwa, “Russia and Turkey: Rethinking Europe to Contest Outsider Status,Russie.
NEI.Visions 51 (May 2010).
252 Demokratizatsiya
... First of all, after the presidential elections of 2008, when the threat of anti-government protests was nearly zero, there was no need for such a large organisational structure (Savina, Taratuta and Shevchuk 2008). 20 Second, the ambiguous and aggressive actions of Nashi, especially the scandals over calls to demolish the Estonian embassy and the protests over the removal of the Bronze Soldier in Tallinn, did not do much good to Russia's image on the international stage (Laruelle 2011; Lassila 2011). Nonetheless, the movement continued to grow, and during the parliamentary and presidential election campaign of 2011–2012, when there was a need to manage pro-presidential demonstrations to counterbalance liberal protests in Moscow after alleged fraud during the elections, Nashi once again proved useful to the regime. ...
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