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Happy Birthday, Nashi

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Our movement knows no authority except the authority of the policies of Medvedev and Putin.‘  So says Vasily Yakemenko, the founding father of pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi, celebrating its fifth anniversary this week.  The Kremlin made a big fuss over Nashi to mark the occasion, with a celebratory gathering in an ornate Moscow business center, speeches from Vladislav Surkov, and personal messages from the President and Prime Minister – with Vladimir Putin praising the organization’s uniting of ‘people who love their motherland‘.  
The Kremlin need their supporters now more than ever, as indicated by unrest in Kyrgyzstan this month and Dmitry Medvedev’s cautious response to it, in which he acknowledged that such unrest could easily repeat itself in other areas ‘if the authorities do not make efforts to support their people‘.  Large and savvy protests last month in Arkhangelsk and Kaliningrad saw supporting rallies all over the country suggest that Russia’s is in precisely this situation.  Do Nashi have what it takes to stem the tide of dissatisfaction if another global downturn deals a serious blow to Russia’s natural resources-dependent economy?  Debatable.  The rhetoric comes off as dangerously empty most of the time.  ‘We often don’t have concrete ideas to express,‘ suggested one young delegate…