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The End of the Nashi as We Know It

nashi012908.jpgWhat will Moscow feel like once there are no longer occasional busloads of confused teens from the regions dumped on Red Square to march and rally in support of the government? What will it be like to no longer have a sea of red-shirt-emblazoned youths attending every United Russia rally, or forming brigades to harass the opposition? Most important, how will the British Ambassador ever get used to not having any more teens throwing rotten tomatoes at him? Big changes are afoot for the Kremlin-sponsored youth movement as it undergoes a dramatic reorganization, reports Kommersant. It is probably premature to say it, but nevertheless, surprisingly and suddenly the movement might actually be on the brink of extinction. But who dealt the deathblow?

What caught my eye from the Kommersant coverage was the following paragraph tucked away at the bottom:

New political conditions also make the centralized Nashi superfluous. Massive street demonstrations will not have a place in the next election. Furthermore, the movement caused problems with the West that do not complement Dmitry Medvedev’s image.

It appears the ubiquitous youth group is cramping the president-to-be’s style. Does this mean that Dima would dissolve the group, or replace with another type of popular machinery? Not necessarily – with this kind of restructuring he wouldn’t have to, as the group no longer looks like it will play the role it did in the past – and certainly the successor has no desire to disappoint all the kids with any unnecessary gesture.This situation with Nashi is presumably NOT what Vladislav Surkov would have wanted – and you will recall that Medvedev has criticized Surkov in the past for the notion of “sovereign democracy”. I don’t think this necessarily exposes a growing Medvedev-Surkov rift, since Surkov may well be saying that Nashi has fulfilled its purpose. But it may well be that Medvedev is asserting ideological control.Regardless it is very interesting to see this development following on the heels on an increased crackdown on the Nashi’s more “exhuberant” activities. Perhaps like Medvedev’s decision not to participate in the television debates, he has similarly determined that he has no need for government organized youth movements.UPDATE: The Times of London has picked up the story with some more info.