They May Be Hooligans, but They Are Funny Hooligans

kommersanttp.jpgJust when I think I’ve had it up to here reading article after article about the Russian government’s infamous youth group, Nashi, something comes along to make them relevant again. This time, as The Other Russia blog reports, the pro-Kremlin group is believed to be behind a stunt distributing toilet paper bearing the logo of the independent newspaper Kommersant, and including a letter from the editor stating that they want to “attract a new audience who gives a wide berth to the newspaper.

Leaving aside for just a moment the fact that these hateful acts of intolerance and intimidation of the free press by the Kremlin’s youth corps are morally repulsive and extremely damaging to civil society, I am taken aback by their creativity. The Nashi may be hooligans, but they are funny hooligans – constantly innovating comical jabs at their opponents, such as the “red light district” at their summer camp, featuring opposition leaders dressed as prostitutes, and other sophisticated and savvy agitprop actions of street theater. They have appropriated the methods of protest theatre to do the exact opposite of protesting.I wonder if like back in 1933, the Nashi will begin exporting this new agitprop trend like the MORT (Mezhdunarodnoe obedinenie revoliutsionnykh teatrov) before abandoning it to rehash a new brand of Soviet realism.What’s happening in Russia and the escalation of the Nashi is certainly no laughing matter (especially when they encourage the harassment of a journalist in this latest stunt), however I do wonder what sort of creative potential is being squandered as it is channeled into these intolerant political stunts … there are obviously some extraordinary and innovative minds at work behind these campaigns that in any normal country would probably be otherwise occupied taking over the worlds of film, advertising, and professional services. It’s a shame that Russia’s young talent is involved in something so ugly and disturbing, but they’ve come a long way since the Sosushchie Vmeste.