Cablegate: Nashi Camp: Mobilizing Youth to Counter "Orange Forces"

DE RUEHMO #3808/01 2150614
R 030614Z AUG 07




E.O. 12958: N/A

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1. (SBU) For the third year in a row, the pro-Kremlin youth group
"Nashi" held its two-week summer camp from July 16 - 27 at Lake
Seliger in the Tver region. A visit by First Deputy Prime Ministers
Dmitriy Medvedev and Sergey Ivanov, a meeting of Nashi commissars
with President Putin, and a record ten thousand camp attendees kept
the camp and Nashi in the press and raised questions about the
group's sources of funding. Nashi's connection to the Kremlin and
its ability to organize and mobilize youth for campaigns against
organizations out of favor with the Kremlin should make it a force
to be reckoned with in the upcoming parliamentary and presidential
elections. End summary.

The Camp

2. (U) The pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi has organized a summer
camp, also known as the "All-Russian Youth Educational Forum," every
year since the organization's inception in 2005. Over the past three
years, attendance has more than tripled, with the number of
attendees reaching ten thousand this summer. According to Nashi,
the goal of the camp is to support the "modernization of the country
by preparing new professionals and by founding a group for the
preservation of Russia's sovereignty."

3. (U) Participants in this year's session - all between the ages
of 18 and 28 - were kept to a strict routine, rising early every
morning to exercise together. Sergey Guriev, Director of the
Russian School of Economics and guest speaker at the camp, told the
press "all of the young participants simply glow from the sense of
taking part in a common activity." Alcohol was prohibited on the
camp premises, and the participants' attendance at sessions was
monitored by personal electronic identification badges. At a press
conference on July 31, Vasiliy Yakemenko, the thirty-seven year old
leader of Nashi, told reporters that more than one thousand
participants had been kicked out of the camp for drinking, skipping
lectures, or not participating in the morning workout sessions.

4. (U) During the day, participants attended informational sessions
and took part in exhibitions and competitions. The themes of some
of the sessions included defending human rights, increasing youth
participation in elections, promoting inter-ethnic relations in
Russia, strengthening the role of the family, improving education,
and developing business and political leaders. In addition to
educational sessions, the participants were treated to visits by
prominent politicians, religious leaders, and pop stars. Most
notable was the joint visit by First Deputy Prime Ministers (and
potential presidential successors) Dmitriy Medvedev and Sergey
Ivanov on July 21. Medvedev and Ivanov took a tour of the camp and
talked with the young people present. Other notable figures
included the governors of the Ryazan, Tver, Ulyanovsk, and Voronezh
regions and Minister of Education Andrey Fursenko. The popular rock
group Lyube and award-winning pop group Diskoteka Avariya also
performed at the camp. In conjunction with Nashi's campaign to raise
the prestige of military service, the Russian Air Force put on an
hour-long air show that cost the government an estimated two hundred
thousand dollars.

Summer Lovin'

5. (U) One of the more striking aspects of the camp was the manner
in which it supported the national campaign promoting families with
multiple children. A six-foot statue of a mammoth stood in the camp
with a sign next to it reading, "If we will not reproduce - we will
become extinct like the mammoth." During the first week of the
camp, nearly thirty Nashi couples were married in a mass wedding
ceremony. The Governor of Ryazan, who was present at the ceremony,
expressed his hope that the couples would have no fewer than three
children and promised to be the godfather of the tenth child born to
the couples. The newlywed couples each received a red tent in the
heart-shaped tent village named "Bridal City." One student who had
been kicked out of the camp told the newspaper Kommersant Vlast that
not all of the marriages had been planned. According to this
student, about fifteen couples backed out of their wedding plans on
the day of the ceremony, and the Nashi leadership talked a few other
couples into getting married so that a large ceremony would still
take place.

Press and the West

6. (U) Reporters were only allowed inside the camp for a few hours
on its opening day, and even then, only in the company of Nashi
guides. Guriev explained that even Nashi members who did not attend
the camp were discouraged from talking to reporters (especially

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foreign ones) because "journalists may distort and alter every
word." When two unaccredited reporters tried to sneak into the camp
during the first week, they were quickly removed.

7. (U) Prominent themes at the camp were discrediting the political
opposition and criticizing the West. Three large photographs of
prostitutes with the faces of "Other Russia" opposition leaders
Garry Kasparov, Eduard Limonov, and Mikhail Kasyanov hung in a
section of the camp called the "Red Light District." Guriev wrote,
"the average [Nashi] activist's level of hatred toward Kasparov and
Kasyanov...really instills fear." Other camp programs also promoted
anti-Americanism. For example, actors dressed as American policemen
stood guard at a pair of dilapidated houses called "the Other
Russia." In another observation about the camp, Guriev wrote "at
practically every lecture they explain that America is an enemy of
Russia and that it is striving with England (and of course, Estonia)
to humiliate and divide Russia."

It's Not All about Politics

8. (SBU) Contacts told us that many young people are involved in
Nashi because they see it is a path to success. Participants at the
Nashi camp received career counseling, and applied for internships
and jobs. More than one hundred Nashi commissars received
scholarships to study at universities overseas. Irina Shcherbakova
of Memorial told us that for many students, especially poorer ones
from the provinces, membership in a group like Nashi was one of the
few ways open to them to get ahead in today's Russia. Konstantin
Baranovskiy, Editor-in-Chief of a Nizhny Novgorod newspaper Argument
Nedely, told us that the young people of his acquaintance who
participate in Nashi do so primarily to receive grant money and
network. Guriev noted that many Nashi members talk about the
ideological indoctrination as a price that they have to pay in order
to get the attention of those who made the camp possible.


9. (U) The number of Kremlin-sponsored leaders who have appeared at
the camp, and the estimated seventeen million Euros it cost to
provide food and shelter for 10,000 people for two weeks, have led
to speculation about the sources of funding for the camp, and for
Nashi itself. Yakemenko said that the total cost of the camp was
"hard to estimate" because financial support came from multiple
sources. He explained that each of the regional delegations had to
find funding for travel to and from the camp. Some of the funding
came from sponsors such as media-company MTS, which advertised at
the camp. The third and final source of funding was from the

Union of Youth

10. (U) There has been speculation in the press regarding a
Kremlin-mandated union of all pro-Kremlin youth groups. The
participation of the youth movements Young Russia, New People, and
Mestnye at the Nashi camp encouraged such speculation. (Noticeably
absent at the Lake Seliger camp, however, was United Russia's youth
group, Young Guard, which is known for its rivalry with Nashi). This
was also the first year that members of youth movements other than
Nashi met with President Putin at his summer residence of Zavidovo.
Nashi spokesperson, Anastasiya Suslova, repeatedly refuted rumors of
a merger. When Yakemenko presented the idea of a central government
administration for youth movements, Putin reportedly dismissed it as
"a thing of the past." Yakemenko explained that Nashi does not have
a strong influence in the Russian Far East and that if necessary
Nashi would work with other youth movements to ensure United
Russia's victory in the Duma elections.

11. (U) A fight between members of the different groups reportedly
broke out at the Nashi camp during a mock political protest. In the
role-playing game, members of Young Russia and New People were the
Orange Opposition, and Nashi members were the special forces troops.
Although there was to be no violence, Nashi members attacked
members of the other movements and ruined their tents. Yakemenko
dismissed the news of the fight saying that it was nothing more than
a role-playing game and that "perhaps hysterical girls" confused it
for a real fight and spread rumors about it.

Future of Nashi

12. (U) On the last day of the camp, participants elected
twenty-six year old Nikita Borovikov to lead Nashi after the
presidential elections in March 2008. Before the start of the camp,
Yakemenko had announced that he would be stepping down. However, at

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a press conference on July 31, Yakemenko said that the leadership
elected at the camp is not necessarily the team that will lead Nashi
after the 2008 presidential election because the camp election had
been "no more than a role-playing game."

13. (U) Yakemenko told reporters that Nashi's mission during the
upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections is to "stabilize
the situation" and counteract any orange forces that might try to
disrupt the elections, break the law, or violate the Constitution.
One former Nashi activist said that Nashi plans to set up tents on
all major squares in Moscow before the elections so that "the Orange
Revolution is not repeated and opposition forces do not occupy the

14. (U) Nashi is frequently compared to the Soviet Komsomol, and a
former Komsomol member told us she agreed with this assessment. A
former member of Nashi told reporters about a Nashi "Volunteer Youth
Patrol" which reportedly beat up people who distributed literature
against Nashi. The member also said that this division pestered the
police during the March of the Dissenters in Moscow, but the police
were given instructions not to touch them. At Nashi press
conferences that we have attended, Yakemenko has been charismatic,
but has displayed disturbing personality traits. One moment he can
be good-natured and proclaim the benefits of Nashi, and the next
moment his mood shifts and he vents his anger towards outsiders.

15. (U) Yakemenko, the former head of the failed, Kremlin-sponsored
youth organization Walking with Putin, started Nashi in 2005. Nashi
was not affiliated with any particular political party until this
summer when it agreed to support United Russia in the December
parliamentary elections. Nashi has gained notoriety for its ability
to organize large groups of students and for its harassment of the
British and Estonian ambassadors. However, despite the large number
of participants at the Nashi camp and the extensive coverage of
Nashi in the press, a recent Levada Center study found that
sixty-four percent of the youth polled had never heard of the


16. (SBU) The extent of Nashi's role in the upcoming parliamentary
and presidential elections will be one indication of the group's
future political influence. Nashi's promises of improving Russia
are appealing to a generation searching for its place in the world.
Some of Nashi's initiatives are laudable in promoting political
activism among youth, strong families, and social responsibility.
Unfortunately, anti-Americanism is also part of the Nashi program,
and could be absorbed by currents members, some of whom are likely
to join Russia's business and political elite. Still, Nashi
comprises only a tiny percentage of the Russian youth population,
and its real impact on Russian society, for better and for worse,
remains to be seen.


© Scoop Media

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