Staunton, October 9 – Polls show that only about one Russian in five under the age of 35 has any interest in politics, a result produced by the current regime which sees that indifference as a source of its own strength but one that has long-term negative consequences for the country, Rosbalt journalist Anzhela Novoseltseva says.
Anyone who follows discussions on television and the Internet can see, she continues, that officials and young people “speak in different languages,” the first unclear by design and the second craving the clear messaging they aren’t getting from those in power, a divide that means, the two exist “in parallel realities” (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2020/10/07/1867085.html).
For young people, Russia reality looks “totally absurd.” They can’t understand why other countries can change leaders but Russia can’t. They don’t know why the constitution needs to change or why the ruble is falling. And they fail to see why Moscow television doesn’t cover the Khabarovsk protests or why Vladimir Putin backs Lukashenka.
When those in power try to explain, they on most occasions appear to be part of some horrific monster drowning in bureaucracy, “tongue-tied to the point that they cannot explain their goals, directions or strategy.” In many cases, this mystification has a purpose: to conceal from the people that the regime’s goals are not those of the population.
That leads young people to turn away from the regime and politics in general, although they are occasionally excited by outsiders in the political universe like Aleksey Navalny who speak clearly about particular issues. They would be interested if there were open political struggles, but they are only put off by fights that take place “under the rug.”
Unfortunately, Novoseltseva says, “public politics in Russia involves only the manipulation of consciousness. And when an individual is manipulated, this means that those doing so want to transform him into an object of politics rather than its subject. Is it any wonder so many of the young are apolitical?”
Many assume that manipulation is achieved by simplification given the power of slogans in the past, but today, “the Russian propaganda machine fulfills contradictory tasks and manipulates differently. It artificially complicates reality in order to distract people from obvious conclusions and decisive actions.”
In the speeches of leaders and the comments of people on television, young Russians are assured again and again that things are so complicated that only those in power can deal with them. The result is indifference. Young people simply live their own lives and ignore politics as much as they can.
That may work for the regime in the short term, the journalist says. But because it leaves the majority of the rising generation “passive and indifferent to politics,” it has extremely negative consequences over the longer haul. At a minimum, it means that there won’t be an active civil society or democracy in Russia anytime soon.
Window on Eurasia — New Series