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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Pusomol' Bringing Unity to Nation's Youth

Communists, Liberal Democrats and even the growling Krasnoyarsk governor, General Alexander Lebed, have tried to revive the idea of quasi-politicized youth organizations. And all have failed.

Now the new "party of power," the pro-Kremlin Unity bloc, joined the effort to bring Generation X under a protective wing as it held the founding congress of its Unity for Young People at the Moscow Palace of Youth on Thursday, gathering 338 delegates from 85 regions.

Because of Unity's unflagging support for President-elect Vladimir Putin and its new youth wing's resemblance - in structure and spirit - to the Komsomol, the new organization has already earned a variety of nicknames. Among them are Putin's Komsomol, or simply "Pusomol" for short; the Bear Cubs, in reference to Unity's acronym Medved, or Bear; and, even more specifically, Umka, the polar bear cub from the popular Soviet cartoon of the same name.

According to the manifesto distributed at the congress, the new organization's goals are as ambitious and broad in scope as those outlined by Putin in his open letter to voters, published at the start of this year's presidential campaign: strong government, federalism, an "effective economy," fighting crime, and social policy making as a top priority. Unity for Young People, as its name suggests, aims to unite young people who want to participate in "the formation of the country's youth policy."

"As long as we are united, we are invincible," said Grigory Danilov, a delegate from Chuvashia, quoting a Chilean revolutionary song to a round of applause.

"You have to become the nucleus that will unite a significant part of the country's youth," said Sergei Shoigu, leader of Unity's grown-up arm and one of the founders of the offshoot.

Putin himself did not attend the congress, but he was there in spirit. Shoigu, who made it clear last week that he hopes Putin will head up Unity after it officially becomes a political party in late May, read out a terse statement from the president, which was met with hearty applause.

Alexandra Buratayeva, the former ORT news anchor and State Duma deputy chosen to lead Unity's young, doesn't find anything objectionable in the comparisons with the Komsomol.

"I don't think ... everything about the Komsomol was bad," she said, reminding her young wards of all its good deeds, like building the metro and the Baikal-Amur Railroad or developing virgin lands in Kazakhstan.

Buratayeva, once a Komsomol member herself, was elected the movement's leader a couple of hours into the congress. A predictable outcome, since there were no other candidates.

"Everybody used to be obligated to join the Komsomol," she said. "But it wasn't only about bureaucrats and functionaries." Buratayeva called for the revival of such typical Komsomol initiatives as construction work by young volunteers, housing co-ops for young people and youth festivals.

Buratayeva cautioned that the young Unity should not be a political organization, lest it repeat the fate of its Soviet-era progenitor. But Shoigu later clarified that the real drawback is that a political movement cannot recruit among servicemen. Or students, added a delegate.

Besides a few speeches by Unity for Young People members from various regions, there were several votes - for the movement's leader, its charter, procedures, etc. Each vote lasted about a minute, as delegates eagerly raised their hands before the question "Those in favor?" was even asked.

Every issue was resolved so quickly that the congress ended 45 minutes ahead of schedule - in part because the agenda item called "debates" proved unnecessary. Perhaps the young delegates were impatient as they anticipated the evening's banquet and concert at the Rossiya Concert Hall.