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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Patriotism for New Russians

In an orderly state, everything must be in its proper place. There should be a party of power, youth organizations, a parliament, courts — all the attributes of a democracy. If Unity is pretending to the role of the party of power, then Moving Together has proclaimed itself the "second team" of power, a sort of new Komsomol without the communist ideology.

After the organization's first few public activities, the liberal press showered it with scorn. And, in fact, any group whose main purpose seems to be to organize demonstrations of people carrying portraits of the president and incomprehensible slogans like "Everything is going the right way!" (vsye putyom) is certainly begging to be called the "Putin Youth."

Some newspapers, though, focused their attention on the completely apolitical mood among the group's activists, their indifference to genuine social issues and the thoroughly commercialized nature of the movement. These papers, I think, were pretty close to the truth.

Moving Together's demonstrations so far have been both highly organized and expensive. More, the press has reported that people who sign up with the movement are given benefits such as free English-language courses and free admission to local swimming pools and sports clubs.

Nonetheless, it is unfortunate that no journalists seem to have taken a look at the organization's documents. Not that doing so gives one any better understanding of what the group stands for, but because it gives you a sense of the tastes and concerns of those who stand behind Moving Together. And that is important, since these people represent the authorities — or at least one strong group within the ruling elite.

After a lot of general appeals to members to obey the Ten Commandments and to renounce drunkenness and drugs, there are a number of general, ideological declarations that merit attention. Moving Together condemns communism and fascism, although it declares patriotism to be its highest ideal. The reference to fascism here is clearly formal, intended simply to put communism on the same level with a universally acknowledged evil. In a single phrase, the entire Soviet experience is cast off as totalitarian and anti-human. It is somewhat amusing to hear such things coming from people whose daily existence consists of scrupulously copying Soviet organizational methods.

In the early 1990s, the reformers/Westernizers viewed themselves as opponents of tradition and the enemies of patriotism. They sought to break with the past and completely rebuild all social structures. Inevitably, the rhetoric of patriotism passed into the arsenal of the Communists.

Now the situation has changed fundamentally. The new system has existed long enough that it demands its own traditions, its own protective ideology, in order to proclaim the existing order of things "natural" and "inviolable." And so the authorities have run up against the problem that traditional and patriotic slogans have already been absorbed by the Communists.

Moving Together is designed to separate patriotism from communism in the minds of the young and to set them in opposition to one another. Instead of Soviet patriotism, we will have New Russian patriotism, spouting private property, the free market and liberal economics. Although the movement seems to be having trouble choosing its heroes since all Russians over the last century were careless enough to live under communism (some of them even supported the Revolution!). So, they've settled on President Vladimir Putin. It's not that they want a cult of personality — it's just that you can't go wrong with Putin.

Boris Kagarlitsky is a sociologist in Moscow.