Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

City Weighs Perks for 'Active' Youth

City Hall is considering rewarding socially active young people with special consideration in receiving apartments and discounted theater tickets under a proposal that appears to be Mayor Yury Luzhkov's latest attempt to build support among the youth.

The Mayor's Office will put up for vote in August two youth programs that would reward "social activity" among university students, Dmitry Vityutnev, deputy head of the city's committee for family and youth affairs, said Thursday.

Vityutnev said 50,000 young people were expected to initially participate in the two programs -- "The Youth of Moscow" and "Coordination With Moscow's Institutes of Higher Learning." Participants would be issued identification cards that could be used for discounts at supermarkets such as Sedmoi Kontinent and Pyatyorochka and at theaters and sports complexes, he said.

As defined under the programs, socially active students would be defined as those who are involved in university organizations, do volunteer work, or excel in the sciences or sports, Vityutnev said.

"In general, it would be those students who show they are active in developing the city," he said.

Standout participants could get special consideration in receiving apartments under the city-sponsored "Accessible Housing" program, Vityutnev said, without elaborating.

The budget for the two programs would be around 90 billion rubles ($3.3 billion) from 2007 to 2009, Kommersant reported Thursday. Vityutnev would not confirm the amount, saying only that the 9 billion rubles earmarked for the city's three-year youth policy program adopted in May 2004 would grow by several times.

He denied that the programs were created with any hidden political goals, but an unidentified official from the Mayor's Office told Kommersant that Luzhkov was trying to win the loyalty of Moscow youth ahead of the parliamentary elections next year and the presidential vote in 2008. "Moscow would get a unique database of active young people who could be contacted by a mass SMS campaign," the source said, Kommersant reported. "That means that the young people could be rather easily organized for any form of political action."

Political analysts have said the Kremlin is worried after pro-West youth movements played roles in toppling long-serving regimes in Georgia in 2003 and Ukraine in 2004. The Mayor's Office source told Kommersant that with ranks of loyal young people behind him, Luzhkov would "be able to make deals" ahead of the elections.

Luzhkov has made several attempts to reach out to young people. Last June, he ordered department heads in the city administration to hire deputies under the age of 35. A month later he ordered the creation of a youth group called Grazhdanskaya Smena, or Civil Change, to promote civil duty and patriotism.

City Hall last year also announced plans to launch a youth-oriented television channel and backed the creation of an organization for Moscow soccer fans, under the acronym MOB, to oppose terrorism, violence and extremism.

Political analyst Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of the Panorama think tank, predicted the latest measure would not see the light of day. "All of those other programs disappeared the instant after they were announced," Pribylovsky said. "Apparently Luzhkov thinks throwing more money around will make a difference. But it's just an illusion. The result is just young bureaucrats taking money from old bureaucrats."