Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Nashi gathers the faithful, but not the foreign

Old and new Russia can't seem to get their acts aligned.

Bureaucracy Stymies Pro-Kremlin Youth Retreat
For years, the Kremlin has sponsored a summer retreat where thousands of young people from across Russia, screened for ideology, camp on a lake and attend seminars with the country’s leaders and political experts. Outsiders have rarely been permitted.

This year, however, organizers announced that they would invite foreigners, hoping to promote more openness and an exchange of ideas with the rest of the world.

It has not turned out that way. Instead, it appears to have turned into an object lesson in how even a modest effort… can run aground on the unforgiving shoals of Russian bureaucracy...

[W]hen the retreat started Friday, dozens of the invited foreigners were not there because they had not been able to obtain Russian visas, according to interviews and Internet posts. The government agency that runs the retreat seemed at a loss to help them or explain why the visa process fell apart…

The retreat has long had close ties to a strident pro-Kremlin youth group called Nashi, (“Ours” in Russian). Under the leadership of Vladimir V. Putin, the prime minister and former president, the Kremlin created Nashi in response to the so-called color revolutions that brought pro-Western governments to power in former Soviet republics, particularly the one in Ukraine in 2004. It hoped that Nashi activists would help counter possible protests against the authorities in Russia…

Even before the visa problems, invitations to the foreigners stirred controversy because of the reputation of Nashi.

For years, the group held raucous pro-Kremlin rallies and harassed foreign diplomats in Moscow perceived as hostile to Russian interests…

While the retreat was supposed to change this year, some Russian critics pointed out that members of opposition groups were still barred from attending...

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