07MOSCOW3808, NASHI CAMP: MOBILIZING YOUTH TO COUNTER “ORANGE FORCES”

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW3808 2007-08-03 06:14 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO0096
RR RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #3808/01 2150614
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 030614Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2659
INFO RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 2315
RUEHYG/AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG 2606
RUEHLN/AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG 4355

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 003808 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PINR PGOV SOCI RS
SUBJECT: NASHI CAMP: MOBILIZING YOUTH TO COUNTER "ORANGE FORCES" 
 
MOSCOW 00003808  001.2 OF 003 
 
 
Summary 
------- 
 
1. (SBU)  For the third year in a row, the pro-Kremlin youth group 
"Nashi" held its two-week summer camp from July 16 - 27 at Lake 
Seliger in the Tver region.  A visit by First Deputy Prime Ministers 
Dmitriy Medvedev and Sergey Ivanov, a meeting of Nashi commissars 
with President Putin, and a record ten thousand camp attendees kept 
the camp and Nashi in the press and raised questions about the 
group's sources of funding.  Nashi's connection to the Kremlin and 
its ability to organize and mobilize youth for campaigns against 
organizations out of favor with the Kremlin should make it a force 
to be reckoned with in the upcoming parliamentary and presidential 
elections.  End summary. 
 
The Camp 
-------- 
 
2. (U)  The pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi has organized a summer 
camp, also known as the "All-Russian Youth Educational Forum," every 
year since the organization's inception in 2005. Over the past three 
years, attendance has more than tripled, with the number of 
attendees reaching ten thousand this summer.  According to Nashi, 
the goal of the camp is to support the "modernization of the country 
by preparing new professionals and by founding a group for the 
preservation of Russia's sovereignty." 
 
3. (U)  Participants in this year's session - all between the ages 
of 18 and 28 - were kept to a strict routine, rising early every 
morning to exercise together.  Sergey Guriev, Director of the 
Russian School of Economics and guest speaker at the camp, told the 
press "all of the young participants simply glow from the sense of 
taking part in a common activity."  Alcohol was prohibited on the 
camp premises, and the participants' attendance at sessions was 
monitored by personal electronic identification badges.  At a press 
conference on July 31, Vasiliy Yakemenko, the thirty-seven year old 
leader of Nashi, told reporters that more than one thousand 
participants had been kicked out of the camp for drinking, skipping 
lectures, or not participating in the morning workout sessions. 
 
4. (U) During the day, participants attended informational sessions 
and took part in exhibitions and competitions.  The themes of some 
of the sessions included defending human rights, increasing youth 
participation in elections, promoting inter-ethnic relations in 
Russia, strengthening the role of the family, improving education, 
and developing business and political leaders.  In addition to 
educational sessions, the participants were treated to visits by 
prominent politicians, religious leaders, and pop stars.  Most 
notable was the joint visit by First Deputy Prime Ministers (and 
potential presidential successors) Dmitriy Medvedev and Sergey 
Ivanov on July 21.  Medvedev and Ivanov took a tour of the camp and 
talked with the young people present.  Other notable figures 
included the governors of the Ryazan, Tver, Ulyanovsk, and Voronezh 
regions and Minister of Education Andrey Fursenko.  The popular rock 
group Lyube and award-winning pop group Diskoteka Avariya also 
performed at the camp. In conjunction with Nashi's campaign to raise 
the prestige of military service, the Russian Air Force put on an 
hour-long air show that cost the government an estimated two hundred 
thousand dollars. 
 
Summer Lovin' 
------------ 
 
5. (U) One of the more striking aspects of the camp was the manner 
in which it supported the national campaign promoting families with 
multiple children. A six-foot statue of a mammoth stood in the camp 
with a sign next to it reading, "If we will not reproduce - we will 
become extinct like the mammoth."  During the first week of the 
camp, nearly thirty Nashi couples were married in a mass wedding 
ceremony.  The Governor of Ryazan, who was present at the ceremony, 
expressed his hope that the couples would have no fewer than three 
children and promised to be the godfather of the tenth child born to 
the couples.  The newlywed couples each received a red tent in the 
heart-shaped tent village named "Bridal City."  One student who had 
been kicked out of the camp told the newspaper Kommersant Vlast that 
not all of the marriages had been planned. According to this 
student, about fifteen couples backed out of their wedding plans on 
the day of the ceremony, and the Nashi leadership talked a few other 
couples into getting married so that a large ceremony would still 
take place. 
 
Press and the West 
------------------ 
 
6. (U)  Reporters were only allowed inside the camp for a few hours 
on its opening day, and even then, only in the company of Nashi 
guides.  Guriev explained that even Nashi members who did not attend 
the camp were discouraged from talking to reporters (especially 
 
MOSCOW 00003808  002.2 OF 003 
 
 
foreign ones) because "journalists may distort and alter every 
word." When two unaccredited reporters tried to sneak into the camp 
during the fir
st week, they were quickly removed. 
 
7. (U)  Prominent themes at the camp were discrediting the political 
opposition and criticizing the West.  Three large photographs of 
prostitutes with the faces of "Other Russia" opposition leaders 
Garry Kasparov, Eduard Limonov, and Mikhail Kasyanov hung in a 
section of the camp called the "Red Light District."  Guriev wrote, 
"the average [Nashi] activist's level of hatred toward Kasparov and 
Kasyanov...really instills fear." Other camp programs also promoted 
anti-Americanism.  For example, actors dressed as American policemen 
stood guard at a pair of dilapidated houses called "the Other 
Russia."  In another observation about the camp, Guriev wrote "at 
practically every lecture they explain that America is an enemy of 
Russia and that it is striving with England (and of course, Estonia) 
to humiliate and divide Russia." 
 
 
It's Not All about Politics 
--------------------------- 
 
8. (SBU)  Contacts told us that many young people are involved in 
Nashi because they see it is a path to success. Participants at the 
Nashi camp received career counseling, and applied for internships 
and jobs.  More than one hundred Nashi commissars received 
scholarships to study at universities overseas.  Irina Shcherbakova 
of Memorial told us that for many students, especially poorer ones 
from the provinces, membership in a group like Nashi was one of the 
few ways open to them to get ahead in today's Russia.  Konstantin 
Baranovskiy, Editor-in-Chief of a Nizhny Novgorod newspaper Argument 
Nedely, told us that the young people of his acquaintance who 
participate in Nashi do so primarily to receive grant money and 
network. Guriev noted that many Nashi members talk about the 
ideological indoctrination as a price that they have to pay in order 
to get the attention of those who made the camp possible. 
 
Funding 
-------- 
 
9. (U)  The number of Kremlin-sponsored leaders who have appeared at 
the camp, and the estimated seventeen million Euros it cost to 
provide food and shelter for 10,000 people for two weeks, have led 
to speculation about the sources of funding for the camp, and for 
Nashi itself.  Yakemenko said that the total cost of the camp was 
"hard to estimate" because financial support came from multiple 
sources.  He explained that each of the regional delegations had to 
find funding for travel to and from the camp.  Some of the funding 
came from sponsors such as media-company MTS, which advertised at 
the camp.  The third and final source of funding was from the 
government. 
 
Union of Youth 
-------------- 
 
10. (U)  There has been speculation in the press regarding a 
Kremlin-mandated union of all pro-Kremlin youth groups.  The 
participation of the youth movements Young Russia, New People, and 
Mestnye at the Nashi camp encouraged such speculation. (Noticeably 
absent at the Lake Seliger camp, however, was United Russia's youth 
group, Young Guard, which is known for its rivalry with Nashi). This 
was also the first year that members of youth movements other than 
Nashi met with President Putin at his summer residence of Zavidovo. 
Nashi spokesperson, Anastasiya Suslova, repeatedly refuted rumors of 
a merger.  When Yakemenko presented the idea of a central government 
administration for youth movements, Putin reportedly dismissed it as 
"a thing of the past."  Yakemenko explained that Nashi does not have 
a strong influence in the Russian Far East and that if necessary 
Nashi would work with other youth movements to ensure United 
Russia's victory in the Duma elections. 
 
11. (U)  A fight between members of the different groups reportedly 
broke out at the Nashi camp during a mock political protest.  In the 
role-playing game, members of Young Russia and New People were the 
Orange Opposition, and Nashi members were the special forces troops. 
 Although there was to be no violence, Nashi members attacked 
members of the other movements and ruined their tents.  Yakemenko 
dismissed the news of the fight saying that it was nothing more than 
a role-playing game and that "perhaps hysterical girls" confused it 
for a real fight and spread rumors about it. 
 
Future of Nashi 
--------------- 
 
12. (U)  On the last day of the camp, participants elected 
twenty-six year old Nikita Borovikov to lead Nashi after the 
presidential elections in March 2008. Before the start of the camp, 
Yakemenko had announced that he would be stepping down. However, at 
 
MOSCOW 00003808  003.2 OF 003 
 
 
a press conference on July 31, Yakemenko said that the leadership 
elected at the camp is not necessarily the team that will lead Nashi 
after the 2008 presidential election because the camp election had 
been "no more than a role-playing game." 
 
13. (U)  Yakemenko told reporters that Nashi's mission during the 
upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections is to "stabilize 
the situation" and counteract any orange forces that might try to 
disrupt the elections, break the law, or violate the Constitution. 
One former Nashi activist said that Nashi plans to set up tents on 
all major squares in Moscow before the elections so that "the Orange 
Revolution is not repeated and opposition forces do not occupy the 
squares." 
 
14. (U)  Nashi is frequently compared to the Soviet Komsomol, and a 
former Komsomol member told us she agreed with this assessment.  A 
former member of Nashi told reporters about a Nashi "Volunteer Youth 
Patrol" which reportedly beat up people who distributed literature 
against Nashi.  The member also said that this division pestered the 
police during the March of the Dissenters in Moscow, but the police 
were given instructions not to touch them.  At Nashi press 
conferences that we have attended, Yakemenko has been charismatic, 
but has displayed disturbing personality traits.  One moment he can 
be good-natured and proclaim the benefits of Nashi, and the next 
moment his mood shifts and he vents his anger towards outsiders. 
 
15. (U)  Yakemenko, the former head of the failed, Kremlin-sponsored 
youth organization Walking with Putin, started Nashi in 2005.  Nashi 
was not affiliated with any particular political party until this 
summer when it agreed to support United Russia in the December 
parliamentary elections.  Nashi has gained notoriety for its ability 
to organize large groups of students and for its harassment of the 
British and Estonian ambassadors.  However, despite the large number 
of participants at the Nashi camp and the extensive coverage of 
Nashi in the press, a recent Levada Center study found that 
sixty-four percent of the youth polled had never heard of the 
organization. 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
16. (SBU)  The extent of Nashi's role in the upcoming parliamentary 
and presidential elections will be one indication of the group's 
future political influence.  Nashi's
 promises of improving Russia 
are appealing to a generation searching for its place in the world. 
Some of Nashi's initiatives are laudable in promoting political 
activism among youth, strong families, and social responsibility. 
Unfortunately, anti-Americanism is also part of the Nashi program, 
and could be absorbed by currents members, some of whom are likely 
to join Russia's business and political elite.  Still, Nashi 
comprises only a tiny percentage of the Russian youth population, 
and its real impact on Russian society, for better and for worse, 
remains to be seen. 
 
RUSSELL

Wikileaks

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