Young people in post-Soviet Russia

Case study on feature film “We are From the Future” (Andrei Malyukov, 2008)

Term Paper 2008 14 Pages

Politics - International Politics - Region: Russia



Russia! Where are you rushing to? Give me an answer.

Nikolai Gogol, “Dead Souls” During the course of the twentieth century, the Soviet Union rose and fell, and Russia reemerged. The Russians were left “feeling robbed of a sense of place, of purpose and of identity”[2]. By the mid-1990s, Russia, while contending with the ups and downs of economic crisis and the health of its leaders, was trying to find its own course, attempting to resurrect past glories, learn from recent mistakes, and forge a place in a community of nations. Together with society, youth was going through a period of change in its ideological, economic and moral values. According to Martha Olcott, “it was Russian youth, who seemed to suffer disproportionately from the numerous social disorders in the USSR at the end of the decade”[3]. Ilynsky talks about the widespread moral decay in Russia in the 1990s and the lack of direction among many young people – their poor understanding of freedom, lack of faith in politicians, growing sense of injustice and general concerns about what the future might bring”[4].

Russian identity is and has been a topic of continual argument, of conflicting claims, competing images, contradictory criteria. According to S. Franklin, “Russia is continually represented as a question, a field of possibilities, a set of contradictions”[5]. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 even more intensified self-questioning in the “new” Russia started. Usually, such questions have been posed by the young population of Russia who happened to live in the period of global economic and ideological transitions. What kind of country is Russia to be? What has happened to young people in the post-communist phase? The focus of this paper is how the changing economic, political and social geography of Russia affected the youth since the fall of communism in 1991. I will reflect upon the typical portrait and particular features of the post-Soviet youth. My research question is as follow: “What images, sentiments, and obligations do young Russians attribute to their homeland, and how do these contribute to an understanding of their notions of ethnicity, patriotism, and nationalism?”

Chapter I

Value system and patriotism in post-Soviet Russia

“He who does not regret the break-up of the Soviet Union has no heart; he who wants to revive it in its previous form has no head”.

V.V. Putin

Enormous changes occurred in every sphere of Russian life – economic, political, social and legal after 1991. As J. Finkenauer puts it, “perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness) became household words to Russians during the last half of the decade of the 1980s”[6]. The Communist party, which had been the dominant force in the USSR for several decades, first lost its primacy and then was outlawed. Expectations were raised, but remained unfulfilled. One of the negative sides of glasnost was the emergence of extremist nationalistic groups like the Russian “Pamyat” (“Memory”) society. It was a violent, anti-Semitic group reminiscent of Hitlerite organizations in Nazi Germany. “Pamyat” was the extremity of a powerful, chauvinistic Russian nationalism. It has not yet become a political force, but it has been very attractive to disaffected Russian youth. From the examinations of youth and nationality in the Soviet Union, it has been concluded by scholars that Russian youth seems most attracted to extreme political ideologies, such as fascism espoused by “Pamyat”[7]. After the Collapse of the Soviet Union, new tendencies and subcultures have emerged and their scope is rapidly expanding. Among them are: marginalization, forced migration, nationalism, religious fundamentalism and so forth. Throughout the 1980s, there was a proliferation of informal youth groups throughout the Soviet Union. They included finding a sense of community with their peers outside the official institutions, and finding a place where they could express their individuality. Included among the Soviet groups were rock music fans, hippies, religious groups, cults, fanaty (soccer fans), afghantsy ( veterans of the war in Afghanistan), fashisty (neo-nazi youth group), youth gangs, vigilante groups and others. Not all of these youth groups engaged in criminal activity, but many apparently did. For example, the Liubery – a contemporary vigilante-type group that emphasizes physical strength – opposes all Western culture and influence. Their self-appointed mission was to rid the country of rock fans and groupies, of hippies, and of punks”[8]. “Russian young people have been disillusioned. They witnessed the collapse of a total system that had ensured full employment, equality, and identity, and a bright future. Living their school years in a state of heightened instability provided strong medicine against believing in what were formerly assumed to be absolute, meta-answers to life’s multitude of problems”[9].


[2] The New York Times, June 14, 1992.

[3] Åslund, Anders; Olcott, Martha B. Russia after Communism. Carnegie: Washington, D.C., 1999. P. 136.

[4] Riordan James; Williams, Christopher; Ilyinsky, Igor. Young People in Post-Communist Russia. Dartmouth Publishing Company, 1995. P.75.

[5] Franklin, Simon; Widdis, Emms. National Identity in Russian culture. An introduction. Cambridge University Press, 2004. P.69.

[6] Finckenauer , James O. Russian Youth. Law, deviance, and the pursuit offreedom . Transaction Publishers: New Brunswick, 1995.

[7] Finckenauer , James O. Russian Youth. Law, deviance, and the pursuit of freedom. Transaction Publishers: New Brunswick, 1995.

[8] Finckenauer , James O. Russian Youth. Law, deviance, and the pursuit offreedom . Transaction Publishers: New Brunswick, 1995.

[9] Markowitz, Fran. Coming of age in post - Soviet Russia . University of Illinois Press: Chicago, 2000.


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Uppsala University
Young Russia Case From Future” Malyukov



Title: Young people in post-Soviet Russia