“This is a conflict between grandchildren and grandfathers”: Russia’s young people are caught in protest debate

At the same time, even taking into account all the features of the “second demographic transition” [a demographic situation entailing sub-replacement birth rates, longer life expectancy and higher degrees of diversity in family status], you need to understand that people who are 35 are, of course, adults. If we take the traditional markers of adulthood – the completion of post-secondary education, autonomy from the parental family, employment, the presence of stable partnerships and the birth of our own children – then we are talking about adults. This “stretching” of the category of “youth” to 35 also affects very young people, who see that political subjectivity is denied even to older people, even in general, already adults – not to mention minors.

Zhanna Chernova

The Russian state has concerns about this age group, which is becoming more widespread and more visible: just take the Arab Spring, where this cohort played a decisive role. This is not the case in our country yet, but in Russia, nevertheless, there was also a period when the birth rate increased, and the “early Putin” generation of children who were born at the start of the 2000s – there are a lot of them today.

Therefore, the Russian authorities have many reasons to play on the fears of parents and create moral panic. It is not the first time that Alexey Navalny has been accused of “bringing school kids out into the street” or “hiding behind children”.

This moral panic turned out to be especially prevalent among people who, in the late 1980s and mid-1990s, were still teenagers, but were already actively participating in informal associations and various forms of protest during perestroika. Why are yesterday’s free thinkers so terrified by the idea that their children can be independent, including politically?

This generation of “parents” has experience of youth protests in the broadest sense of the word, not only political ones. But also they grew up during Russia’s economic reforms, which at the very least they had to respond to. As a result, we got a middle class that is burdened today with a large share of responsibility for the well-being of their families, their children, including the transfer of their class position.

Considering Russia’s entire social, political and economic context, these people are, in effect, pragmatic – if not political – stabilisers of the regime. They disown the political component; they already know how to build professional, business strategies within the existing system and they would not want to lose their current positions.

We’re talking now about people who took out mortgages to build nice apartments. Who worked hard for their children to study in prestigious schools. Who can generally provide a prestigious middle-class lifestyle – with trips abroad at least once a year, and so on. This economic pragmatism plays a big role here. This group’s life experience of experiencing rapid reforms in the 1990s, the experience of observing the results of these reforms, the experience of how social lifts work – it is very similar to the late Soviet period.

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» “This is a conflict between grandchildren and grandfathers”: Russia’s young people are caught in protest debate | Editors of oDR | Radio Free | https://www.radiofree.org/2021/02/04/this-is-a-conflict-between-grandchildren-and-grandfathers-russias-young-people-are-caught-in-protest-debate/ | 2021-10-23T21:40:23+00:00
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