March 11, 2019 2:15 pm

Russia Rising, part 7: Meet the so-called ‘Putin Generation’

An independent polling firm has found that 86 per cent of young Russian adults from the ages of 18-24 approve of President Vladimir Putin. Jeff Semple reports.

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On the seventh episode of Russia Rising, we’ll meet the so-called “Putin Generation”: An estimated 28-million Russian young people who were born after Vladimir Putin first rose to power two decades ago.

Russia’s 66-year-old strongman was first sworn-in back on May 7, 2000, and he has remained in the Kremlin’s seat of power, either as president or prime minister, ever since.

We’ll take a stroll through Moscow’s Gorky Park, a popular hangout for Russian youth, where we’ll meet a young couple named Alex and Olga. They tell me they don’t support President Putin, mostly because they think two decades is too long for anyone to cling to power.

“People who guide the country, they must change sometimes, to bring something new,” Alex says.

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READ MORE: The ‘Putin Generation’: How Vladimir Putin has won over Russia’s youth

Unlike their parents’ generation, which largely relies on the Kremlin-controlled TV news networks, Alex and Olga get their news and information from the internet and social media. And the internet in Russia remains mostly open and unrestricted.

“We have a lot of friends in foreign countries, and Facebook, we can see a lot of information from them,” Olga explains. “We don’t watch TV, but my mom watches a lot and she tells me a lot of information from TV, but I understand that it’s propaganda most of the time.”

READ MORE: Russia Rising, part 3: Hackers targeting Canadian elections, banks and institutions

We’ll continue our stroll through Gorky Park where we meet another young Russian named Paul. He’s concerned that Putin’s foreign policy — including military campaigns in Ukraine and Syria — has soured Russia’s relations with Western countries.

“His work outside the country, I don’t think it’s very good. We lose a lot of friendship countries around Russia. The more time passes, the more problems we have. Young people don’t like what’s happening,” he says, “because they’re travelling a lot, they work a lot in different countries, and it’s making it harder every year to do that. That’s why they don’t like it.”

WATCH: Russians laugh off idea Putin largely supported by youth

But despite the Putin Generation’s connections to the Western world, opinion polls suggest the majority of Russian young people support Putin as president. We’ll discuss with Mariya Voropayeva, the head of Russia’s Youth Parliament. She says that for many young Russians, Putin represents economic stability.

“I understand if some people compare Putin’s long rule with an autocracy, but what’s most important are the real results for our country,” she says.

READ MORE: Russia Rising, part 2: The rise of Vladimir Putin

“The youth today have the opportunity to succeed in life, despite their social standing or how rich their parents are. Young people are making plans, looking forward to their futures. And they’re no longer afraid to start families today.”

Anton Fedyashin is a Russian history expert at American University in Washington, D.C. He points out that this Putin Generation was born after the communist collapse and grew up during Russia’s gruelling economic transition in the 1990s.

READ MORE: Russia Rising, part 5: How the Kremlin uses an ancient strategy called ‘maskirovka’ to sow doubt and confusion

A survey last year found 86 per cent of young Russian adults (between 18 and 24 years old) approve of Vladimir Putin as president.

Jeff Semple / Global News

But since Putin rose to power in 2000, they’ve watched their standard of living soar, thanks in large part to rising oil prices and to the painful economic reforms of the ‘90s.

“And for those kids who are living in large Russian cities where life has progressively become more comfortable, more stable and safer on the whole in the past 18 years, throughout their lifetime, it’s really no surprise that these kids are supportive of the president that they see as having brought in this period and this experience of really unprecedented wealth and relative stability, which is so precarious in Russian history,” he says.

Putin’s election victory last year cemented his grip on power until at least the year 2024. And his support among Russian youth suggests the strong possibility, that even after he’s gone, the Putin regime will endure.

READ MORE: Russia Rising, part 4: Russian spies getting sloppy, says journalist who revealed Skripal poisoning suspects


Twitter: @JeffSempleGN



Anton Fedyashin – Associate Professor and Director, Carmel Institute, Department of History

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