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Feature Story April 22, 2008
 
Nashi: Is It Really The End?
By Sean Guillory Browse author Email
 
Page 4 of 5
 

Nashi wanted to avenge this "slander." According to an internal letter from Nashi’s press secretary, Kristina Potupchik, they decided to wage a campaign that would "create intolerable conditions for Kommersant. To block their work. To psychologically and physically ruin them. Revenge is necessary." The aim was to soil the paper’s highly regarded reputation.

On March 4th, a thousand Nashi activists hit the Moscow streets posing as Kommersant employees. passing out tens of thousands of rolls of toilet paper stamped with Kommersant’s logo, a fake letter from its editor, Andrei Vasiliev announcing the new toilet-paper format, and the mobile number of Yulia Taratuta, a co-author of the offending article. Nashi activists told passersby that the rolls were part of a campaign to market the daily’s new multipurpose format. Activists even planted them in the bathrooms of the State Duma. I’m sure there were more than a few deputies happy to christen the new product. The action also came with a well coordinated media campaign. Twelve Kommersant billboards were placed on Moscow’s major avenues reading, "Don’t fear the new. Now on toilet paper!"; "Everything for our money"; "Everything is in our power"; and "We don’t hide secret companies."

Nashi’s scatological assault didn’t stop there. Its hackers launched a "Denial of Service" attack on Kommersant’s website, shutting it down for five hours, bombarded Vasiliev with spam, and perhaps in a display of Nashi comedic genius, dropped a link bomb. A search on Google or Yandex for the word zasrantsy (assholes) lists the Kommersant website first. The cyber attack cost the business daily about $155,000.

Our Present, Our Future

Why would anyone join Nashi? What is its future in a post-Putin Russia? Most Nashi members aren’t violent thugs, but rather ambitious careerists. One such Nashist is Maksim Novikov, 18, a student at Moscow State Institute for International Relations. In an interview with Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Novikov, appears as a model student and a model Nashist, carries a copy of Vladislav Surkov’s Russian Political Culture: A Utopian View, which he marks up with a pen.Though he agrees with the basic principles of Survkov’s so-called "sovereign democracy," he displays no emotional attachment to it. He hopes to someday study abroad, but when asked if he will remain abroad once he gets out of Russia, he says he would like to serve his country. "I am after all a patriot."

But Nashi wasn’t his first choice or really on his radar for youth groups. Novikov explained that at first he thought about joining the Communists, but was turned off by their hostility to the free market. He found Nashi "almost by chance." He found Vasilii Yakemenko’s email on the net, who promptly arranged a meeting between Novikov and one of Nashi’s Moscow commissars. After some discussion, he joined. Now Novikov speaks about Nashi in terms of "we."

For careerist-oriented youths like Novikov, joining Nashi is a no-brainer. The organization has already proved its powerful connections with The Man. But now it’s moving a step further into the realm of career-advancement-opportunity. Just like its Komsomol predecessor, Nashi is beginning to develop programs for training elites. Some of its new "projects" include developing a business school, a political institute, and programs to recruit recent graduates for business ventures. One example of the latter is a project called "Our Builders," where students and young professionals are employed to work in construction projects for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. Other Nashi projects focus on promoting Orthodox Christianity, patriotism, paramilitary training, tourism, and even a brand of Nashi clothing lines developed by designer and commissar Antonia Shapavolova.


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