18 Mar 2013: CEES & Politics Joint Seminar

Issued: Thu, 13 Sep 2012 17:42:00 BST

Volunteers, Entrepreneurs and Patriots: youth as new subjects of state policy in Putin’s Russia

Professor Julie Hemment (University of Massachusetts)

NB time changed: 5.30pm, Central and East European Studies Seminar Room, 8-9 Lilybank Gardens

'In Russia, youth are the new objects of state policy. Since coming to office in 1999, President Vladimir Putin has channelled substantial funds into youth via a national project of “patriotic education” and new pro-Kremlin youth organizations. These organizations seek to energize and activate youth and encourage them into diverse forms of civic activity. These Putin-era organizations are controversial in Russia and the West due both to their Soviet resonance and the nationalist projects they enact. Commentators take them as evidence of Russia’s authoritarian turn and rejection of liberal democracy. However, these state-run organizations are curious hybrids; while they articulate forceful resistance to liberal logics and paradigms, they draw on them as well, combining (neo)liberal, nationalist and socialist categories in a complex fusion. Drawing on a collaborative research project that engaged provincial youth in the process of inquiry (2006-2011), my research interrogates these organizations ethnographically and considers their implications for the redrawing of state power and citizenship in Russia.

My talk (based on my book-in-progress) will focus on one of the state-run youth projects that took shape during Russia’s Year of Youth, 2009 - the Youth Educational Forum Seliger. This educational summer camp, which brings tens of thousands of youth to attend lectures at a lakeside resort, exemplifies the shifts of Russia’s state-run campaigns. While the early Seliger camps (2005-2008) were associated with Nashi and served as venues for a nationalist-oriented patriotic education, Seliger 2009 resembled a giant job fair. It invited youth to develop innovative projects under the slogan “Commodify your talent!” Once again, this state-run campaign offered a distinctive blend of logics. In contradistinction to the fusty formal institutions of higher education, Seliger cast itself as an alternative cutting edge venue for 21st century education; it offered a repatriated, “socially responsible” form of entrepreneurship to youth and sought to foster a specific kind of “talent” - for the nation. Drawing on interview transcripts with Seliger participants, I explore the imaginative possibilities and the concrete rewards –as well as the disappointments -youth participants encountered, tracing the trajectory of a few key informants.'


The CEES and Politics Seminar Series are supported by the MacFie Bequest, named after Professor Alec MacFie, Adam Smith Professor of Political Economy at the University from 1945 to 1958. 

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