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Apathy, disgust, dispair characterize Russian youths' attitude toward government
The media in the west often portray the political landscape in Russia as turbulent and ruthless. Struggling opposition parties, illegal protest rallies, and much speculation on the increasingly totalitarian nature of the current regime’s policies might make an observer imagine that the population is paralyzed with fear and discontent.
If an observer were to look for activism and a passion for change, wouldn’t they look among the country’s young people? Hasn’t history often shown students to be the locomotives of revolution?
However, polling and observation of the Russian population have shown increased political apathy and detachment over the past decade, especially among the nation’s youth.
In a 2007 poll of1,500 respondents conducted by FOM (The Public Opinion Foundation, a subsidiary of Russia’s largest polling organization, the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center), 58 percent of those 18-35 said they rarely or never vote. The margin of error in the poll did not exceed 3.6 percent.
When the same group was asked whether the 2007 parliamentary elections would have any effect on the lives of ordinary people 57 percent said no. (http://bd.english.fom.ru/report/cat/policy/elections/ed073320)
In another study conducted by FOM that same year, 61 percent of 18-35 year-olds said Russian citizens do not have the opportunity to influence to government’s decisions and yet 67 percent said they would never take part in a protest. (http://bd.english.fom.ru/report/cat/societas/civil_society/ed071722)
Even an informal, personal survey of the country’s twenty-somethings supports these findings and reveals a demographic almost diametrically opposed in values and aspirations to the Obama generation in the U.S. As their American counterparts strive to make Washington work for them, Russian youths neither currently work with the Kremlin nor want to work with the Kremlin.
“I don’t care about politics, because we don’t have much choice in this country. I’m just a person who wants to live in an apartment, have a family, and buy things,” says Vera, 23, who graduated from Saint Petersburg State University’s faculty of journalism this year and is avidly pursuing a career in the field.
The recipe for success is self-reliance and ambition combined with doses of luck and a few connections. The world of government and politics is remote and unappealing.
While individuals during the Soviet era may or may not have taken the ideology of the government seriously, they were nevertheless accustomed to a symbiotic relationship with the state. Citizens worked and kept their dissent to themselves, and the Soviet system provided them with an excellent education, jobs, pensions, healthcare, and a decent standard of living.
Today, the youth no longer expect the government to deliver the aforementioned services and so they turn a deaf ear to the prattle of politicians. Their world and the political world are separate and mutually disinterested.