Ivo Mijnssen

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[Cross-posted from New Books in Russian and Eurasian Studies] The Soviet Union once boasted of its unparalleled political participation among youth. Belonging to outwardly political organizations, these Octobrists, Pioneers, and Komsomoltsy often represented the spirit of Soviet youth. They were engaged, well-informed, and enthusiastic about their country. In his book, Back To Our Future! History, Modernity, and Patriotism According to Nashi, 2005-2013Ivo Mijnssen fills us in on a contemporary example of a large Russian youth organization. Nashi, or “Ours,” pledged its allegiance to Putin and to Russia. During its existence, the organization, though billed as a successful grassroots group, enjoyed a cozy relationship with the state.  It promised its members upward social mobility and a clearly defined, officially sanctioned worldview. A study of Nashi thus becomes both a study of political tendencies of Russian youth and the Russian government’s involvement in constructing and controlling ideologies.

Mijnssen expertly dissects the Nashi organization and exposes its guiding ideas and driving mechanisms. Weaved into the memory of the WWII, Nashi claims to embody the spirit of a new generation ready to return Russia to greatness. The book centers around several key case studies that shine a light on the political moods of its members (and government). The book is anchored by an in-depth look at the once secretive Seliger camp, an annual retreat for Nashi organizers and activists. Nashi brochures, posters, songs, and slogans complement Mijnssen’s study. This is a must read for any experts of contemporary Russia.  Back To Our Future! is an important contribution to scholarship of modern Russian politics, which is rapidly becoming an important area of study. The future of Nashi and other youth organizations remains closely tied to the political ambitions of Russia.

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