They have been called “Putin’s Generation” and “neo-Komsomol.” They have served as evidence of a rising Russian fascism. But little reporting about Nashi in English goes beyond what its Commissars give reporters. The following interview gives a different picture. Kommersant Vlast reporter Anna Kachurskaya spoke to “Ivan” (not his real name) a former Nashi member who was expelled from Camp Seliger for what he says was “personal ideological differences” with Nashi leader Vasili Yakemenko. “Ivan” wouldn’t tell anymore because he is afraid of Nashi’s security force, the DMD. Despite his fear and the secrecy surrounding his identity, the circumstances of his expulsion from the camp, and his position in Nashi, “Ivan” met with Kachurskaya and gave her an inside look at the group. Moreover, he provided Kommersant Vlast with documents of Nashi’s local activities, finances and expenditures. The documents themselves have no signatures or stamps. Kommersant couldn’t verify their authenticity.
I’ve translated the interview, removing any side comments added by Kachurskaya. I figured what “Ivan” had to say was worth reading since it is a rare glimpse at Nashi from the inside. I recommend reading the interview (in Russian) for all the details.
Why all the secrecy if you are completely disappointed in Nashi and don’t plan to return to their ranks?
I am afraid of them. There is the DMD.
What is this?
Voluntary youth guard, well a type of cleaners. There have already been cases when they’ve beaten people who have spread information against Nashi. They can probably catch you anywhere. They are football fanatics, athletes, and ordinary thugs. They enforce the ideology and they fulfill their duties with pleasure.
What kind of duties?
To keep order in the movement and its borders, instigate disorder in meetings and marches, which hasn’t been approved by those in power. For example, in the spring DMD arranged provocations in practically all the “Dissenters’ Marchers,” they provoked the police and threw smoke bombs, and as police approach they planted them in the bags of marchers.
I don’t remember the police reporting about smoke bombs at meetings.
I saw this myself.
And what did you do there? Also planted them?
Oh no, I simply went because I was interested to see. The DMDs have special red marks on their arms and the police don’t touch them. And in Seliger they provide security. They throw out whoever Yakemenko shows them. Almost 700 people were driven out of the camp in the first four days.
And you were among them?
Yes. I wasn’t ready when they came. I didn’t even collect my things. In my pocket there was a purse and they took my money. Although they are normally given money, they left me without a kopeck. Here look.
And where did you get these estimates?
Some of them passed through me, I pulled some of them and sent them to myself that were interesting. I thought they would be useful at some point, but I didn’t think that it would be so soon.
And what of these camp brothers (lesnye brat’ia)?
We nicknamed them this. Of course, officially they don’t have any relationship with Nashi. They simply live nearby in their own camp for a particular type of “strong young people”. The DMDs take all the delinquents to them. The lesniki beat those who the DMD brings them, but at first they ask what you are guilty of.
Did they beat you?
They didn’t. They decided would unfairly drive me out. They even brought my things from the camp.
And you took from this that they usually beat up people? Do you know a single person who they’ve beaten?
I don’t know. But everyone in the camp talks about how the lesniki are needed exactly for this.
You say that 700 people were expelled. For what?
Various violations: for drunkenness, for not attending lectures or for [not fulfilling] some kind of obligatory duty. They even drive you out for being late three times for a lecture.
And you were thrown out for?
Well, we’ll say that I conducted myself ideologically incorrectly. If I tell you more, they will find me.
They threw out 700 people and only you’ve decided to get revenge, Why?
My wedding was supposed to be there and it was canceled for my ideological divergence. Now I hate Yakemenko.
I heard of this action “Nashi gets married”. I trust that people married voluntarily?
Not all. Forty weddings were planned, but on the 18 July, this is when the ceremony was to occur, it seemed that there was no more than 15 couples. Representatives from various regions already arrived to the camp to record the marriages, therefore those responsible ran to the camp and persuaded all of them to get married. The result of these efforts was that they persuaded a few more couples to get married a few hours before the ceremony but forty was impossible. It seems that they barely got 18.
Was there a dowry given to the newlyweds from the movement?
No, this was simply a summer gimmick. And now I will only be married this fall. Because of him. But I want to speak about something else. About finances.
About this, how much does Seliger cost?
Well this everyone knows: 17 million Euro. I want to talk about [Nashi’s] daily life. Money is sent to the regions everyone month in suitcases to the technical director—these are the regional leaders. They always carry dollars and usually more than necessary. In the amount of $20,000 to $30,000. The money goes to rent a headquarters, expenses, and work in sections.
Still there is payment of the internet, telephones. And to salaries. Its true that not everyone receives a salary. The leader in the region, the accountant, the secretary and some other head directors. We have in my town a technical director who received almost $1,500 a month, apart from bonuses. They also pay for leaders to rent apartments.
And you received money?
I saw some kind of estimate that I needed 1,500 rubles, but I never saw it. Someone took it.
And where does the money basically go?
To “mass actions.” Look, you see here the three lines: advance, expenditures, and surcharges. The money is granted according to the demands of regional leaders. Here it is detailed that almost $11,500 a month, and expenditures are almost more than $20,000, in “surcharges”, accordingly, $8,500. And where this money is spent, it is unclear. In general, they have such accounting that will make your head spin. They accept a check and vouchers from movement activists without details on what they spent. I myself wrote such a release more than once on the request of the accountant.
At the end of the month these checks and vouchers are taken in a suitcase to Moscow to the private school “Irmos”. It is next to the metro Belorussskaia. Nashi’s main headquarters is at this school. They empty these checks and vouchers onto a table and manually collate them by region. As a rule all are gathered, but if not then they ask the regions to send the vouchers for deficient or overdrawn funds. I was at this school.
And where do these checks go next.
This, I don’t really know
Understood. Vasilii Yakemenko will announce in a few days that he is prepared to give up his post as the head of the movement. Have you heard something about who will take his place?
Yes. They are planning elections in Seliger, which is unusual. Yakemenko must select two regional leaders and give each a team. How these teams are formed, I do not know. It is well known that the technical director from the Voronezh chapter Marina Zademid’kova will head one of the teams. These teams must discover an island, on which is a hidden banner, and must follow Yakemenko. But who will be victorious, everyone already knows—it will be Marina.
And where will Yakemenko go?
He will head a federal agency on youth policy.
What will happen to the movement after 2008. Will it still exist?
Yes. Plans are written up to 2012.
Talk about what is in store for Nashi in the near future.
Well, for example, to flood the Parliamentary elections with “Just Russia.” Nashi will be observers in many regions.
And how will it flood [the election with Just Russia]?
There is an idea to organize a “backwards carousel”, but this still hasn’t been discussed. The plans are thus. First it will be necessary to find a voting district, and prepare people to vote for money, about 150 to 200 rubles a vote. Then, whoever agrees, will receive a false ballot with prepared tick next to “Just Russia”. The voter goes to the polls, receives a real ballot, and drops the fake one into the box, and take the genuine one to the activist. Shortly before the polls close the activists will collect the real ballots, mark on them United Russia, and take them to the polls and drop them into the box. Several minutes before the polls close, observers will announce that evildoers are in the area distributing fake ballots. Nashi will go and record the violations on the side of Just Russia.
But this has yet to be discussed, and whether Nashi or another will carry this out or not, I don’t know exactly.
And in the Presidential election?
First there will be a dress rehearsal in December before the March elections. In Moscow 20,000 activists will arrive and settle in camps in all the large squares of Moscow. The camps will be there for two weeks. But activists will live there in turns and change once every three days. New ones will arrive constantly from the regions, and those living in tents will be taken home. Tents will be pitched on Pushkinskaia, Bolotnaia, Manezhaia [squares], in regard to Lubianka [square], I can’t say if it is likely. The action will be repeated in March.
And what is the reason for this?
What is the reason!? In order to prevent an “Orange Revolution” and the squares will not be occupied by oppositionist forces.
And Nashi knows that the Opposition has such plans?
No, of course, there aren’t any kind of plans. From where does the opposition have such strength? Well in any case, to be on the safe side.
Thanks to mab and Lyndon for help translating “????? ????? ????”.