Vienna, July 17 – Young Russians inflamed by radical nationalist and xenophobic ideas are more numerous today than at any point since sociologists began studying the phenomenon in the late 1980s, with some investigators suggesting that there may now be as many as 500,000 Russian young people involved in extremist groupings.
And the number of such young people aged between 13 and 30 and especially between 15 and 17 is increasing rapidly, especially in the major cities in the hitherto predominantly Russian European portion of the country, an article in today’s “Novyye izvestiya” reported (http://www.newizv.ru/news/2007-07-17/72924/).
The exact number of young Russians who are now extremists remains very much a matter of dispute, in some respects because of problems with the available data and in others because of definition: Are all violent football fans to be included? Or are those without a clearly articulated nationalist ideology to be excluded?
Aleksandr Brod of the Moscow Human Rights Bureau gives the highest number – half a million – while others including the SOVA Center’s Galina Kozhevnikova give lower ones, with “no more than 60-70,000” real extremists surrounded by a much larger penumbra of hangers-on.
But the students of this subject appear to agree on three important things: First, they all say, the number of young Russian extremists is growing and now is at a level higher than at any time since this phenomenon began to be tracked in 1988, with no sign that this rise is about to end anytime soon.
Second, they insist, a major reason why he number has increased because over the last 10 to 15 years is that the young have concluded that they can act on their extremist views with little fear of punishment because many in positions of power back their ideas or at least will help to protect those who manifest them.
And third, extremist attitudes are far more widespread among young people than in the population as a whole. According to the Levada Center’s Lev Gudkov, some four to six percent of the total Russian population has Nazi-like extremist views, but among the young, the share of extremists may be as high as 15 percent.
With the passing of time, some of these young people may outgrow their radical and xenophobic nationalism, but given the large numbers of those now infected, many will not – and that will pose yet another challenge to already embattled political liberties in the Russian Federation.