Putin is cultivating a following, says an expert – Russia’s future leader can be found in the new Z generation | Foreign countries

Putin is cultivating a following says an expert Russias

President of Russia Vladimir Putin is rapidly raising a “Generation Z” in Russia that idealizes a new fascist war.

This generation competes every year, among other things, to see who can assemble a Kalashnikov assault rifle the fastest.

Canadian writer Ian Garner has studied the world of thought of these young people in his book Russia’s Fascist Youth and Child Soldiers and tells very directly how Putin’s regime brainwashes young people.

– If the dreams of Vladimir Putin and the government come true, the next generation will grow up to be highly militarized, highly nationalistic, suspicious and hostile to the West, Garner describes.

– These young people believe that Russia is an empire that must wage a constant war against the West.

In Russia’s “Generation Z”, Garner refers to young people who have been charmed by Russian war propaganda. He says that no generation in Russian history has been as militaristic. Garner recently visited Helsinki to talk about his new book.

According to him, Putin’s successor is most likely to be found in this generation.

– It is very possible that the choice of Putin’s successor will jump over one generation and the future leader of Russia will come from generation Z, says Garner.

The Russian regime is brainwashing young people

According to Garner, Putin’s administration has effectively shaped the world of thought of Russian youth over the past ten years.

– Brainwashing is effective. Even more effective than during the Soviet Union, because now the means are from the world of young people, Garner states.

The Kremlin no longer appeals to young people only with military parades, youth organizations or classrooms, but is effectively present on social media, especially Tiktok and Russia’s Facebook, or V-kontakt.

For example, celebrities and sports stars have been attracted to the front pictures of Junarmija, or the Russian youth army, founded by Putin.

– These social media influencers are spreading Putin’s message. The message is wrapped in big emotions, in a form that is acceptable to young people, says Garner.

According to Garner, the Russian regime began to use social media massively in 2019, when it realized that this is a way to get directly into the souls of young people.

– A young person has a smartphone in their hand 24/7, and there is also Putin, Garner states.

But why does the Kremlin’s propaganda go through so well? Don’t young Russians also have alternative social media channels at their disposal?

– The Kremlin has created hundreds of communities on social media, where young people can join something bigger and gain the approval of their peers. It is a very powerful phenomenon, says Garner.

According to Garner, the enticement is the image created by the Kremlin that if a young person joins, he will become popular, have a career, can get money. All dreams can come true.

– In the community, the young person also feels like they belong to a family, says Garner.

The Russian secret service KGB once acted in the same way for Putin himself. Putin joined To the KGB as a young student and has called the KGB his family.

Garner interviewed a 20-year-old young man from Moscow for his book. He is international, speaks different languages, has a Jewish background, is interested in western music and western culture.

– And yet, he was radicalized in the last few years. He skillfully wove a web of conspiracy theories about the genocide committed by the Ukrainians against the Russians in eastern Ukraine, Garner says.

– I started to sympathize with him. It was frighteningly effective, says Garner.

The youth army is growing rapidly

But what happens when this generation grows up?

Garner says bluntly that Russia’s new warlike generation is a threat.

– Putin founded the youth army, or Junarmija, eight years ago. Now it has become a mass movement whose membership has grown explosively in just the last three or four years, and the growth continues, Garner states.

– It will only take five to ten years until these people really start to influence and rise to leadership positions in Russia.

Youth army graduates do not need to be lured into the war either. That’s what they’ve been preparing for all along, Garner points out.

– Putin’s “mistake” was that he started the war too early. If he had waited another four, five years, he would have mobilized this generation and the Russian population much more easily, says Garner.

The youth army now includes 1.2 million young people. Putin’s goal is for a total of 18 million children and young people to undergo military training.

– And the next time Russia wants to go to war, they will be ready, states Garner.

The influence of the opposition on Russian youth

– The Kremlin effectively makes it clear on social media that if the West tempts you, you are evil. The young person accepts that he is part of the war, Garner formulates.

According to Garner, the situation in Russia today is much worse than during the Soviet Union. That’s when people came home from school and work, closed their doors and talked about whatever they wanted in their kitchens.

– It won’t work anymore. The state is on the smartphone and present all the time. Those who think differently cannot freely publish anything without punishment, he says.

According to Garner, control has been made really easy. There is a special service created by the Kremlin on the Internet where citizens can report, for example, their colleagues. Just as Joseph Stalin time, but faster and easier, just by logging into the network.

However, Garner does not want to despair. He believes that at some point the opposition will gather its strength. According to Garner, the leading figure must be someone new who is not marked by a “western image”.

– Maybe a new one [Aleksei] Navalny is out there setting up a Tiktok account right now and building a new and very different movement, says Garner.