I am taking a long Sunday walk when I come upon them handing out leaflets in front of Kentucky Fried Chicken, in Perovo, the region of Moscow in which I reside. There are four or five of them altogether: young teenagers or those in their early twenties – handing out leaflets. They try to hand me one, and I, assuming it is advertising, tell them I do not understand Russian and keep on moving down the street. It is only a few seconds later that I actually look at them and see that they are wearing Communist Party of Russia t-shirts. I stop and approach them. “Are you Communists” I ask? Indeed they are and I am overjoyed to meet my fellow comrades in the streets of Perovo. Two of them speak English and so I am able to carry on a brief conversation in the free seconds in which they are not actively approaching people, handing out leaflets and carrying on conversations telling passer-bys about their candidate. I ask them if I can interview them later, and they agree. We will meet in front of Kentucky Fried Chicken in about two hours. Off I go and they return, uninterrupted to the work at hand, advertising for the Communist Party candidate for regional representative from Perovo.
I wander into the park where I practice my Tai Chi, sit on a bench and breath in the beautiful smell of the nearby woods and lake. As I am sitting I am approached by a young man who speaks to me in perfect English. His name is Nikita, and he tells me that he often watches me and the others in my class as we do Tai Chi. I speak in English and that captures his attention, focuses it on me rather than on my fellow students. We talk and he tells me he has lived in many different places in the world from Dubai to Germany, and so has studied at International Schools in which he was able to develop his English to such a high level. It turns out his father works for one of Russia’s giant state owned oil companies, and that is the reason he traveled so much and was fortunate enough to have received such a fine education. He will, he tells me, follow in his father’s footsteps and go to work for a Russian oil company. He is currently studying at a specialized university which trains young people for positions within the Russian oil industry. He is, almost naturally, a supporter of Putin. He is a Russian Patriot.
So much has been written recently about the opposition protests here in Moscow. About the thousands of young people who want opposition candidates to be allowed to be registered for elections. But the truth be told, they are, while ever growing, a minority. Those who would vote, would not vote for their candidates or their Candidate, Alexey Navalney, who has for many years been continuously organizing protests, and subsequently, has continuously been thrown in jail. He expects to be running for President of Russia. His platform is that Russia is corrupt, and that if only the corruption could be eliminated, Russia would be a great and wealthy nation again. For that statement and for many others such as it, I consider him an idiot and completely incapable of running this huge and complex nation. He never mentions the role America has played in keeping Russia poor through sanctions. I have always thought he was supported by the U.S.; every so often an article appears that says he in fact, is an agent of The United States.
To be sure he has the support of many young people, but not enough to get him elected.
Among those old enough to have lived under Communism, the actions of Putin, particularly his raising of the age for receiving state pensions(after which his approval rating dove precipitously) has made them long for a return to the good old days of the Soviet Union, with free housing, free medical care, and the cheap rouble. I read recently that 40% of the population now long for the return of the old Soviet Union. So the Communists, which are a legitimate political party in Russia, appear to be making a genuine attempt to regain serious power. Their candidates are young, and, if the gathering of the party faithful before Kentucky Friend Chicken is an indication, those actively working the streets are also young, very young. They stand in sharp opposition to the Patriotic Youth that Putin has shaped and encouraged, and the followers of Navalney, who simply want change without due consideration as to what should be changed or how that change should be brought about. It is all about getting rid of Putin. They are as thoughtless as their leader.
I return to Kentucky Fried Chicken to find my young Communists sinking their teeth into fried chicken sandwiches and drinking cokes. They are consumed with their own problems. One of the girls is crying; the others are trying to comfort her. They appear to be every bit, American teenagers. I see that it is no time to interview them. I wish them well and say goodbye.
Mary Metzger is a 74 year old semi retired teacher. She did her undergraduate work at S.U.N.Y. Old Westbury and her graduate work In Dialectics under Bertell Ollman at New York University. She has taught numerous subjects, from Public Sector Labor Relations to Philosophy of Science, to many different levels of students from the very young to Ph.D. candidates, in many different institutions and countries from Afghanistan to Russia. She has been living in Russia for the past 12 years where she focuses on research in the Philosophy of Science and History of the Dialectic, and writes primarily for Countercurrents. She is the mother of three, the grandmother of five, and the great grandmother of two.