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Russian generation TikTok is Putin’s Achilles heel

Ludovic Marin / AFP via Getty On February 3, an influx of young Russians flooded my Instagram inbox and my list of followers. Yulia Navalnaya, the wife of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, had just reposted my recent Instagram story: a photo of Navalny in court, raising her hands to form the shape of a heart, which had made the cover from the Wall Street Journal. – My family emigrated from Russia to the United States in the 1990s, when I was 13, but I did not remember meeting Russian teenagers and young people like them before: an entire generation that grew up under the reign of Putin. On their social media pages on Instagram and TikTok, they appear as determined, daring and creative. They made political videos on TikTok and Instagram. Some of them identified as feminists, vegan activists, dancers, musicians and aspiring lawyers. They seemed to be walking to the beat of a different drum, sharing a different set of universal values ​​than their parents and grandparents. It was as if they were visitors from another planet.When Navalny returned to Moscow on January 17 and was quickly detained, his team was able to mobilize thousands of people in cities across Russia’s 11 time zones. . After the Russian court sentenced Navalny to two and a half years in prison, his supporters continued to demonstrate in the streets. Videos shared on social media showed teens ripping up portraits of Putin in schools and replacing them with pictures of Navalny. On February 14, Valentine’s Day, Navalny’s team ran a campaign called ” Love is stronger than fear ”, inspired by Navalny’s gesture towards her. wife in court. “We call on all inhabitants of major Russian cities to do one simple thing on February 14 at 8 pm,” the Navalny team wrote. “Go out and turn on your phone’s flash, lift it up and stay there for a few minutes.” On Sunday several protests took place, mainly in Moscow and St. Petersburg where a few hundred women gathered in solidarity with Navalny’s wife. Yulia, according to AFP. Separately, “tens of thousands” of people have responded to Navalny’s call for the Valentine’s Day campaign, braving winter temperatures and going out with flashlights for symbolic vigils in “hundreds of courtyards.” across the country, according to Navalny’s team estimates. turnout was lower and more peaceful, without the violent clashes with police and massive detentions that characterized pro-Navalny protests last month. Instead, the government’s response has moved behind the scenes, focusing on pressuring social media platforms and taking action against those who suggest they are even considering taking to the streets. Immediately after the events of Valentine’s Day, there were reports of retaliation against those who participated in the campaign, including COVID-19 nurse Saidanvar Sulaimonov, who was fired after participating in the campaign. Love is stronger than fear ”and having taken a photo of Even before Sunday’s events, many young people expressed skepticism about the long-term impact of this new wave of protests. Aram Badalyam, a 25-year-old freelance folk musician based in Krasnodar, southern Russia – the region where Putin’s alleged palace is located – calls the protests “toothless.” Navalny’s investigation and the explosion of political activism he saw in the country and in Krasnodar inspired him to write a song about the palace. “Navalny speaks their language,” he says of the new generation of supporters. “He is persevering, courageous and courageous. Bravery is a rarity in Russia. This is the type of grassroots mobilization that set Navalny apart from other opposition leaders and allowed him to connect with this new generation through social media, as in this TikTok video where he shows his investigation into his own poisoning. Whether it’s providing copies of flyers to display in their quarters in a Google Drive or continuing to post investigative videos even while Navalny is in prison, his team is teaching this new generation a new methodology to protest and political activism. “Navalny offers instruments, demonstrations for example, where other members of the opposition can come forward and unite for common goals,” said Nikolai, 23, based in St. Petersburg, who spoke with The Daily Beast under a pseudonym. “For me, Navalny is also the people he has gathered around him, people who are fighting the system and helping others.” Navalny’s anti-corruption activities not only made this new generation aware of the state of affairs in their country, but also taught them how to fight corruption in the existing system. It showed them what works. “I do. Trust Navalny because he provides arguments and facts, “says Catherine Shipilova, 17, an aspiring lawyer, who counts the months until she officially becomes” adult “in Russia.” I have intending to apply to law school, I would like to help people, “she said.” I love Russia, but I’m against our current government. ” In an interview with Russian radio station Echo Moskvy, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a Russian oil tycoon who was himself jailed for a decade, noted that Putin’s response to Navalny’s latest investigation into the alleged President’s palace showed the disconnect between the ruling regime and this new generation. The nearly two-hour investigation into an imperial-style palace in southern Russia received more than 112 million views in one month. Putin described the video boring, calling it a “montage” and claiming that “nothing listed there as my property belongs to me or my relatives, and never has.” Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, continued to deny any ownership. Khodorkovsky called Putin’s response to the viral video more shocking than the investigation itself. “It’s a joke,” he said. “It’s only natural that the younger generation want something different. Government can help them cost. But for that you need institutions in which you make rules, and young people live their lives within the framework. But our government does not want to put in place frameworks. They want to rule everything to stay in power. A Levada Center opinion poll showed that a quarter of Russians had seen the video of the palace and that the youngest, aged 18 to 24, had absorbed it the most. According to the poll, 37% of younger people had seen it, more than any other group. Putin’s first public response to Navalny’s viral investigation of Putin’s palace in southern Russia was widely mocked. social media. A TikTok video showed Putin speaking from a dark purple ‘hookah’ room showing a metal pole in the middle of the room as he explained that there was no document connecting him to the palace. The Kremlin’s response included a series of denials. connections to the palace, massive detentions and more technical measures to detain participants before protests using facial recognition technology. But the main focus of the government’s response has been to crack down on social media sites that allow information sharing, mobilization and political engagement. After the first wave of protests, Russian media censorship agency Roskomnadzor focused on the most popular social media agencies, even ordering them to remove documents related to the protests. On January 29, Roskomnadzor called representatives from TikTok, Facebook, Telegram and VKontakte, saying it was their responsibility to remove messages encouraging participation in “unauthorized events,” the agency said. The agency also ordered several media outlets to suppress reporting on the Valentine’s Day protest. Of course, these young people represent only a fraction of the Russian opposition, and Navalny himself does not share all of their values. The majority of Russians continue to get their news from the mainstream media, more loyal to the Kremlin. But right now – after Navalny’s latest attempt to poison him, his recovery, his return from Germany and his hasty condemnation in Moscow – it is he who unites the opposition of Russia, including this young generation who do not can only remember a Russia under Putin. Navalny may have captured their imaginations and the government’s response was swift. The Foreign Office even opened an official TikTok account at the start of F ebruary, dedicating the first two posts to Navalny. For some of his supporters, what resonates most about Navalny is that he provides a tent for the opposition, provides them with tools and teaches them how to make their voices heard: through activism on social media, video and street protests. . And they continue to listen and take notes, even with Navalny behind bars. Nikolai says he plans to continue participating in the protests despite his detention. “I think the protest movement will continue, but will take different forms, not just going to specific streets at a specific time,” he said. “I see the future of Russia as democratic, free, respectful of the rule of law and of each other. The new generation is less sensitive to state propaganda. “If the order in power remains the same, we are not going to see anything improve. Shipilova tells The Daily Beast. She is concerned that serving time in jail will impact Navalny’s chances of running again. “I hope our country will be better and that we will have laws that are important and necessary.” Even Alexei Navalny’s tone took on a darker, pensive tone after the events of Valentine’s Day. He was sentenced to almost three years in prison. “The prison is in your head,” he wrote in a recent Instagram post, making a comparison of his prison cell and its conditions to piloting a spaceship. “Right now, I understand that I am on a space trip, flying to a beautiful new world.” Register now! Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside digs deeper into the stories that matter to you. Learn more.


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