Nashi (Russia)

Country: Russia
Details of Formation: Some local Nashi branches already organized in January 2005. The Nashi group as such was organized on March 1, 2005, but the founding manifesto is dated to April 15, 2005. Nashi became the successor movement of the controversial (unarmed) pro-Kremlin movement Walking Together (Wikipedia). Its creation was overseen by Putin’s deputy chief of staff Vladislav Surkov.
Details of Termination: From 2012 onwards, the government gradually lost interest in the group, as it seemed to have become ineffective. On April 5, 2012 the Nashi leader announced that the group would be dissolved soon (Wikipedia). In 2013, a new organization was created from the remains of Nashi, but with a more civilian purpose. In 2013 a source claimed that Nashi does not exist anymore, because the movement split into many projects.
Purpose: Nashi’s main stated purpose according to its founding manifesto was to create a feeling of historical responsibility for Russian destiny. Other stated purposes included fighting Nazism, rendering social services to Russians, cleaning the environment, fighting crime, protecting national integrity, and many more. With respect to the government, its main de-facto purpose seemed to be to intimidate political opposition and prevent an Orange Revolution happening in Russia. The government seemed to align with the group because it included youth and educated them to approve of the Kremlin and despise opposition, alleging it was similar to the Hitler Youth (Wikipedia). Nashi were very active against political opposition but their effectiveness and importance diminished over time.
Organisation: The Nashi is classified as a government-organized non-governmental organization (GONGO) (Wikipedia). Nashi leader and founder was Vasiliy Yakemenko (former leader of the pro-Kremlin Walking Together group). He headed the Rosmolodezh (Agency for Youth Matters) until 2012, being a top-ranking person responsible for Russian youth policy. The group was in close contact with Vladislav Surkov (Deputy Presidential Chief of Staff during 1999-2011) and held several talks with Vladimir Putin. It received substantial funding from the Russian state budget (Wikipedia) and obtained Public Chamber grants for its educational activities (Human Rights Watch 2009).
Weapons and Training: Nashi had firearms and nightsticks (the latter provided by the Nizhny Novgorod city). Additionally, in 2007 a news source suggests that there was a special Kalashnikov-armed squad. Nashi were known for organizing yearly summer camps (Camp Lake Seliger) to educate its members and to train anti-opposition techniques, with special military-style training given to new members (Wikipedia). In 2007 and 2008, Nashi received large Public Chamber grants for these camps (Human Rights Watch 2009). Nashi members helping the police were provided a 40-hour training course by the regional police department.
Size: When Nashi was launched, it was able to attract 50,000 young people for a demonstration. A news source of 2006 says that officially it had 8,000 members, but could attract more for rallies. At the end of 2007, it had 120,000 members, and during its existence its members were estimated at 150,000 (Wikipedia).
Reason for Membership: Some members took part because of ideological conviction, saying they want to protect Russia from destabilization by opposition forces; membership in the police patrols was not paid (Human Rights Watch 2007). Others stated they were just members because they were being paid to take part in the rallies (Wikipedia).
Treatment of Civilians: Nashi aimed at protecting Russians from opposition that they deem dangerous. They were regularly involved in actions against political opposition, mainly aiming at intimidating them and using psychological violence. They were reported to have beaten a journalist (Wikipedia). A news source also mentions beating other opposition activists.
Other Information: Nashi are sometimes referred to “Ours” (English translation of “Nashi”). The target "foreigners" refers to various ambassadors that the PGM attacked. Besides conventional actions for a PGM, Nashi claims responsibility for the 2007 cyber attacks against the Estonian government.
References: Human Rights Watch. 2007. “Russia: Reconsider Use of Youth Group Volunteers to Conduct Police Functions. Letter to Minister of Interior Affairs.”
Human Rights Watch. 2009. “An Uncivil Approach to Civil Society. Continuing State Curbs on Independent NGOs and Activists in Russia.”
Wikipedia. “Nashi (youth movement).”