“Nashi is a monolith”

Meet Nikita Borovikov, a 26 year old law student from Vladimir, one of Nashi’s five national commissars, and the front runner to head the youth movement after Vasili Yakemenko steps down after the Presidential Elections in March. Borovikov’s designation as Yakemenko’s successor is not without controversy; and  one that might signify divisions within and outside the movement overits direction after 2008. First there is the question whether Yakemenko’s handing over the torch will be smooth. It’s rumored that Borovikov was not Yakemenko’s first choice, (it’s said that he prefers Marina Zademid’kova, 22, from Voronezh), but the law student became the choice after chief Kremlin ideologist Vladislav Surkov stepped in. Things got even stranger when Nashi held a competition at Camp Seliger to chose a new leader. Borovikov won, but as Kommersant then reported, the Kremlin appeared unprepared to let Yakemenko go so soon, let alone leave Nashi’s immediate future in the hands of Borovikov. The next day Yakemenko was forced to announce that the election was actually “a game.”  The youth organization, it seems, has been tapped play an active role in the upcoming elections. 

The second issue Nashi must deal with is what purpose it will have after 2008. The organization is so tightly tied with Putin and Putinism, some feel that their existence will become superfluous after he steps down. What exactly Nashi will become in a post-Putin Russia is unknown, even to themselves. A few weeks ago, Kommsersant Vlast’ correspondent Anna Kachurovskaya, who also interviewed the former Nashi member “Ivan”, sat down with Borovikov to get some sense of the youth organization’s future. I provide translated excerpts below.

Were you offended that the election turned out to be a game?

Somehow a falsehood got into the newspapers from the start. When we organized the elections at Seliger, the word “successors” wasn’t even mentioned. There was talk about a competition of several teams, and the winners would get the right to determine the life of the movement. I say that this is “conditional.” That is to say the team will offer a strategy for the movement’s development in the period from 2008 to 2012. It’s understood that Vasilii [Yakemenko] is planning to leave. But in the movement the role of the leader, if there is one, is informal. According to the charter, we have a federal council, it has five commissars on it, and no leader.

You are one of the five federal commissars.

Yes. But I am not any kind of successor. It is first necessary to decide the tasks for December and March. And here, for all intents and purposes, there won’t be any divisions into teams or parties. Nashi is a monolith and that is precisely our strength.

Is there any meaning in your elections?

In order to begin thinking about the what kind of movement we’ll be from 2008 to 2012. It’s impossible to think two-three months ahead. Here we did all this.

That is to say that you have a program for developing the movement?

Yes. In general, there were three parties–“Democrats,” “Sovereigns,” and “NikIl'” [“NikIl’ is a combination of Nikita Borovikov and another commissar named Ilya Kostnov.–Sean]. The Sovereigns and NikIl’ decided to unite. We agreed that formerly the party “Sovereigns” would be marked off in the elections, but really we formed a single team. Therefore “NikIl'” has six leaders–three from the old NikIl’ and three from the Sovereigns. We got six excellent leaders. That’s sort of how everything was.

Then why are they only talking about you in connection to the elections and not about the other five participants?

It’s very simple. I already told you that we are all equal. But even despite the fact that there was a game, it was an election. It was necessary to have a formal leader, and I became it by consensus of the leadership.

. . .

A when will they vote for a leader of the movement and who will it be?

I can’t tell you that now, because, as they say, you want to make God laugh by telling him his plan. But theoretically we will occasionally talk about figures for the 2008-20012, and that beginning with the new year there will be the question of working with a new team. Now we are thinking about the tasks that confront us in 2007.

And how will you decide these tasks?

These dates, which can have a strong influence on us, which we, to say the least, must not miss. This is December and March. For me personally there is a key date–2 September where we will conduct a test-vote: “If there were an election today, who would you vote for from the party?”

Does this have any relation to the program “Nashi Votes”, in which you participated in?

The tasks of the program are to form a team of professional electors. You know a project has a “turn key”, yes? And the election campaigns have “turn keys.” Here we want teams in the region that can direct the electoral campaign by a “turn key.” We have there several courses, which we formed participants into networks. There are lawyers, analysts, managers, and well, leadership headquarters, yes? These will be the future deputies. We call this course “candidates into deputies,” although we reckon that they will become deputies eventually after participating in the program. These people, who were train in courses, for example, a lawyer, after improving personally and filling in posts at local election commissions, flawlessly organizing votes, will make our small contribution so that we have elections where no one can say we had falsifications.

Moreover, we will take upon ourselves plenty of difficult tasks–conducting exit polls, because exit polls are a button which sets off “orange revolutions”, yes? On the basis of these, the “orangists” say: You see, they deceived you, we won, and they tell you different. Observing all methods of exit polls is one of the tasks of the program. So that we can say: here is the official count of votes, here are exit polls, conducted according to established scientific methods, all have the possibility to compare. Because a party cannot have 3-4% before the elections (or as I already said, 2 September we will have a poll), and suddenly win.

Finally and this is very important. One of the main problems comes from the fact that nowhere in the country do we have trained deputies and deputies’ assistants. You agree that the deputy pool is an important element in a democratic system. It’s one of the authorities of power, which, strictly speaking, decides everything. And it’s certainly necessary to be a professional person, and not simply someone popular from some region to get elected–and beyond that its not clear what to do.  We want this branch of deputies to be trained in the first round of deputies’ assistants.  We organize guys for training so that they understand what kind of a person a deputy assistant is and how he must ideally work. We hope that the best of the best will proceed to a stage of development of a candidate in the deputies.

And where is the guarantee that only your pupils will become deputies?

There is no guarantee.  We train him as a deputy.  He wins then he wins.

Do you already have many trained “deputies”?

We just got back from the camp at Seliger, where the representation for the program “Nashi Votes” was more than 700 people.  Not all could come.  We had close to 35 cities, of those considered deputies–its somewhere around a third of the general number of program participants.

You said that the elections can be seriously fixed.  How?

An attempt to take over the government and establish a regime in Russia in the name of a foreign power can occur in December during the State Duma elections and in March during the Presidential elections.

You have in mind the United States?

An external power—this is when decisions in the state are made not in the national interests of this state or the population of the state, but in the interests of other political actors, for example, the United States, which manufactured similar operations in Georgia and Ukraine.  Russia, in the span of its thousand year history, when it was called the USSR, when it was called the Russian Empire, and when it was called Rus’, was independent.  In light of geopolitics I understand that Russia is the most delicious piece, so they don’t want to miss out on it.  There is a division of labor in the world, if the world market is any indication, Russia now occupies the place of a seller.  And countries like the EU or the US, which are involved in organizations of color revolutions, we have them as buyers. Here these buyers always casually enter into the store and dictate to the seller how much oil must be sold, for example.  I as a representative of Nashi, and the Nashi movement as a whole, and as an ordinary normal person am not going to sit idle if they attempt to impose such a form of life on me.

You think that such a situation would change the lives of Russian for the worse?

One of the basis of Russia’s well being at the moment is oil.  If we start to sell cheaper that we can, it can damage the quality of life.

And it’s true that in December and in March on the squares of Moscow tents will be erected, where Nashi will live in order to prevent “orange revolution.”

I didn’t hear about it.

Do you honestly believe in the possibility of an “orange revolution”?  To what extent do you think that it’s a reality?

You would like for me to talk in percentages?  It’s like in an joke about the dinosaur on Nevskii prospekt: Either we meet or we don’t meet, 50/50.  Well how is it possible to count here?  I have another fear, Anna.  I fear that there is a counter-agent who already knows what we know.  Meaning, he will concoct something different.  Apparently, “orange revolution” for Russia is a missed opportunity, but they are prepared.  They sit and think in some office beyond the oceans or beyond the channel: Aha, well then we need to think up something else.  The threat of an “orange revolution” is understood, the mechanisms are clear.  How it works is understood and we did all of this and we didn’t succeed. If they didn’t think something new up, they wouldn’t have tried.