If you happen to be scrolling through TikTok, then you’ll probably come across a video or two romanticizing Russia. In some instances, you’ll perhaps find yourself listening to an audio by the Moscow electronic duo IC3PEAK. What you may not know is that a large portion of the non-Russian kids using the audio have twisted its words into something that it isn’t.
To say whether or not Russia is under a dictatorship is debatable, but one thing’s for sure: It’s close to civil war. Youth participation in politics was notable in 2018 after Vladmir Putin’s reelection despite falling living standards, continued mass corruption and the limited likelihood of political change. The anti-Putin movement is less prevalent among older Russian generations. Many of the protests since President Putin’s reelection have been youth-led, with even popular artists such as IC3PEAK risking their lives to speak out against the authoritarian government. While American teenagers may fantasize about life in Moscow or Saint Petersburg, Russian youth want free and fair elections, fairer political representation, greater accountability and transparency that they know will not happen if Vladimir Putin remains president.
Russia has had to operate based on what Vladimir Putin, who is both Prime Minister and President, has wanted, not the people. Putin has large control over public media to improve his image, and anybody who criticizes him either ends up dead or in jail. On July 9, Liberal Democratic Party Governor of Khabarovsk Krai, Sergi Furgal, was arrested on what he claimed to be false murder charges and on Aug. 20, Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny was poisoned during his flight to Moscow. LGBT rights in President Putin’s Russia are almost nonexistent; freedom of speech rights are very limited, and defamation penalties are insane — policies meant to silence critics of the Kremlin, the executive branch of the government of Russia.
Vladimir Putin has taken very little responsibility for cracking down on youth movements, using repressive measures to get rid of anybody against his policies. Because Russia has passed laws criminalizing protest, public outrage has ignited across the country. Many worry about the wellbeing of their children, as well as what the future holds for those known as “Generation Putin” if he does not step down from office despite recent health scares and fluctuating approval ratings.
In the West, it’s difficult to say what exactly goes on in Russia. There’s two sides to everything and while we see a great many who support him, we also see great many who oppose him. What’s keeping Vladimir Putin in power, however, is not his personality, but his post-Soviet reform. He pulled Russia out of economic depression but, over the years, has tightened his power over the population, particularly those who have something to say against him. Of course, the ideals of the Russian majority aren’t those of the diverse West, but anywhere online you can find reason as to why so many families moved out of Russia when President Putin took office. Unfortunately, Russia is home to many slums. Politicians and protestors go missing all the time with people eventually too scared to speak their names anymore. How much is Russia willing to sacrifice for mild economic stability? Unless one has money, they aren’t living a lavish lifestyle in an intricately built Muscovite building. Many are living in post-Soviet areas bound one day to crumble down.
All Generation Putin wants is reform. They want to modernize Russia and be heard. When they become parents, they probably won’t want their kids living under the same oppressive government that they did. Sooner or later, President Putin will have to realize that if he wants to stay in power, he’ll have to start listening.