For many young people in Russia, this Sunday’s parliamentary elections will be their first opportunity to vote. But with the pro-Kremlin “United Russia” party already the clear favourite, many are claiming the result is a foregone conclusion. So, the question for first time voters is not so much who to vote for – but whether to bother voting at all.
Vladislav is a member of the pro-Putin Nashi Nashi youth movement:
“We believe in Putin, he has done a lot for our country and has led us with unquestionable braveness. He assumed responsibility of the country in the 1990’s and turned the chaos of that decade into the achievements we have today. We must continue on that course.”
But critics, like Ivan Bolshakov from the anti-Putin Yabloko Youth movement, dismiss groups like Nashim Nashi as supporters for-hire, lured by promises of travel and jobs.
He is fighting to combat first time voter apathy.
“The majority of Russian youth has never had, and will never have, much interest in politics,” said Bolshakov. “This has a lot to do with the long years of Soviet control of the country. And now, the government is using young people for political gain.”
Marsha Lipman is an analyst at Moscow’s Carnegie Centre think-tank:
“I think that, as in many countries, young people are not very interested in politics and maybe a few more of them, proportionally, will come to the polls this time because of the big campaign to attract them to take part in the election. But this will not be a revolutionary change, with suddenly young people getting more active, and it would be really odd because this is a campaign with pre-ordained results.”
On the streets of Moscow, it seems young people either intend to vote for Putin or not at all:
“Of course, not every young Russian will vote,” says 18-year-old Svetlana, “but there are those who will think about their own future and will want to focus on that and will therefore vote and vote, of course, for the United Russia party.”
“Personally, I won’t be voting because I don’t think it will make any difference,” said 21-year-old Annetta. “Everything in this country is decided in advance. I don’t think my vote will change anything.”