Notes for an article on Seliger 2010

International youth camp Seliger 2010, July 1 – July 8, Russia.

Preliminary notes written on a bus from Seliger to Moscow. Pictures will follow in the next few days.

Seliger is the location where in the last couple of years the Russian government, through its Federal agency for youth affairs, has been organizing summer camps for young people from all over Russia. The same location was previously used by the much discussed youth organisation “Nashi”. – first international camp run by the Russian government. Thousands of participants from dozens of countries (89 according to what President Medvedev said speaking at Seliger on July 8).

– goal of Seliger in 2010 and previous editions: to bring together young people from all over Russia, offer them a chance to show their ideas and talents, do networking and obtain support for their projects directly from the country’s leadership,without filters or limits imposed by their social or geographical position (social lift), support the current leadership of Russia and the current political course, promote healthy lifestyle (lots of sport activities, ban on alcohol drinking), promote family values (with weddings strongly encouraged to take place during the camp). A success?

-goals of the international camp at Seliger (or why a patriotic youth camp was opened to hundreds of people from all over the world):

  • to break stereotypes about Russia among foreign guests (declared goal…a failure? Large portraits of Russia’s leaders ostensibly on show; camp awakened in the morning by Russian anthem played through loudspeakers all over the place; strict rules that, albeit in practice softened for foreign guests, were often “imposed” by group instructsors as orders under threat of expulsion and without explanation; lots of communication problems; predominance of Russian, in spite of the prior promise that the official language of the camp would be English to any effect; old busses bringing guests to and from the camp; etc);
  • to show off the fact that young people from all over the world decided to come to Russia, promote Seliger and similar initiatives among Russia’s youth, also by broadcasting news about the event on state tv, promote Russia’s current political course (undeclared goal…a success?);
  • to give a chance to young people from all of Russia to meet people from all over the world, hear different point of views and push them to think global (?)

– elements to be stressed:

  • strict rules and huge portraits of Putin and Medvedev are a reaction to what happened in the 1990s in Russia and are an expression of the current political phase in the country;
  • keywords promoted: competitivity, modernisation, innovation, open society (change with the past);
  • youth camps, friendship of the peoples, “cult of the leader”, but different approach, different rhetoric (some continuity with the past)
  • widespread patriotic and pro-Russian rhetoric (but except for the decorations, no explicit “putinist” propaganda in the speeches or in the activities organised);
  • seliger is a fun and beautiful place…windsurfing, kayaking,climbing, shooting, disco parties, beach volley, swimming… wonderful nature, on the shore of a lake, extremely long daytime (white nights)
  • most participants said this is an incredible experience,and something they haven’t seen before, for its size and scope.

Seliger as a symbol of the current political phase. Focus on economic development and innovation. But calls to build an open society are mixed with patriotic slogans and references to Russia’s current leaders.

Giorgio Comai
Researcher, data analyst