A new actor has appeared on the Russian political scene: young people between the ages of 15 and 25. Russia’s “Generation Z” arrived in a big way last month, when protests from the Far East to the Baltics rocked the country.
But why are youths today suddenly turning out at political rallies? Who are these people, and what do they want? What makes them different, and what do we know about them? What don’t we know?
Last fall, at the request of Sberbank, the market research company Validata conducted a survey to study young people’s values.
When it comes to parents, Validata found that most people want merely not to “break” their children by being too overbearing. For youths, that means more encouragement, support, friendship, and respect, and less blame.
“My child is an equally valuable member of my family,” a father from Saratov told Validata.
Raised in this supportive environment, young people in Russia today are much less afraid of the world, and more free-thinking and confident in themselves. Parents say their kids are growing up with a wider view of the world, without limitations on traveling abroad or imagining great possibilities.
Family values in modern-day Russia manifest in other ways, too: children show less deference to their parents and adults in general. Young people consider it perfectly normal to argue with their parents and stand their ground, seeing nothing revolutionary in such behavior.
“I often argue with one of my tutors about why dinosaurs went extinct, and how humanity emerged,” said a 16-year-old student in Moscow. “He’s a Darwinist, and I’m somewhat religious.”
Traditional lecturing in Russian schools, which makes no room for dialogue between students and teachers, is no longer acceptable to young people today. Adults who adapt to these new expectations and treat young people as equals, however, are welcomed as friends.