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MEET THE ‘PUTEENS’ in Novosibirsk, Murmansk, Omsk and Moscow.

In March 2018 the Economist of London interviewed dozens of 18–20 year olds across Russia and gave them the name ‘Puteens’.

They are the first generation of Russians to be born after Boris Yeltsin sat before a New Year’s tree in 1999 and told the Russian people “I am leaving” and handed the future of his country to Vladimir Putin.

The Puteens have come of age in a period of unprecedented prosperity – GDP has risen six-fold in two decades. Youth unemployment is relatively low when compared to much of Eastern Europe. Today young Russians drink less, smoke less and expect to live longer than previous generations. Many see opportunities both in Russia and the wider world.

The internet has them given access to a world their parents barely knew. Social media platforms have connected them to contemporaries everywhere. They are the first generation to not be confined in Russia, but free to travel the world. This heightened sense of the world beyond Russia makes the Puteens more receptive to it. State TV with the theme of constant confrontation with the West holds little appeal. Young Russian adults are today more likely to have a positive view of America and the European Union. Less likely than their parents to believe they have constant enemies in the West. A recent study by the Carnegie Moscow Center found young adults less likely to support any far-reaching changes in Russia. Most accept Mr. Putin’s rule as given. That however does not make them Kremlin loyalists or active supporters of United Russia – Mr. Putin’s party in the Duma.

For many, if not most of young Russians, President Putin is a permanent feature of the Russian environment, around which normal life continues unchanged. The ongoing peaceful protests in Belarus are widely reported on social media. The protesters’ demands for less corruption and better governance, is likely to have a slow but steady influence on Young Russians.

31 January 2021