Taylor E Dark spent a year teaching at a Russian university where he found a student generation politically apathetic but entrepreneurially vigorous. They even miss classes to go on business tripsby Taylor E Dark / July 20, 1996 / Leave a comment
Published in July 1996 issue of Prospect Magazine
The National Interest
5th January 1996
A century ago, the youth of Russia were notorious for their radicalism. By the end of the 19th century, their most extreme representatives had pioneered strategies of political terrorism against the Tsarist state; led an ill-fated “crusade to the people”; and embraced versions of Marxism that demanded the total reconstruction of society. In the Bolshevik revolution, this student generation came to power under the leadership of Lenin, Bukharin, Trotsky, and Stalin-all former student activists who had been expelled from college or otherwise punished for their radicalism.
As Russia navigates its current time of troubles, the identity of its youth, especially the elite in higher education, takes on greater importance than at any time since 1917. If the political attitudes and behaviour of today’s young people prefigure the political complexion of Russia in the first decades of the next century, we should take a great interest in knowing whether they are likely to form the vanguard of nationalist extremism or a bulwark of liberal democracy. My guess-based on recent experience living and teaching in Russia-is that the current generation will promote democracy, not through conscious political action, but rather through their own economic activities, which will establish a solid foundation for an autonomous Russian bourgeoisie-the great missing link in the evolution of political pluralism in Russia.