Vladimir Putin investigates internet use among young people as their support for opposition grows

Matthew Bodner
Young people have been at the forefront of recent protests against Putin  - Kommersant

Vladimir Putin has ordered an investigation into the online content influencing Russian young people, as large numbers turn away from traditional Kremlin propaganda.

The Russian president called for research into “behavioural patterns of youth on the Russian internet in order to increase the level of awareness of Russian government bodies” in a statement posted this week on the Kremlin’s official website. 

Mr Putin, 67, also announced the creation of a non-profit organisation to produce “content aimed at the spiritual and moral education of youth and its distribution on the internet.”

The order form part of a broad agenda aimed at strengthening government interventions in the development of Russian family and educational life.

With public discontent growing, the state is actively searching for new means of influence. Teenagers and young adults have proven particularly elusive for the Kremlin. 

Earlier this month the government raised the Federal Youth Affairs Agency's annual budget from 7.7 to 11.9 billion rubles (about $190 million). 

Young people have dominated protest actions in recent years, and have subverted massively state funded media efforts by finding and establishing alternate information channels online. 

In a bid to win over the young, the Kremlin previously formed pro-Putin youth groups such as Nashi, which eventually petered out.

It has since tried this again with the creation of the militaristic Youth Army, which some have called the “Putin Youth.”  But recent efforts to create influential content have fallen flat. 

Last month, the Moscow city government attempted to quell protest sympathy in the capital by hiring rapper Timati to record a music video titled “Moscow” in which opposition protests were mocked and the city’s plethora of burger joints celebrated.

The video was released ahead of September’s Moscow city legislature elections. Protests erupted when the city government prevented multiple opposition candidates from running.

The movement provoked a massive, violent police response.  The “Moscow” music video quickly became YouTube’s most disliked video of all time.

Rapper Guf, who featured on the track, later issued an apology to his followers online, admitting that he wasn’t properly in touch with the political mood among his fans. Timati, too, later repented.