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Russians remember Soviet youth organization on anniversary

Posted by Kris Roman on October 29, 2008

 

RIA Novosti

Russians marked 90 years on Wednesday since the establishment of the Soviet-era Young Communist League, or the Komsomol.

The youth wing of the Communist Party disbanded after an unsuccessful August 1991 coup attempt by communist hardliners against the reformist rule of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

However, some two-thirds of adult Russians are estimated to have been members of the Komsomol, and the organization continues to hold fond memories for many of them.

The Komsomol was formed at the First All-Russia Congress of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Youth Leagues in 1918. The youngest members were 14 years old and the oldest 28. The organization provided many volunteer members for mass construction projects across the U.S.S.R.

One former member, the winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physics, Zhores Alferov, told RIA Novosti that, “The Komsomol was an absolute organization of the masses. It educated people in a lot of things, including management and ethics.”

He also said that the Komsomol had given him valuable experience in the field of science.

Alferov said that many of today’s so-called Russian oligarchs “learnt how to make money” on Komsomol building sites.

The organization had tens of millions of members at its peak, and as perestroika allowed limited private enterprise, many of its top members were in positions to gain an advantage in business through membership of Russian Regional and State Anti-Monopoly Committees.

The most notable “Komsomol businessman” is perhaps the founder of the Yukos oil company, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, currently serving eight years in a Siberian jail on fraud and tax evasion charges that he says were punishment for his support of the country’s opposition movement.

Vladimir Sungorkin, the editor of one of the most popular newspapers in Russia today, Komsomolskaya Pravda (Komsomol Truth) said that he believed the Soviet youth organization had been founded on admirable principles.

“Lots of people today say that they hated the Komsomol, that they knew they had to keep as far away from it as they could. But that’s just rubbish. The Komsomol was founded on Christian, humanitarian ideals, the ideas of equality and brotherhood,” he said.

Modern day Russia also has a number of state-backed youth organizations, the most prominent of which is Nashi (Ours). However, these movements do not enjoy anything like the popularity of the Komsomol.

A number of events to mark the 90th anniversary of the Komsomol will take place across Russia on Wednesday. On October 26, a concert to mark the anniversary took place at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow.

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