Four years ago, I went to Moscow to research and get closer to ’The New Russia.’ There I met Masha Drokova, an 18-year-old girl who loved Putin, and everything he stands for. With great passion, she told me about Nashi, a youth organization that she [represented]. According to Masha, Nashi would ensure a Russian rule of the world in the 21st Century.
Masha was captivating, obviously, because of her enthusiasm and sense of direction, but at the same time she was young at heart and possessed a youthful sweetness and optimism — a sharp contrast to the old-fashioned, totalitarian way of worshipping Putin. When she showed me around, she brought me to a tent that Nashi had fitted out as an emergency headquarters in case a revolution should break out in Russia. From [the tent, they] would be able to defend [the country] under any circumstances. Later, I learned that the headquarters, this mobile office, was part of a much larger strategy aimed at young members: it gave the impression that the political opposition posed a great threat to Russian security and [should] be considered enemies of Russia.
Masha brought me close to ’The New Russia’ in a way I had never experienced. I was placed in the center of the political conflict that stirs Russia these very days. It is a conflict between different views of how to implement democracy in a country with a long history of dictatorship. It was both fascinating and scary to enter the Nashi world: a super modern and attractive youth environment with beautiful and intelligent young people, who dream of a great future — for themselves and for their country. But Nashi is also a movement that — with its undivided devotion to political icons — bears a frightening resemblance to other fanatic youth organizations of the past.
To me, Masha is the essence of ’The New Russia.’ She was born when The Soviet Union collapsed and belongs to the first generation of the new country. [Until she started to test their rules and ideals,] Nashi gave Masha, and many other ambitious young people, the opportunity to “become something important” — which makes it easy to understand why an organization like [like this one] is so popular with the young. The film explores the complexity that pervades modern Russia, exemplified in the story of a young girl who, as the film progresses, grows up and learns to stand on her own two feet.
Lise Birk Pedersen