National Geographic : 2016 Dec
100 national geographic • December 2016 the Putin generation: It taught them to stay out of politics. “I decided that either I fight this system,” Filipp says, “or I live in a different system”—the world of art. “ There’s more good in it,” he says. “Politics are nerve-racking. You’re constantly un- happy; you’re not enjoying your life.” Putin is up for reelection in 2018. There is little doubt that he will run again and even less that he will win another six-year term. That would mean he would be in power until 2024, if not longer. By then Filipp, who was five when Putin first became president, would be 29. Is he comfortable living That’s not quite true. The protests did change things, just not for the better. In May 2012 the Kremlin cracked down. Since then dozens of people who attended protests have been round- ed up, tried, and jailed. The political situation in the country only worsened as Putin—feeling be- trayed by the middle class he felt he had created with his policies—pursued an increasingly au- thoritarian line. He publicly labeled liberals who advocated for freedom and democracy “national traitors” and “a fifth column.” The harsh response left a deep impression on Mikhail Vasilev, a 29-year-old billiard-equipment salesman, practices his skateboard moves in Moscow’s Triumfalnaya Square near a statue of Vladimir Mayakovsky, a poet who extolled the 1917 revolution. Russia’s young people have more freedoms than their parents and grandparents could ever have imagined.