Avramov explains that this youth outreach project, developed by the Ministry of Defense, has attracted over 270,000 members in two years; members are engaged, with increasing frequency, in a variety of activities and are provided a number of privileges over their non-member peers.
Children from the ages of 8-18 find the Yunarmia attractive because the movement involves an array of influential public figures, avoids Soviet “narrow-mindedness,” relies on calculated state propaganda, and makes claim to “highly honorable goals” such as Russian patriotism. Beyond these, Avramov says, there are additional factors that must be acknowledged: First, conspiracy-driven state propaganda portrays Mother Russia as an eternal victim in need of “faithful defenders” of conservative values, and defenders against “mirovaya zakulisa” and various ethnic, sexual, and ideological minorities that would plot against the state. Second, the Yunarmia represents a desirable kind of continuity and familiar social organization, reminiscent of the nation’s Soviet past.
In essence, Avramov contends, “the movement resembles well-known structures, but allows Kremlin elites to use it as a vessel to be filled with the new state ‘quasi-ideology,’ centered on conservative religious values, defined gender roles, and a blatant display of military power.”
As for its purpose, the Yunarmia, Avramov explains, is an instrument of mass youth indoctrination, discipline, and health status improvement, but more than that, “the movement is part of Russia’s defense establishment’s strategy to scout for talent… in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and cybersecurity.”
Ultimately, Avramov stipulates that the program is a cleverly redesigned form of military-patriotic education and a symbol of continuity and stability, and, so far, “it works rather well.”