Global South Youth Flocks to ‘Isolated’ Russia

By any metric, the World Youth Festival running in the Sirius federal territory (Sochi, southern Russia) on March 1-7 is a stunning achievement: a sort of Special Cultural Operation (SCO) encompassing the young Global South.

It starts with the incomparable setting – the 2014 Olympics park of science and art, nested between snowy mountains and the Black Sea – all the way to the stars of the show: over 20,000 young leaders from over 180 nations, Russians and mostly Asians, Africans and Latin Americans, as well as assorted dissidents from the sanctions-obsessed Western “garden”.

Among them are scores of educators, PhDs, public sector or culture activists, charity volunteers, athletes, young entrepreneurs, scientists, citizen journalists, as well as teenagers from 14 to 17, for the first time the focus of a special program, “Together into the Future”. These are the generations that will be building our common future.

President Putin is once again quite sharp: he emphasized how a clear distinction applies between citizens of the world – including the Global North – and the intolerant, extremely aggressive Western plutocracy. Russia, a multinational, multicultural civilization-state, by principle welcomes all citizens of the world.

The World Youth Festival 2024, taking place seven years after the last one, renews a tradition that harks back to the 1957 World Festival of Youth and Students when the USSR welcomed everyone on both sides of the Iron Curtain during the Cold War.

The idea of an open platform for young, committed, very organized people attracted by Russian conservative/family values permeates the whole festival – in sharp contrast to the artificial, cancel culture-obsessed “open society” P.R. incessantly sold by the usual hegemonic foundations.

Each day at the festival is dedicated to a main theme. For instance, March 2 was on “responsibility for the fate of the world”; March 3 was for “unity and cooperation among nations”; March 4 was for “a world of opportunities for everyone”.

No less than 300,000 youngsters from around the world applied to come to the festival. So obviously to select a little over 20,000 was quite a feat. After the festival, 2,000 foreign participants will travel to 30 Russian cities for cultural exchange. Exactly what comrade Xi Jinping defines as “people to people’s exchanges”.

It’s no wonder the festival organizers, Rosmolodezh, the Russian federal agency for youth affairs, call it “the largest youth event in the world”. Director Ksenia Razuvaeva noted, “we are destroying the myth that Russia is isolated.”

The Pitfalls of “Asynchronous Multipolarity”

The festival is all about networking among youth groups, intercultural/business ties ranging from the sustainable community level to the larger geopolitical level.

I had the huge honor and responsibility to address a truly multi-Global South audience at the Belgorod oblast pavilion, invited by the Russia Knowledge Foundation, alongside a consultant from Hyderabad, India.

The Q&A session was terrific: ultra-sharp questions from Iran to Serbia, from Brazil to India, from Palestine to Donbass. A true microcosm of the multicultural Young Global South, eager to know everything about the current geopolitical Great Game as well as how national governments can facilitate international cultural and scientific cooperation among young people.

The Valdai Club is running a particularly attractive daily program at the forum, The World in 2040.

A workshop on Sunday, for instance, focused on “The Future of a Multipolar World”, anchored by the excellent Andrey Sushentsov, dean of the School of International Relations at MGIMO, arguably the best international relations school on the planet.

The discussion on “asynchronous multipolarity” was particularly useful to the audience (a solid Chinese presence, mostly PhDs), and elicited ultra-sharp questions by researchers from Serbia, South Ossetia, Transnistria and of course China.

Srikanth Kondapalli, a professor of China studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, elaborated on the key concept of “Asian multipolarity” – the many Asias within Asia, something that totally baffles simplistic Western categorizations. After the session we had an excellent exchange about it.
Yet nothing at the forum compares to going from room to packed room, getting a glimpse of the in-depth discussions and then wandering the pavilions in total networking mode. I was approached by everyone from Sudan to Ecuador, from New Guinea to a group of Brazilians, from Indonesians to an official of the Communist Party of the United States.

And then there’s the special prize: the stands of the several Russian republics. That’s when you get the chance to be immersed in a Yamal tea ritual; to receive first-hand information on the Nenets Autonomous Region; or to discuss the procedure to embark on a trip in a nuclear icebreaker in the Northern Sea Route – or Arctic Silk Road: the connectivity channel of the future. Once again: multipolar Russia in effect.

Now compare this peaceful, pan-global gathering focused on all forms of sustainable community programs, drenched in hopes and dreams, to NATO launching a two-week, massive warmongering exercise dubbed “Nordic Response 2024”, carried out by Finland, Norway and newcomer Sweden less than 500 km away from the Russian borders.

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