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Young Army Cadets National Movement (Yunarmiya)

Insurgency Overview

The Young Army Cadets National Movement (Russian: Всероссийское военно-патриотическое общественное движение «Юнармия»), commonly known as "Yunarmiya", is a paramilitary youth organisation founded in 2016 by the Russian government. The movement is part of the general effort to revive patriotic sentiments and military readiness among the younger generation.


Although not directly through the Yunarmiya, Russia’s aim at those goals is not recent. During the Soviet era, basic military training was part of school curriculum, and numerous paramilitary programs have been instituted by the State. After the fall of the Soviet Union, which saw the decline of those programs, and Putin’s election in the early 2000s, new political youth groups were created such as Nashi, which aimed at fostering pro-Kremlin support and countering youth protest movements. This strategy paid off during and after the massive 2011 protests in Russia, where Nashi and other pro-Kremlin youth groups played a role in ensuring the regime's stability. (1) (2) (3)

The context of geopolitical tensions caused by the 2014 annexation of Crimea, catalyzed further militarization within Russian society. It was within this environment of heightened nationalistic fervour and perceived threats from the West that the Yunarmiya was established on the initiative of the Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu in 2016 as a strategic effort to fortify Russian youth with not only a sense of patriotism but also basic military skills, to nurture a strong military ethos among its young population. (1) (2) (6)

The Yunarmiya's formation was part of a broader Kremlin strategy to solidify national identity and ensure a cohesive societal front in support of state policies. This initiative was not merely a response to immediate geopolitical challenges but also a long-term vision to embed a robust patriotic spirit and readiness for defense among the next generation. (2) (3)

Objectives and Ideology

The Yunarmiya's official objectives are to enhance state policy in the field of youth education, fostering the development of children and young people in a manner consistent with specific moral values and guidelines, with a special emphasis on military and patriotic themes. This development includes spiritual, moral, social, physical, sporting and intellectual aspects. (6)

The organization promotes interest in Russian history, geography, and the acquaintance with various ethnic groups within Russia. It also focuses on learning about Russian national heroes and military commanders. Additionally, the movement nurtures young generations in line with Russian nationalist values, opposing what it perceives as foreign influences contrary to these traditions. (1) (4) (5)

This leads us to the Yunarmiya untold objectives, which are to make the youth docile and to prepare the next generation of soldiers. By following the ideological course directly set by the Kremlin, the organization impeaches the creation of slightly variant points of view. For instance, members of the movement have been seen with the flag of the Donetsk Republic during an official Yunarmiya parade. (2) (3)

Military/Political Abilities

The Yunarmiya provides military training programs, equipping Russian youth from 7 to 17 years old, boys and girls, with basic military skills and knowledge. This training is part of a broader objective to prepare the younger generation for potential future roles in the nation's uniformed services. (2) (3)

Today, more than a million young Russians are part of the Yunarmiya movement, which is present in all 85 federal subjects of Russia, allowing for a centralized and controlled training of the youth, positioning it as an important indoctrination center. (2) (6) (8)

It is worth noticing that branches have already been implanted in the disputed regions of Kherson, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk and Crimea, showing the efforts deployed to fully gain the population to Moscow’s views as well as Russia’s long-term objectives. (2) (8)

Approach to Resistance

As an organization linked to the government, the Yunarmiya does not actively engage in direct opposition or resistance tactics against Russian institutions. Instead, the movement uses its legitimacy to approach resistance in predominantly educational and formative ways, focusing on instilling a specific set of values and skills in the youth; it operates as a platform for propaganda aiming at patriotic and military education. (1) (2) (4) (5)

The training also takes a more physical turn in the form of AK-47 maintenance, uniform wearing, performing manoeuvres, national heroes commemoration, etc. (1) (2)

International Relations & Potential Alliances

Internationally, the Yunarmiya's perception varies, reflecting broader attitudes towards Russian domestic policies and military ambitions. The organization aligns closely with the Russian government's objectives and is actively seeking foreign candidates with similar views, especially on the country’s right to defense readiness, traditionalism, and patriotic education. We mentioned that the movement has administrative structures in all of Russia, but it is also present abroad, notably in regions accepting of Moscow’s policy such as Armenia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Transnistria, and Azerbaijan. More surprisingly, as of 2019, the Yunarmiya also had a branch in the United States of America. (1) (2) (5) (7)

Pro-Group and Anti-Group Perspectives

From a pro-group perspective, the Yunarmiya is seen as a crucial institution for fostering patriotism, military readiness, and national pride among Russian youth. Supporters view it as a positive influence in shaping a responsible, well-informed younger generation. On the other hand, critics might perceive the Yunarmiya as a tool for state-driven militarization of youth and for promoting a narrow, government-sanctioned set of values and ideologies, potentially at the expense of broader, more diverse educational objectives. (1) (4) (2) (5)

There is a third perspective, a more apolitical one: the parents’ perspective. They appear to appreciate the movement, thinking that military training prevents them from taking drugs, drinking or hanging around in the streets. This could explain the enthusiasm around Yunarmiya, in a country that up until recently had one of the highest suicide rates among youth. (2) (3) (6) (7)

Works Cited (Chicago Style)

(1) - "Young Army Cadets National Movement". Wikipedia. Accessed January 31, 2024.

(2) - Finch R. "Young Army Movement. Winning the Hearts and Minds of Russian Youth". Military Review, September-October (2019). Accessed February 1, 2024.

(3) - Radionova A. “Aux armes et caetera”. Kometa, no. 1 (2023): pp. 62-66.

(4) - Sukhankin S. "Yunarmia: A Call from the Past, or Farewell to the Future?". International Centre for Defence and Security. Published June 18, 2018. Accessed February 1, 2024.

(5) - Sukhankin S. "Russia’s 'Youth Army': Sovietization, Militarization, Radicalization". Eurasia Daily Monitor, volume 13, no. 180 (2016). Accessed February 1, 2024.

(6) - “About the Yunarmiya movement”. Yunarmiya. Accessed February 6 2024.

(7) - “Next-Generation Fighters: Youth Military-Patriotic Upbringing Bolsters the Russian Military’s Manning and Mobilization Potential”. Center for Strategic and International Studies. Published September 22, 2020. Accessed February 6, 2024.

(8) - “Regional centres”. Yunarmiya. Accessed March 12 2024.

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