Remember the mammoths, say the clean-cut organisers at the youth camp’s mass wedding. “They became extinct because they did not have enough sex. That must not happen to Russia”.
Obediently, couples move to a special section of dormitory tents arranged in a heart-shape and called the Love Oasis, where they can start procreating for the motherland.
With its relentlessly upbeat tone, bizarre ideas and tight control, it sounds like a weird indoctrination session for a phoney religious cult.
But this organisation—known as “Nashi”, meaning “Ours”—is youth movement run by Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin that has become a central part of Russian political life.
Nashi’s annual camp, 200 miles outside Moscow, is attended by 10,000 uniformed youngsters and involves two weeks of lectures and physical fitness.
Attendance is monitored via compulsory electronic badges and anyone who misses three events is expelled. So are drinkers; alcohol is banned. But sex is encouraged, and condoms are nowhere on sale.
Bizarrely, young women are encouraged to hand in thongs and other skimpy underwear—supposedly a cause of sterility—and given more wholesome and substantial undergarments.
Twenty-five couples marry at the start of the camp’s first week and ten more at the start of the second. These mass weddings, the ultimate expression of devotion to the motherland, are legal and conducted by a civil official.
Attempting to raise Russia’s dismally low birthrate even by eccentric-seeming means might be understandable. Certainly, the country’s demographic outlook is dire. The hard-drinking, hardsmoking and disease-ridden population is set to plunge by a million a year in the next decade.
Young Russians eager to make more Russians.