Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine is a war against youth—and not only in the sense that he is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of young Ukrainians and Russians. To the clique of aging former KGB officers who have effectively usurped power in Russia, young people—if they are not cogs in the Kremlin’s war machine—are a threat simply because they will live longer and one day be able to redefine what it means to be Russian.
Putin, who turned 70 last October, has amended Russia’s constitution to remain president until 2036. Almost unnoticed, a generation of Russians has come of age during his 23 years in power as Russia’s president and prime minister. Like young people anywhere, they are overlooked, misunderstood, and maligned by their elders. Yet if Russia is ever to become a country that seeks peace with its neighbors and respects the rights of its own citizens, then such a future depends on Russia’s young people.