They are the Putin generation: young, often worldly, optimistic about their country's future, and enthusiastic about a democracy they see as having more to do with higher living standards than checks and balances or freedom of speech. Acquainted only through history with the Soviet Union's oppressive grip, but distinctly aware of their parents' challenges during the tumultuous 1990s, they live in a Russia of unprecedented opportunities – ones shaped profoundly by Putin's strong hand over the past eight years.
Over the next three days, the Monitor will profile the careers and outlooks of three young Muscovites whose lives attest to the radical political and economic shifts that have taken place over the past decade in Russia.
Shchitov is tapping his youthful leadership to perpetuate Putin's course. Yulia Barabasheva has seen firsthand the grittier side of prosperity as she used her entrepreneurial skills to open a beauty salon. And Anastasia Chukovskaya is grappling with her decision to quit political journalism, which is a futile exercise, she says, in the face of authoritarianism.
Putin's Russia: proud, stable, rich
Though few of his peers are as politically engaged as Shchitov, an overwhelming majority share his party's view of Putin as a strong leader who transformed Russia into a stable, prosperous country demanding respect on the world stage.
"We support the political course that Putin started," says Shchitov, an avid reader who draws inspiration from Peter the Great – "a real example of being proud of your country." He also likes Stalin, a ruler who could solve any problem – including the defeat of Hitler – "by strict measures." And he admires Franklin D. Roosevelt for, he says, making the United States a strong nation. And now, Putin.