This chapter explores the structure of the national conversation: the narratives that emerged from within the pro- and anti-regime street actions and among the observers, those who chose not to participate in political action. With evidence from an original survey and focus group data, we argue that these events identified some of the most salient issues contentious issues in Russian politics, from the need for reform, to the costs of corruption, and the best guarantor of Russia’s political future. We find that in the period of protest these issues were bundled into the grievances, goals, and identities forged within the pro- and anti-government activists.
Defining Common Ground: The Language of Network Mobilization in Russian Protests, in: Civil Society Awakens? The Systemic and Non-Systemic Opposition in the Russian Federation: National and Regional Dimensions. London: Ashgate, 2015 (with Regina Smyth, Luke Shimek, Anton Sobolev) [SSRN]
Featured Image: Protests in Moscow, March 26, 2017 © AP Photo, Dmitri Lovetsky
The arrest of the protest punk band Pussy Riot in March 2012 and the subsequent prosecution of three band members pose a signiﬁcant puzzle for political science. Although Pussy Riot’s performances presented a coherent alternative to the Putin regime’s image of Russian reality, it was unlikely that the discordant music and crude lyrics of their art protest would inspire Russian society to take to the streets. Yet, the regime mounted a very visible prosecution against the three young women. We argue that the trial marked a shift in the Kremlin’s strategy to shape state–society relations. In the face of declining economic conditions and social unrest, the PR trial encapsulated the Kremlin’s renewed focus on three related mechanisms to ensure social support: coercion, alliance building, and symbolic politics. The PR trial afforded the Kremlin an important opportunity to simultaneously redeﬁne its loyal constituency, secure the Church-state relationship, and stigmatize the opposition.
Looking Beyond the Economy: Pussy Riot and the Kremlin’s Voting Coalition. Post-Soviet Affairs. 2014. Vol. 30. No. 4. P. 257-275 (Regina Smyth & Irina Soboleva) [SSRN]
Featured Image: Pussy Riot Action.
Pro-Putin rallies before the 2012 presidential elections became campaign venues in which the Kremlin used political symbols—woven into a narrative of nationalism and tradition—to define and activate core voters across the Russian Federation.
Our analysis illustrates the Kremlin’s agility in response to opposition protests and the debacle of the December 2011 parliamentary elections. it also underscores the evolution of Kremlin strategies from a reliance on cooption to more coercive strategies—a trend that continued after Putin’s election in March. 14 these strategies were successful in mobilizing core voters, creating a common identity among participants, and containing the electoral effects of the opposition protests. the Kremlin’s strategy also, however, introduced significant costs that are likely to have long-term effects.
A Well-Organized Play: Symbolic Politics and the Effect of the Pro-Putin Rallies. Problems of Post-Communism. 2013. Vol. 60. No. 2. P. 24-39 (with Regina Smyth, Anton Sobolev) [SSRN]
Featured Image: Carnevale di Venezia.