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Political Activism and Youth Movements in Russia

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  1. Political Activism and Youth Movements in Russia Politics on the Move/ 18.2.2010 Laura Lyytikäinen

  2. Youth Political Activism and youth movements in Russia • How to define ’political’ and ’active’? • How to study youth political activism? • Color revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe • Youth Movements in Russia • Repertoires of Contention

  3. Voting Behavior/ Youth in Europe Youth participation in General Elections in Europe (EUYOUPART 2005), Russia (FOM 2003, Voting Behavior and election results)

  4. FOM Russia 2007: How often do you vote?

  5. Political Apathy of Youth • More and more young people in the world are rejecting institutional politics and its actors. • Many studies show that young people are interested in political matters • themes that youth want to be involved in are often ignored by the mainstream political parties and representatives. • Political system remains remote and distant to young people and therefore it fails to attract and engage younger generation.

  6. How to study youth activism? • Many quantitative research lean on to the traditional understanding of politics and concentrate on political behavior • tied to the elections and parliamentary activities --> do not reveal the reality of youth political activism. • ‘conventional political science’ indicators. • By allowing people themselves explain what is political we are approaching ‘the political’ as lived experience rather than as conventional set of arenas. • According to O’Toole et al. (2003), this lived experience can be revealed by ‘the thick’ description through semi-structured interviews.

  7. Example of the UK (Henn et al. 2005) • Young people interested in the “new style of politics” that is more participative and focuses on localized and immediate issues. • Young people in Britain feel alienated from the political process but not because of their apathy but because of the lack of trust in the political system and politicians. • Milyukova 2002: relatively high level of politicization and a contradictory political consciousness of the Russian youth • Liberal values coexist with a desire for authoritarianism and for a strong personified leader.

  8. Youth as a specific group • Generation effects are distinctive attitudes developed amongst the young and are shared by this group over time. • Generation effects arise from the fact that successive generations face new challenges of which previous generations have no experience. • Political issues and arenas familiar to other, older, generations may well have little relevance to young people.

  9. Generational Dimensions • Mannheim (1952): Three Dimensions of Generation • Individuals belonging to same generation behave and think alike because they share a generational location in a society. • Generational experiences are shared and encountered at the same stage of one’s life cycle. • Contextual dimensions are important in describing these shared experiences; Individuals need to belong to the same culture and society to have similar encounters. • Generations fracture into smaller ”units”; through these generation units generational experiences actualize. • Different generation units work differently with their shared experiences and strive for different goals Mobilization

  10. Generation • Shared Generational Experiences • E.g. World Wars, ”The 60s Generation”, Women’s Rights • In Russia? Perestroika & Glasnost’ 1986, Market reforms • The First ”Free Generation”, Post-communist Generation, Market-orientated, Liberalism?

  11. Youth Political Activism – the Color revolutions • Wave of Protests in the Eastern and Central Europe • Serbia 2000: Otpor (Resistance) • Bulldozer revolution • Students against Miloševic during the Kosovo war • Georgia 2003(Rose Revolution): Kmara (Enough) • Presidential elections in 2003 • Saakashvili’s supporters forced Shevardnadze to resign • Ukraine 2004 (Orange Revolution): Pora (It’s Time) • Presidential elections in 2004 • Daily protests on the Maidan Square in Kiev • Run-off annulled -> new run-off • Yushchenko 52%, Yanukovich 44% • In 2010 mass-protests in Maidan forbidden

  12. Color Revolutions • Youth played an important role in successful revolutions • Revolutionary aims: Democracy • Non-violent methods of protests • Supported by the western funders, e.g. The Soros Foundation, Gene Sharp’s non-violent methods of resistance • Electoral process: claiming and showing the fraud in the elections • Kyrgystan 2005 • Zubr in Belorussia, MJAFT in Albania • Oborona, My & Smena in Russia

  13. Political youth movements in Russia • Pro-Kremlinmovements • Supportedby the Kremlin; funding, media coverage • Largemobilization • Young Guard of the United Russia • Youthwing of Putin’sParty United Russia • Young Russia • Mestnye and other ”projects” • Camp Lake Seliger

  14. Nashi • Nashi (Ours) • 2005 -> • ”Official” anti-facism and democracy • “a Putin-era political technology project”? (Heller 2008) • Membership up to 120 000 • “Anti-Orange” • Some assess that President Medvedev’s project of “civilized Russia promoting itself as a friend and partner of the West” does not need the Nashi anymore. (Heller 2008, 4) • Grown independent?

  15. FOM 2009: Which of the youth movements you know?

  16. Oppositional youth movements/Leftists • National Bolsheviks • Eduard Limonov • Banned • Radical nationalist agenda • Large membership • Nation of Freedom – New movement organized by a section of ”Limonovitsy” • AKM – the Vanguard of Red Youth • Radical Communist Youth Group • Young Left Front, Union of the Communist youth

  17. Democratic Oppositional Movements • The umbrella movements • OGF, the Other Russia • Solidarity • Founded in December 2008 • United democratic forces, communists and nationalists were left out • SPS, Yabloko Party, People’s Democratic Union, ’For the Human Rights’, Memorial & Others • Boris Nemtsov, Garry Kasparov, Lev Ponomarev • Supported 9 candidates for the Moscow City Duma elections in 2009 -> all refused registration by the election committee • Youth movements, Oborona, We, Smena, Youth Yabloko • Il’ya Yashin (YY), Oleg Kozlovsky (Ob), Roman Dobrokhotov (We) – all in the Political Council

  18. Youth Movements • Democratic Youth movement ’We’ • 2005, Roman Dobrokhotov • fighting for a democratic state that respects human rights, freedom of speech, free business, constitutional state and other gains of democracy; Army and police reform • Around 100 members, dozen active • Humorous demonstrations, plays and pickets • Oborona • Smena • Free Radicals, Nation of Freedom

  19. Spring 2005; Youth activists from the SPS and Yabloko Party • Inspired by the Ukrainian Orange Revolution • ”First time people started to believe something could really change” • ”New Free Generation” • Free and democratic elections, free and independent media, reform of the army and militia, against corruption, equal laws for everyone • Leading figure Oleg Kozlovsky • Around 1000 participants on the lists, dozens active • Students, young specialists, 14-40 years • Moscow, St. Petersburg, Ekateringburg, Arkhangelsk

  20. Oborona • Mass demonstrations, pickets, graffiti, seminars, Flash Mobs, Camp Partizan • Non-violent methods of protest • Internet; blogging, articles (especially Coordinator Oleg Kozlovsky) • LiveJournal, vKontakte, Facebook • The Washington Post, the Huffington Post…

  21. Repertoires of Contention • Repertoires of contention are historically particular; at one point in history only a limited set of ways to act collectively are learned and realized. (Tilly 1978) • Protesters have a certain “stock” of repertoires available. The stock varies in time and place, and therefore different forms of protest reflect the agents’ historical and national-geographical location. • How the present day repertoires of the oppositional movements reflect the political culture and political opportunity structures of Russia?

  22. From Mass Demonstrations to Humoristic Flash Mobs • Mass demonstrations: • Dissenters’ Marches 2005-2008 • Organized by the Other Russia, OGF • At the peak 5000 participants • Strongly regulated by the authorities • Not allowed anymore • Youth movements’ ”flash mobs” • Small scale, participants in dozens • Organized on the Internet • Often humoristic, ridiculing the authorities • Surprising and confusing elements

  23. Other means of contention • Graffiti, Stickers • Graffiti already used by the Soviet dissidents • Concerts, seminars • Camp Partizan • Internet communities • LiveJournal • Vkontakte, Facebook • www.kozlovsky.ru , www.namarsh.ru

  24. Interaction between the state, pro-Kremlin and anti-Kremlin movements • Tactical adaptation/ innovation • Following, spying each other • Legislation: • 2006 Law on NGOs (amended in 2009) • 2002 Law on Extremism • Defaming, harassment • ”US spies”, conspiracy theories (US influence on Color Revolutions) • Harassment; Street actions, Internet blogs • Violence • Strong control of the Media; no coverage on oppositional/ dissident action • Controlling the street actions; refusing permissions, military/ police presence

  25. Growing Dissatisfaction • Social protest in Russia has been growing during the years 2007-2009 (Lankina & Savrasov 2009) • socio-economic downturn, rise in unemployment and dissatisfaction to the government’s policies in dealing with the crisis • opening political opportunity structures and the growing awareness of the mobilization demonstrations • Kaliningrad January 31st • Nationwide Strategy 31 protests • In Kaliningrad up to 12 000 protesters • In Moscow 300 protesters, 100 detained • No public media coverage

  26. Literature Barber, Terry 2009: Participation, Citizenship and well-being. Engaging with young people, making a difference. In Young, Nordic Journal for Youth Research, Vol 17(1):25-40. Bruner, M. Lane 2005: Carnivalesque Protest and the Humorless State. In Text and Performance Quarterly, Vol. 25, 2/2005, 136–155 Davies, Christine 2007: Humour and protest. Jokes under Communism. In International Review of Social History, Vol. 52 (2007), 291–305 Henn, Matt & Weinstein, Mark & Hodgkinson, Sarah 2007: Social Capital and Political Participation: Understanding the Dynamics of Young People’s Political Disengagement in Contemporary Britain. In Social Policy & Society 6:4, 467–479.

  27. Literature Lankila, Tomila & Savrasov, Alexey 2009: Growing Social Protest in Russia. In Russian Analytical Digest, 60/09. Forschungsstelle Osteuropa, Bremen and Center for Security Studies, Zürich, Research Centre for East European Studies. McFaul, Michael 2003: Generational Change in Russia. In Demokratizatsiya, (vol. 11), 1/2003, 1-64. Milyukova, Irina 2002: The political future of Russia through the eyes of young students. In Young (Vol. 10) 3/4, 12-25. Rossi, Federico M. 2009: Youth Political Participation. Is this the End of generational Cleavage? In International Sociology, (Vol. 24) 4/2009, 467-497. O’Toole, Therese & Lister, Michael & Marsh, Dave & Jones, Su & McDonagh, Alex 2003: Tuning out or left out? Participation and nonparticipation among young people. In Contemporary Politics, (Vol. 9) 1/2003, 45-61.