Grassroot public spheres and activism in Russian federal cities

Project coordinator: Dr. Tatiana Golova

Supporters of leading Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny in Novosibirsk in May 2017. © Tatiana Golova.

How are civic engagement and public mobilisations in large Russian cities structured by communication processes that are embedded in everyday life? This question is not only of relevance to mobilisations that are explicitly pro-democratic or focus pragmatically on local mismanagement or abuses. In her project, which began in October 2016, sociologist Tatiana Golova starts from the premise that action by conservative and loyalist campaigns can be better understood by analysing how horizontally organised communication processes, beyond top-down mobilisation via state-controlled mass media and co-optation, influence the willingness to become engaged.

The research project explores this key question by analysing three dimensions:

  • Everyday life: Which collective interpretive frames are being (re-)constructed in the day-to-day communication by members of different socio-cultural milieus?
  • Mobilisation: How do mobilised public spheres, i.e. communication networks which are oriented towards collective action for specific causes, emerge? How do such networks relate to each other?
  • Hybridisation: How are different offline and online arenas for public communication and mobilisation connected?

The project focuses on large federal cities, which are significant in representing the periphery compared to Moscow and are regional power centres which concentrate human, financial and administrative resources. With a diverse population and a less complex local activist scene, they allow communication networks within and between the various activist milieus to be traced, both in their symbolic connections and in their practical interactions.