Public initiatives and state power structures – a post-Soviet comparison

Project coordination: Dr. Nadja Douglas

Protesters in Belarus carry a banner that reads: »Who's the real parasite? The President!«. © Anastasija Vasil'chuk, #controlBY.

In one of ZOiS’s first research projects, political scientist Nadja Douglas is exploring the dynamics and interaction between public initiatives and state policies, with particular reference to various recent social protests. In times of accelerated social change, there are growing demands for more transparency, accountability and legitimacy, particularly in relation to the state’s executive bodies and the police in post-Soviet countries, as elsewhere. While civic actors are seeking wider freedoms, the state often resorts to traditional forms of repression. This is manifested in declining or stagnating trust in the state’s institutions. The research project focuses on a comparative case study of Armenia, Belarus and the Republic of Moldova and considers the recent and highly diverse political and social changes taking place in these three countries. Three main questions are addressed:

1)      To what extent are police structures and practices perceived by the populace to be legitimate, particularly in relation to the maintenance of public order at demonstrations and protests?

2)      What is the relationship between civil society and the police/other structures embodying state power?

3)      How do the police/other state structures fit into the broader picture of political and social change in these various countries?

The theoretical framework for the project brings together concepts from social movement research and “protest policing” with research on trust and legitimacy in relation to state institutions. The methodology applied in the comparative case study involves tracing differences and commonalities at various levels in order to gain insights into the overall status of state-society relations in the region.

Electric Yerevan: the announcement of electricity price hikes sparked mass protests in Armenia in 2015. © Karena Avedissian.