Youth as Political Actor and Social Imaginary

Project coordination: Dr. Félix Krawatzek

When do young people take to the streets to challenge or support the political regime in place? How do political regimes respond to the challenges emanating from youth mobilisation? In today’s Russia, young people have taken to the streets on numerous occasions, both to pressure the existing regime and, at times, to express their support for it. Meanwhile, the symbol of youth in Russia enjoys a high visibility, and the media and politicians draw upon it, for example when referring to the role of the youthful Red Army during the Second World War or when they talk about expectations for the country’s future.

This research project studies the political activism of young people in contemporary Russia. It builds an event history database of pro- and anti-regime mobilisation in order to understand young people’s protest behaviour, the drivers of and obstacles to their political engagement, and the relationship between those taking to the streets and the regime in place. Focus group interviews are also carried out with young people to anchor their political behaviour in a historical and cultural context and to understand their perceptions of social mobilisation. This project seeks to map the different and contradictory forms of engagement of young people and pays attention to how young people themselves understand the political space they inhabit.

Moreover, the project takes a closer look at the international diffusion of youth mobilisation. Taking Russian youth movements as a starting point, the project explores, through a number of case studies, how ideas, networks, and practices of mobilisation diffuse between Russia and Western Europe. This emphasis on diffusion also calls into question essentialising notions of ‘East’ and ‘West’.