BASEES Annual Conference 2022

“Dead” and “Alive” Cities: The Calculus of Urban (Non)Protests in Russia

Fri8  Apr02:20pm(20 mins)
Umney Theatre


Irina Busygina , Ekaterina Paustyan


The recent (2021) urban political protests in Russia in support of Alexei Navalny have occurred after a decade-long hiatus, but their scale and scope (including geographic) was far greater than in 2011-2012. The experts noted very unequal distribution of urban protest activity across the country with the large variation in the number of protesters, and – interestingly – not between the capitals (Moscow and St. Petersburg) and the rest of Russia, but between regional capitals across the country. Why do some cities generate protests while others do not? To explain this puzzle and reveal what accounts for the occurrence of protests in the Russian cities as well as for their non-occurrence, we examine an interplay of the following four factors: the share of young and educated people, effectiveness of city authorities, the level of Internet consumption, and the “size” of organized civil society. Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) of 53 Russian cities reveals necessary as well as sufficient combinations of conditions leading to the occurrence of protests and to their non-occurrence. Our study seeks to contribute to the literature explaining the factors of urban political protests in authoritarian regimes. In addition, by exploring the distribution of protests across Russia, it advances our understanding of political structure of the Russian territory.