Friday, 31 March 2023 to Sunday, 2 April 2023

Stealth Resistance vs Street Protests: The Anti-war Grass-roots Movement in Russia

Fri31  Mar12:45pm(15 mins)
Gilbert Scott Room 250


IRINA OLIMPIEVA1; Evgenia Olimpieva2
1 CISRus, United States;  2 University of Chicago, United States


Since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine, antiwar street protests in Russia have been frequent — though unimpressive in size. Even Putin’s recent mobilization of reservists brought relatively few Russians onto the streets. 

Does the limited scale of antiwar protests in Russia mean that Russian society is unwilling to challenge Putin’s invasion of Ukraine? Our research suggests an antiwar movement exists in Russia, despite weak street-level resistance. To understand how Russian society has opposed the war, we look beyond protests, to identify acts of stealth resistance. Stealth resistance can take different shapes as it adapts to new political realities. 

The study takes a close look at the Russian activism to support Ukrainian refugees and argues that it should be perceived as a form of anti-war resistance. We rely on in-depth interviews with volunteers working in “Piter Proezdom ” (St. Petersburg as a layover on the way from Ukraine to Europe), which is a group in Russia helping Ukrainian families who found themselves to get asylum in Europe. The volunteers meet families arriving at St. Petersburg, help them with accommodation and transportation to the border, provide them with food, clothes, money, medicine, etc. We use in-depth interviews with volunteers and coordinators to understand their motivations and attitudes and conduct discourse analysis of the group chats in Telegram messenger.