Drawing on fieldwork conducted in Moscow and St. Petersburg among the political opposition’s youth group Oborona (Defence), this ground-breaking work brings forward a multifaceted and colourful image of the life of political opposition activists in a restricted political environment. Existing studies on youth political activism in Russia have mainly dealt with the pro-Kremlin youth movements, such as Nashi, while youth opposition activism has been studied very little. Lyytikäinen contributes to this gap by showing how youth are also actively organizing against the current government and how Russian oppositional youth activist practices are diverse and constantly evolving.
Theoretically this book contributes to discussions on activist identities, as well as to an understanding of social movements and protest by analysing political protests as social performances. The research illustrates how Soviet continuities and liberal ideas are entangled in Russian political activism to create new post-socialist political identities and practices. It also questions the idea of Russian democratization being tied to its totalitarian past, and that of western-type liberal democracy being the goal of this process. Instead, the book proposes that Russian political culture should be analysed on its own, and as an entanglement of various interacting systems of thought.
Table of Contents
1. Youth political participation and civil society in the Soviet Union and in contemporary Russia
2. Silencing disagreements - activist identities and group practices
3. ‘I love my country but hate the state’ - Oborona activists interpreting civil society, state and democracy
4. Performing opposition: political protests as social performances
Laura Lyytikäinen is Post-doctoral Researcher in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Turku, Finland.
An engrossing account that offers insight into the complexities of politics and political identification in Russia, Lyytikäinen's careful analysis moves beyond simplistic characterizations, opening up 'liberal opposition' to explore what it means from the perspective of its participants. A thoughtful and timely contribution and a must-read for those interested in contemporary Russian politics and social movements.
Julie Hemment, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts at Amherst