Сьюэл Патрик Дэвид -
Political Activism in Russia since 2011
The purpose of this study is twofold. First an overview of past and ongoing research on the protests of 2011/2012 will be taken in order to outline the limits of our current knowledge as to their nature and, most crucially, their causes. The question of interest here is ‘what can we claim to know about the causes of the 2011/2012 protests?’ Given the epistemological demands of causational explanation, this dimension of the question will be studied primarily, yet not exclusively, through a comparison of various quantitative approaches. The relative successes of these approaches will be compared, as a result of which it will be shown first that the application of traditional structural approaches such as modernisation theory is highly problematic in the Russian case and second that empirical studies using social networks analysis can give us a good idea of how if not necessarily why a number of politically active Russians managed to overcome the collective action problem in order to assemble in large numbers for street protests. In the conclusion we shall return to this question of why and sketch a novel answer which makes up for the lack of empirical data with a consideration of Russia’s unique historical path dependency. The second part of the study will focus on political activism. Having subjected a series of interviews with political activists to a number of the analytical stages associated with Grounded Theory Methodology (GTM), further evidence will be contributed to the research paradigm outlined in the literature review, and an as of yet incomplete theoretical understanding of trust-giving processes binding activists and opposition leaders will be tentatively sketched and recommended for further research. The study will then combine this research with existing literature to outline the current predicaments facing political activists and the barriers to their collective action.