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The Interaction of Civil and State Actors in the Functioning of the Protest Communities in Social Networks in Russia

Student: Vladislav Plyshevskii

Supervisor: Anna Shirokanova

Faculty: Saint-Petersburg School of Social Sciences and Area Studies

Educational Programme: Sociology (Bachelor)

Year of Graduation: 2016

Contemporary researchers have increasingly focused on political activity in the network sphere, believing that certain political circumstances can help to organize protests and even revolution through the Internet. Social media did become one of the main tools used in the protests in Moldova and Iran (2009), during the “Euromaidan” (2013), during the "Arab Spring" (2011) a.k.a. the “Facebook-revolution” and during Russian protests in 2011-2012. They are changing the interaction between civil and state actors; stimulate new legislation and ideological discourse. The main aim of the study is to identify the ways of interaction between civil and state actors in the functioning of the protest communities in social networks in Russia and the opinion of activists about them. The paper employs categorization analysis of ten interviews with the “pro-government” and civil society activists. The analysis showed that two groups of activists admit the significant role of the Internet in enhancing political activism and mobilization, but they evaluate differently the impact of social media on the growth of protest activity, as well as on legislative acts regulating such activity. The “pro-government” activists believe that the government understands the reasons for protests and listen to the protesters; opposition activists suppose that the authorities do not understand “true motives” of protesters and believe counteraction to be the predominant type of interaction with authorities on the Internet. The “pro-government” activists believe that cooperation with civic actors on the network is real, while civil society activists discuss it only hypothetically. The study shows the differences in views of the “pro-government” and opposition activists on the strategies of interaction between civic and state actors and on the functioning of the protest communities in social networks in Russia.

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