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Promoting Youth Involvement and Social Engagement: Analysis of Innovative Youth Activism in Europe and Russia

Priority areas of development: sociology

Goal of research

Analysis of European youth activism, consideration of its similarities and differences; the specifics of Russian youth initiatives in the European trends’ context.


The project is a comprehensive sociological research, which includes a secondary analysis of statistical and quantitative data, and an analysis of qualitative data with the meta-ethnographic synthesis.

Empirical base of research

A quantitative analysis of disposition and attitudes of modern youth in Russia, a description of their participation in the society and a comparison of Russian indicators with data gained from peers from several European countries were based on the latest available data from macro indicators and relevant survey data:

  • The World Bank, the International Economic Forum, the International Labor Organization, the Foundation Transparency International, the non-governmental organization Freedom House and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

  • The data of Rosstat, UNICEF and the results of “Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Survey” (Higher School of Economics) and of the research of “Public Opinion Foundation” were used for Russia and Eurostat data were used for Europe.

  • Survey data of the European Social Survey (2016).

A qualitative analysis of youth activism among stigmatized and marginalized groups was based on:

  • data collected in the 2017 in frame of Centre for youth studies’ project and the data from an international project;

  • National case-study reports (“Young Muslim Women. New Muslims? Social Participation of Muslim Women” (Germany), “Young Gender Activists” (Portugal), “Zagreb Pride” LGBTIQ NGO (Croatia), Feminist Scene of Saint-Petersburg (Russia), LGBT scene of Saint-Petersburg (Russia).

  • Node memos of relevant cases prepared based on coding quality material with the NVivo software (N = 111)

  • Respondent memos - basic information about each informant, including a description of the interaction context, interview process and reflections fixated by the researchers (N = 91).

Results of research

The project in 2018 was aimed to analyze the general and specific factors in innovative youth activism in Russia and Europe. An analysis of secondary and statistical data showed, among other things, that European youth is a more active actor at the political arena, compared to young Russians. Same as a youth of European countries, young Russians prefer online space to demonstrate their political attitudes. While in the European context consumer behavior is also actively used as a resource of political involvement and a way to express personal views, in Russia this kind of political expression is not widely supported. Among the most politically active groups of young people, a youth with migration experience and those who consider themselves to be discriminated stand out significantly. According to the analysis results, grassroot activities evoke a stronger interest among the Russian youth than the state policy implemented directly through the officials and deputies. If we take a closer look at the “face” of modern youth activism in Russia, then it should be noted that young women tend to be more active in expressing their position compared to young men. In addition, people with migrant experience and different social minority groups participate significantly more often in activist events. Thus, activism serves as a tool of legal struggle against exclusion and discrimination.

We provided an analysis with meta-ethnographic synthesis method of Russian and European (Portugal, Germany, Croatia) cases of activism in areas related to cultural recognition and struggle for equality for significantly stigmatized and marginalized groups of young people (such as Muslim girls, LGBT youth, feminist-oriented youth, gender activists). It showed that high problematization of mentioned above identities re-politicizes young people, prompting them to defend their rights to be recognized and to be different. Social civic engagement often causes new risks for activists because it makes them public, vulnerable to harassment, social deprivation, and physical violence. At the same time, it is precisely the activist inclusion that makes it possible to form and develop an agency for culturally stigmatized groups — the ability and possibility to act according to own choices, self-esteem, self-confidence, the ability to manage own life, including the experience of various social activities. It makes young activists guides of democratic values, of mutual respect and diversity appreciation, social justice and responsible citizenship among young people.

Level of implementation, recommendations on implementation or outcomes of the implementation of the results

According to the study, several recommendations were formulated. These recommendations can be implemented at the level of youth and educational policy of the Russian Federation, as well as at the local level of a city and municipal authorities.

  • It is recommended to strengthen the development of institutional ways of inclusion in the formal policy for young citizens: the possibility of a direct contact with the authorities, a freedom to express an opinion, inclusion in political organizations. It is necessary to develop a system of notification, competencies of civic participation and support of young people in the process of political involvement at different levels: federal and local.

  • In order to develop and maintain the interest in the socio-political life of young Russians, it is worth expanding the presence of state youth programs and adapting rhetoric in the field of new media. The development of “systematic” civic participation should be implemented through an integrated approach to online promotion and real, formal inclusion of young people in the activities of government bodies, services, and organizations. It is recommended to create and maintain additional online platforms for young people to openly discuss political issues and government actions.

  • Orientation on the production of loyalty to the activities of state bodies and the modern political system can be realized through the exchange of experience, education and state support for the most discontented groups of young people: youth with migration experience and those who consider themselves to be part of discriminated groups. Finding communication paths and intersections will help reduce the level of social tension between government structures and critical groups at both the local and national levels.

  • To expand social inclusion and youth participation in life of society, it is necessary not only to reduce bureaucratic barriers to youth participation, but also to work with adult population (heads of authorities, organizations, employees of educational institutions, etc.), orienting the older generation to support youth initiatives, increasing their competence in the forms and methods of youth participation.

  • The development of youth human capital is strongly linked with the development of leadership. It is recommended to support young activists from different spheres of activity. Since often they have their own experience of stigmatization and marginalization, youth may successfully cope with deprivation, form their own ability to act, develop communication and organizational skills and can become an example for peers.

  • It is necessary to develop and support independent horizontal youth initiatives where both the leaders and participants act as representatives of the younger generation. This will allow to speak the same language, formulate own agendas, mutually develop competencies and provide an opportunity to avoid intergenerational conflicts for ones who involved.


Omelchenko E. L. IS THE RUSSIAN CASE OF THE YOUTH CULTURAL PRACTICES TRANSFORMATION UNIQUE OR NOT? // Мониторинг общественного мнения: Экономические и социальные перемены. 2019. No. 1. P. 3-27. doi
Kuleva M. Looking through a dirty glass: how paradigms of culture and creativity redefine each other using discourses of dirt and disorder in contemporary Russia // European Journal of Cultural Studies. 2020.