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Innovative Potential of Russian Youth: Solidarities, Activism, and Civic Responsibility

Priority areas of development: sociology, law, humanitarian
2012
The project has been carried out as part of the HSE Program of Fundamental Studies.

The project was implemented as part of the HSE Basic research program.

1. Research object: youth communities (online and offline) located in St. Petersburg and Ulyanovsk.

2. Research purpose: complex study of the basis, characteristics and development of young people’s innovative potential through the analysis of new forms of youth civic engagement, solidarity, and identity

3. Empirical base of the research:
Empirical research was based on qualitative methodology.
A variety of research methods and data were used:
  • Case - study. Nine youth communities were chosen for the research as cases: «Boitzovsky klub” (Fighting club), “Kreativnye predprinimateli” (Creative entrepreneurs), “Potrebiteli frimarketov” (Consumers of free-free markets), “Rusj” (patriotic club), Stalj (pro-governmental youth organization), “Feministki Peterburga” (feminists of St. Petersburg), “Participants of protest against elections”, “Civic observers”, “Young people who did not participate in protests”. Participant observation and qualitative interviews with members of the communities were the key methods of data collection.  
  • Focus-groups with young people. 25 focus-groups were conducted with young people with different experience of civic activism, with different economic, social, and cultural backgrounds.     
  • In-depth interviews with experts. Young activists professionally or deeply involved in civic and political activism were chosen as experts. 30 interviews were conducted (20 – in St. Petersburg, 10 – in Ulyanovsk). The criteria for the sampling were: relevant activist background (expert should have been deeply involved in civic activity at least for one year); managerial experience (expert should have experience in arranging of 2 or more civic actions).
  • Analysis of Internet activity of young people. This research includes the discourse analysis of 6 on-line communities and collection of 12 in-depth interviews with young users of the relevant social networks.
4. Research results:
  • A new theoretical and methodological approach to the study of innovation potential of Russian youth was developed within the broader framework of youth solidarities approach.  
  • The development of human capital and innovative potential is one of the basic life strategies of young people. It includes professional and personal self-realization. Today young people tend to actively develop general competencies that can be applied in all spheres. It forms their potential. Among the core competences acquired by young people through their participation in activist initiatives, we can distinguish the most important: communication skills, organizational skills, creative skills, responsibility, legal and civic competences, the ability to work with huge amount of information and organize it effectively. “Activity” for significant part of young people is a newly formed attitude toward life, in a sense it is now their new style of life.
  • Youth solidarities are built on similar practical bases (the need for sociality, self-development, different practices of economic relations, creative activity). At the same time these solidarities differ in ideological content: it is the most obvious vector of solidarization: shared patriotic, nonconformist, religious and other values. Solidarities also can vary by their format of sociality: rigid and flexible, tolerant and xenophobic, individualistic and collectivist – these key distinctions form strict divisions between “friends” and “enemies”.
5. Implementation of the research results:
Monitoring of young people’s understanding of themselves and their role in the future of the country, the assessment of their formed competencies and the potentialities in further youth development can form a basis for the effective implementation of youth policy and balanced reformation of the style of work with young people at various levels and in various government organizations.
International partners: Professor Hilary Pilkington (University of Manchester)  Personal Profile: http://staffprofiles.humanities.manchester.ac.uk/Profile.aspx?Id=hilary.pilkington

Publications:


Omelchenko E. L., Pilkington H. Regrounding Youth Cultural Theory (in Post-Socialist Youth Cultural Practice) // Sociology Compass. 2013. Vol. 7. No. 3. P. 208-224. doi
Зиновьев А. А. "Наш подарок этому миру": анализ специфики насилия в практиках бойцовского клуба Санкт-Петербурга // Этнографическое обозрение. 2014. № 1. С. 33-46.