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­­­Citizenship of Russian youth: contemporary meanings and practices

Priority areas of development: sociology

Object of Research: young people and youth communities located in the cities of St. Petersburg and Ulyanovsk.

Goal of Research: a comprehensive study of new forms of citizenship among Russian young people in cultural, political, and economic fields ( specificall in the cases of St. Petersburg and Ulyanovsk).

The main objectives of the study are:

  • Developing theoretical and methodological bases of studying new forms of young people’s citizenship in the Russian context.
  • Identifying key social meanings that Russian young people associate with the concept of “a citizen”. Determining where citizenship sits within the value system of Russian young people.
  • Describing types and forms of civic engagement /youth activities. Identifying situations and events in which civic identity is actualized and civic solidarity is formed.
  • Defining the role of the major agents of socialization in forming young people’s civic consciousness (family, teachers, informal leaders, etc.).

Empirical Base of Research

The theoretical and methodological bases of the research are constructivism, a solidarity approach to studying young people, and the concept of youth citizenship. The subject of the research is young people’s civic consciousness/citizenship, which includes young people’s self-identification as citizens, the specifics of young people’s interpretation of the notion “citizen”, and the practices of citizenship.

The study combines quantitative and qualitative methodology within the paradigm of the mixed method research. The empirical part of the research was carried out in two Russian cities: St. Petersburg and Ulyanovsk.

The following work has been carried out during the research:

1.  A large-scale survey was conducted among students in St. Petersburg and Ulyanovsk. The size of the sample in the two cities was 1,200 people. The sample included university and vocational school students in St. Petersburg and Ulyanovsk. The criterion “field of study / specialization” was taken into account during the calculation. 65% of the total number of the interviewed comprised university students, while 35% were vocational school students.

2. Biographical interviews were conducted with “young professionals”, aged 22-30, who have higher education and at least three years of professional experience in their chosen field. Overall, 50 biographical interviews were collected and analyzed in two cities (35 in St. Petersburg and 15 in Ulyanovsk).

3. An analysis of songs (lyrics and visuals in music videos) popular among different groups of young people. An innovative method of analyzing political content and the concepts of citizenship in popular music (songs) and music videos has been developed. The sample includes songs from different parts of the “politicized” range, as well as “non-politicized” field of social networks. The sample represents songs of such youth communities as “Russian jogging”, “Nashi”, “Steel”, “Vse doma”. The number of units of analysis for each of the cases was 15 songs and 5 videos. In addition, subsamples of pop and hip-hop music were studied as well. The number of units of analysis for each of the genres was 25 songs and 10 videos.

4. A description and analysis of the research cases (case studies). The main methods are participant observation and interviews with the members of youth communities. The sample includes five cases: young gadget users from Ulyanovsk, young artists from St. Petersburg, translators of an online series, young migrants with children, and participants of the goth community in St. Petersburg. At least 10 interviews were conducted with the members of a community within each case, as well as at least 5 observations (through keeping an observation diary).

Results of Research:

1. The theoretical and methodological approach to studying the citizenship of Russian youth has been developed: there was the critical examination of the classical understanding of “citizenship” as a political category which describes the formal affiliation of an individual to a nation state, with the specific set of rights and obligations, clearly enshrined in legal documents, and includes the traditional practice of participation in politics; the boundaries of this definition have been expanded and now include multiple forms of young people’s citizenship, including values, the experience of self-identification and solidarity, as well as the practice of being responsible/participating in the life of a community (local and global). The key trends in analyzing citizenship were based on three components: a value-ideological component (subjective meaning of citizenship), an activity component (practices), and a territorial and mobile component (migration and mobility).

2. A unique approach to studying citizenship has been developed; it combines quantitative and qualitative methodology within the paradigm of the mixed method research. At the same time, the strategy of parallel combination of methods in the general logic of a qualitative-oriented research was used. In addition, an innovative method was used for the first time wihin this research: studying the existing public ideas about citizenship through song lyrics and videos of popular music.

3. The study has reached the following conclusions. The status of a Russian citizen is significant for most young people, regardless of their socio-demographic characteristics or region of residence. The study has revealed the development of so-called “non-critical” citizenship, when the recognition of the importance of civic solidarity reduces the amount of criticism expressed by young people towards the government (this applies to their understanding of the violations of their rights and of the limitations that exist in the legal sphere as well). The image of the “ideal” citizenship poorly fits into young people’s everyday life, filled with global information flows, individual strategies of accomplishing their ambitions and goals, career aspirations and fears. In this context, youth civic consciousness as a practice is implemented differently: it is delegated to parents, embodied in cultural style preferences and within the boundaries of specific youth networks and communities, deliberately ignored, or isolated. The practices of “small deeds” are most actualized among civic practices. Young people do not deliberately aim to move to another country, but they mention the possibility of  “necessary” emigration should the number of violations of rights and democratic liberties grow.

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

The materials of the study were presented in 23 reports at public seminars held at the Centre for Youth Studies HSE in St. Petersburg, at conferences and workshops in St. Petersburg and Moscow, as well as at international conferences. The results of this project and of the previous projects, carried out within the HSE Basic Research Program by the Center for Youth Studies, are reflected in nine articles, including those published in foreign journals; five articles have been accepted for publication, and two articles are being sent for revision.

Field of application:

The monitoring of young people’s perceptions of themselves and their role in the future of the country and the assessment of the formed competences and the possibility of developing civic engagement among young people can create the necessary basis for introducing a balanced youth policy and optimizing work with young people at various levels and in various government agencies. 


Омельченко Е. Л. Риски и удовольствия на сценах молодежного активизма современной России, in: Пути России. Альтернативы общественного развития. 2.0. Сборник статей. Москва : Новое литературное обозрение, 2015. С. 25-47. 
Omelchenko E. L., Krupets Y., Zhelnina A. A. Citizenship of Russian Youth: The Search for an Effective Methodology, in: “In Search of …” New Methodological Approaches to Youth Research. Cambridge : Cambridge Scholar Publishing, 2015. С. 295-317. 
“In Search of …” New Methodological Approaches to Youth Research. Cambridge : Cambridge Scholar Publishing, 2015.