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Nordic Russian and Eastern European Studies Conference
Intentions, Interactions and Paradoxes in Post-Socialist Space
24-25 May 2013 in Helsinki, Finland


Classed, Gendered and Generational Practices of Civic Activism in Russia
Chair: Jussi Lassila (Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki, Finland)
Discussant: Terry Cox (University of Glasgow, UK)
Laura Lyytikäinen (University of Helsinki, Finland): Liberal ideas and Soviet continuities in the Russian oppositional youth movement
Meri Kulmala (Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki, Finland) and Anna Tarasenko (National Research University Higher School of Economics, St. Petersburg, Russia): Veterans' organizations and social reforms in Russia
Liya Kalinnikova (Uppsala Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies, University of Uppsala, Sweden): One hundred years of social organizations/ NGO’s in the Northern territories of Russia
Ann-Mari Sätre (Uppsala Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies, University of Uppsala, Sweden): Empowering Effects of Social Work through Women’s Paid and Non-Paid Work in Russia

The wave of protests that started after the elections in 2011 has questioned the dominant image of Russian citizens as apathetic. Recent research also shows that Russians have engaged in civic activism long before the electoral mobilizations. Too often this activity is not seen or is disregarded because of our conventional western liberal understandings what is counted as activism. Terms such as “hybrid” or “dual” have been used to describe Russian state and its policies that combine statist and liberalizing elements as well as formal and informal practices of governing. Some civic organizations are favored by the state while others’ activities are restricted. Although some organizations are chosen as the state helpers in delivering social services, others, mainly the state critics, are seen as state adversaries and framed as a threat to Russian stability. The state has introduced new financial programs and tax reductions to support the activities of the so-called socially oriented NGOs while the laws on organizing and participating in demonstrations restrict voicing out criticism towards the state. Russian civic actors need to steer their way in this “dual” or “hybrid” system and find ways to voice out their grievances, and to influence or criticize state policies.

Panel’s presentations explore a variety of Russian activism and activists from the point of view of class, gender, and generation. The presentations analyze activist histories, practices, and identities and how organizations find ways to influence policy and decision-making in different Russian regions. We are especially interested in scrutinizing how gender, class, and generation (re)structure the practices of activism and resistance. The case studies of the panel examine history of social organization in Northern Russia, women’s activism in Arkhangelsk, anti-Kremlin youth activism in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and “Soviet type” veterans’ and social associations in today’s Russia. We aim at finding similarities, differences and intersections in activism(s) in Russia today and in the past. We pay particular attention to how “Soviet” legacies, “modernization”, and “Western” neoliberal rationalities are shaping activism and try to find new ways to study these “assemblages” and how they are present and reworked in “post-Soviet” reality and in everyday lives of the Russian activists.