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Overcoming Depoliticization: the 2014 Local Electoral Campaign in St. Petersburg

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Abstract

This article presents the results of an empirical study conducted during and after the 2014 local elections in St. Petersburg. In these elections, a number of new activists tried to run as candidates for the municipal council under the conditions of a depoliticized society. Our research was inductive: we progressed from field study to later theoretical interpretation of our results. The formulation of our research questions was therefore simple: how and why did the activist candidates participate in the local elections and what can their electoral campaigns tell us about how both activists and people in Russia see contemporary politics? To answer these questions, we analyze the different types of campaign conducted, the communication between candidates and voters, the characteristics of support groups and social movements, and the campaign outcomes and their significance for understanding politicization and depoliticization in Russia today. The data for this study was collected through participant observation and in-depth interviews with activist candidates and their supporters. Detailed analysis of their narratives not only allowed us to understand their experiences but also enabled us to formulate some conclusions about contemporary Russian politics and about how activists and ordinary citizens view the political system. Thus, we argue that the activist candidates not only tried to become candidates but also—through their campaigns and selection of campaigning methods—helped to overcome depoliticization and strengthen local social movements.
Overcoming Depoliticization: the 2014 Local Electoral
Campaign in St. Petersburg
Elena Belokurova
1
&Dmitry Vorobyev
2
#Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019
Abstract
This article presents the results of an empirical study conducted during and after the 2014 local
elections in St. Petersburg. In these elections, a number of new activists tried to run as
candidates for the municipal council under the conditions of a depoliticized society. Our
research was inductive: we progressed from field study to later theoretical interpretation of
our results. The formulation of our research questions was therefore simple: how and why did
the activist candidates participate in the local elections and what can their electoral campaigns
tell us about how both activists and people in Russia see contemporary politics? To answer
these questions, we analyze the different types of campaign conducted, the communication
between candidates and voters, the characteristics of support groups and social movements,
and the campaign outcomes and their significance for understanding politicization and depo-
liticization in Russia today. The data for this study was collected through participant observa-
tion and in-depth interviews with activist candidates and their supporters. Detailed analysis of
their narratives not only allowed us to understand their experiences but also enabled us to
formulate some conclusions about contemporary Russian politics and about how activists and
ordinary citizens view the political system. Thus, we argue that the activist candidates not only
tried to become candidates but alsothrough their campaigns and selection of campaigning
methodshelped to overcome depoliticization and strengthen local social movements.
Keywords Local elections .Activism .Depoliticization .Electoral campaign .Local social
movement
International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10767-019-9323-4
*Elena Belokurova
elena.v.belokurova@gmail.com
Dmitry Vorobyev
moxabat@gmail.com
1
North-West Institute of Management, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public
Administration, Sredny prospect VO, 57/43, Saint Petersburg 199178, Russia
2
Independent Researcher, St. Petersburg, Russia
Published online: 12 June 2019
(2020) 33:203220
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
... The Soviet legacy remains a powerful force in Russian society and higher education. Recent social and political events suggest a depoliticization of Russian society (Belokurova & Vorobyev, 2020;Casula, 2013;Mart'ianov, 2007) which points to compromises between higher education institutions that have moved towards liberal reforms and a state interested in consolidation of higher education's social role. Kliucharev (2017) identified a "civil passivity" within the Russian context that needs to be explored further and whether exposure to higher education helps ameliorate this passivity. ...
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