Workshop on coronavirus pandemic’s effects on Russian society

Today HSE SPb organises a workshop “Coronavirus pandemic: new challenges for socio-political relationships in Russia”. During the workshop, the experts will discuss the research results of the effect of COVID-19 pandemic on various aspects of social and political life in Russia. Margarita Zavadskaya gives two presentations with Boris Sokolov (HSE SPb). In the first presentation, they outline a socio-psychological portrait of a typical COVID skeptic. In the second one, the researchers describe the determinants of political support and institutional trust in Russia during the pandemic.

Margarita and Boris demonstrate that Russia and the post-Soviet space, in general, are leaders in covid-skepticism among ten countries included in the “Values in Сrisis” survey. One explanation of this outcome may be the communism past, but the causal mechanism is ambiguous and requires further research. The researchers compose a portrait of a typical COVID skeptic in Russia. The dissidents are individuals who believe in the mysterious nature of the COVID-19. Commonly, these are more regularly men than women with an average level of education living in a medium or small town. Covid-skepticism prevails among respondents who distrust institutions, government, and traditional media to a greater extent. This group is more pessimistic and expects the Russian economy to shrink dramatically because of the pandemic. Counter-intuitively, covid-dissidents are less conservative and more open to risk. Facing the virus personally undermines skepticism while experiencing financial problems due to the restrictive measures acts as stimuli to a more significant skepticism.

If you want to learn more about Zavadskaya’s and Sokolov’s research, you can read the new article “How did Russian society react to Covid-19?” on Riddle.

Coronavirus exacerbated fundamental problems that had accumulated before the pandemic

Margarita Zavadskaya gave an interview to “European dialogue”, which was published yesterday in the article “Coronavirus exacerbated fundamental problems that had accumulated before the pandemic” (Коронавирус обострил фундаментальные проблемы, которые накопились до пандемии). Despite the pandemic (or because of it?), the year 2020 was full of protests. Dr. Zavadskaya was asked to reflect upon the new protest trends, her answers in Russian can be found online. Read this insightful interview to find out how the imposed during the pandemic restrictions affect mobilisations, what is the difference between protests in authoritarian regimes and democracies, and what is the fate of long-term protesting.

How unemployment and perceptions of the economy affect political trust in times of the Corona crisis?

Declared in response to the Corona crisis states of emergencies had enforced the role of the executive, placing the national governments on the first line of pandemic management. Considering the unprecedented character of the situation, some governments have experienced the ‘rally around the flag’ phenomenon – the rise of support during an external crisis while others have been faced with ‘hyper accountability’ – a severe punishment by the population for an economic downturn and pandemic’s consequences. In the pandemic’s complexity where healthcare and economic crises are linked together, it is ambiguous what factors impact trust formation. In this post, Valeria Caras focuses on economic factors as financial perceptions and unemployment from the comparative perspective. Valeria is ElMaRB project intern and a master’s student of the European and Nordic Studies programme at the University of Helsinki.

Reading time: 9 minutes

Continue reading “How unemployment and perceptions of the economy affect political trust in times of the Corona crisis?”

Reaction to light

On the 14th of February Navalny’s team decided to organise an event of a new format – “Love is stronger than fear”. Everyone who wanted to protest police brutality and arrests of Navalny and other political prisoners was encouraged to go with lights and candles into their yards at 20:00 on Valentine’s day. It is not possible to learn how many people participated in the event, though one thing is clear – police did not detain or beat up anyone, unlike during the previous protests in January and February 2021.

Margarita Zavadskaya was interviewed about the 14th of February protest by Current Time TV (Настоящее время). Doctor Zavadskaya said that the event could be counted as successful – it allowed the neighbors to get to know each other and create the new social links together with “normalisation” of the protests, which was made safe again. This is important for future protests, and the plans of Navalny’s team to resume the mobilisation later in Spring seem plausible; however, according to Margarita, it is too early to expect that there will be large protests after the Duma elections in September 2021. It is highly unlikely that the authorities would allow prominent opposition leaders to take part in the election, and this would decrease the initiative of protesters to go to the streets against electoral fraud.

Ongoing Russian protests are inevitably compared to the Belarusian ones. Margarita Zavadskaya, however, warns not to think of them as similar phenomena – in Belarus, a much higher share of the population engaged in protest activity, and the level of protest brutality there outraged not only the opposition but also the Belarusians at large. The Belarusian regime lost its popular support, while in Russia, the status quo is still supported in general.

You can watch the full interview embedded below, 08:30-24:40:

US elections 2020: Electoral Fraud, Protests, and Russian Influence

By Elena Gorbacheva, Margarita Zavadskaya, and Bradley Reynolds

On the 3rd of November 2020, the United States presidential elections surprised many. A record-high number of people participated in the voting, despite the ongoing pandemic, which forced many to vote by mail. For the first time, the incumbent declined to accept the results due to alleged electoral fraud. During the previous election in 2016, there were claims that Russia interfered with the elections and facilitated Donald Trump’s victory. This time, however, there was no support for any claims of Russian interference in the voting process that would have affected the results, though concerns of cyber threats continued to menace US Government agencies elsewhere. Why have allegations of election fraud become a hot topic now and what are the consequences for Russia and post-Soviet states? We take a closer look at the situation together with experts from the fields of American, Russian, and post-Soviet studies – Ora John Reuter (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), Ivan Kurilla (European University at St. Petersburg), Mark Teramae (University of Helsinki), Sherzod Eraliev (University of Helsinki) and Alla Leukavets (Center for Strategic and Foreign Policy Studies).

Continue reading “US elections 2020: Electoral Fraud, Protests, and Russian Influence”

The meaning of protests in authoritarian regimes

In 2021 there were already 3 protest days in Russia in support of Navalny, freedoms and rights of the Russian citizens. While they attracted thousands of people across the country, many doubt their power – after these demonstrations and those of the last years seemingly nothing changed for the better in terms of liberalisation. Meduza asked ElMaRB researchers Margarita Zavadskaya and Elena Gorbacheva together with Alexey Gilev (HSE Spb) to discuss protests in authoritarian regimes from the political science perspective. The results can be found online on Meduza website.

Is Kremlin afraid of the protests?

This week Margarita Zavadskaya was invited to Meduza’s podcast “What happened” to share her thoughts on the recent events and the transformations Russian regime has been going through. Margarita and the host Vladislav Gorin talked about the protests of the last weeks, organised by Alexey Navalny and his Anti-Corruption Foundation team, and how the regime reacts to them. They also discussed in details the current type of Russian regime – personalistic authoritarianism – and Margarita Zavadskaya explained what it fears and how it tries to fight the incoming challenges.

While many things in Russia may seem gloomy, there are several points that can give us hope. First, the society in Russia is more mature than it has been and is not content anymore with the political system in the country. This society has overgrown the personalistic regime and is ready for changes. Second, there are now more organisations and civil associations in Russian regions (the legacy of 2011-2012 ‘For Fair Elections’ movement) and there is also the network of Navalny offices opened after 2017 – this infrastructure and the social capital and experiences that accumulate after each protest wave give Russian opposition a chance for success.

Listen to the full version of podcast in Russian on Meduza website or at the podcasts platform you use.