A Big Exodus seminar

On the 31st of May, Margarita Zavadskaya will organise a seminar where she will present the results of the survey of the new Russian migrants who left the country because of the war. She and other researchers collaborated with the project Ok Russians to find out what are the political attitudes of those who decided not to stay in Russia after it attacked Ukraine on the 24th of February this year.  Join us in Zoom to listen to the first preliminary results of the project:

https://helsinki.zoom.us/j/67983658919?pwd=aTRvRS9SaVFoSjBkbzFmUlFSUi9CQT09

Meeting ID: 679 8365 8919
Passcode: 021541

May be an image of text that says "OK RUSS"

A Big Exodus: The Anti-War Migrants from Russia, Political Attitudes and Expectations

Authors:

Emil Kamalov, doctoral student, European University Institute (EUI), Florence, Italy

Nika Kostenko

Ivetta Sergeeva, doctoral student, European University Institute (EUI), Florence, Italy

Margarita Zavadskaya, researcher, University of Helsinki, Finland

About 200,000 Russians fled soon after Russian government launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February, 24, 2022. This is the biggest exodus from Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Among these emigrés, there are leading experts in top-notch industries including IT sector, representatives of non-commercial sector, science and education. The outflow of highly qualified labor force will lead to the loss of human capital and knowledge in Russia and affect societies in the destination countries.

We present the early results of the online panel survey of Russian migrants (N=1.500) carried out from March 27 to April 4, 2022 in collaboration with the project Ok Russians. Our sample includes only those respondents who agreed to participate in the survey. The questionnaire encompasses questions related to demography, socio-economic status, profession, political attitudes, expectations and plans as well as reasons for emigration.

Our preliminary findings suggest that new migrants are mostly educated young Russians between 20 and 40. They are mostly employed in the realms of intellectual and creative professions such as IT, data science, own business, academia, art and culture, ‘white collars’. Most of the respondents used to be politically active citizens and many faced threats due to their political views. Every second respondent admits fear of political prosecution.

ElMaRB seminar ‘Internet voting in Russia: Democratizing Power of Internet Voting Revised?’

Next week’s Wednesday we continue our ElMaRB seminar series and will have a presentation by Iuliia Krivonosova, Doctoral researcher at Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia, and at the Kompetenzzentrum für Public Management, University of Bern, Switzerland. Iuliia will present her research ‘Internet voting in Russia: Democratizing Power of Internet Voting Revised?’. Bogdan Romanov, Junior Research Fellow in E-Governance, University of Tartu, will serve as discussant.

Internet voting has pride of place among democratic innovations. It enfranchises new groups of voters, brings greater voter convenience and decreases costs of voting (Alvarez & Hall, 2003; Goodman & Stokes, 2016; Krimmer, 2012). So far, the studies of Internet voting implementation have been limited to democratic countries, which helps to reinforce the narrative of Internet voting as an innovation with democratic potential. At the same time, authoritarian regimes have a lot of potential to become norm entrepreneurs (Sunstein, 1996) generating new “alternative norms of appropriateness” (Jones, 2015, p. 26) which has already happened in the field of cyberspace (Kneuer & Harnisch, 2016) and e-participation (Åström et al., 2012). Therefore, for Internet voting to be an innovative solution, it deems important to study its development in a non-democratic environment. I consider one of such cases – Internet voting implementation in the 2019 Local elections in Moscow, Russia – in order to answer the research question “How is Internet voting implemented in a non-democratic environment?”
Iuliia’s research interests include digital transformation, e-governance and e-democracy, party and electoral systems, post-communist institution-building, and democratization. Outside academia, Iuliia has served in election observation missions, contributed to the work of NGOs (International IDEA, Varieties of Democracy, Transparency International, British Council), and popularized knowledge on elections via op-eds for various think thanks and magazines.

The event will be organised in Zoom, please join us at https://helsinki.zoom.us/j/68911907349?pwd=aFgvald4aGlDSnYzWVJyZkVEQnczdz09
Meeting ID: 689 1190 7349
Passcode: 521669

Electoral consequences of environmental protest: The case of Shiyes

Today our Doctoral researcher Elena Gorbacheva presented her ongoing research ‘Electoral consequences of environmental protest: The case of Shiyes’ at ElMaRB seminar. Anna Zhelnina, Postdoctoral researcher at the Helsinki Institute of Urban and Regional Studies (Urbaria), acted as a discussant.

The Shiyes protest campaign, which lasted for about 2 years since summer 2018, became one of the most prominent and well-known environmental protests in Russia during the last decade. The protests resulted in success – the landfill project for Moscow waste in Arkhangelsk oblast’ was cancelled and the head of the region, who supported the construction, resigned. But are there any other consequences of the two-year contention?

Elena Gorbacheva examined the political consequences of environmental protests in Russia by studying environmental protests in the Arkhangelsk region against the Shiyes landfill and how they affected the political support of incumbents at the elections of different levels in the region – gubernatorial elections in 2020 and State Duma elections in 2021. Based on the unique protest database for the SHiyes campaign, Elena found that there is a positive correlation between opposition candidates’ results and number of protests and a negative one between United Russia results and number of protests. The effect on turnout is modest, however, the turnout in 2020-2021 in Arkhangelsk was higher than during the previous electoral cycle despite the pandemic. What are the mechanisms behind it? Elena will explore this in her further research.

Spring seminar programme

The spring semester has just started but is already looking promising. Our EMaRB project is going to continue to work on the dataset, but in addition to that we will keep up with our tradition of organising seminars, where researchers present their work on elections, malpractice, and cyber-security in Russia and beyond. In this post, we are introducing our spring programme and we hope to see you at our events very soon!

 

Elena Gorbacheva, Doctoral researcher at the Aleksanteri Institute: ‘Electoral consequences of environmental protest: The case of Shiyes’, 23.02.2022, 14:00-15:30.

The Shiyes protest campaign, which lasted for about 2 years since summer 2018, became one of the most prominent and well-known environmental protests in Russia during the last decade. The protests resulted in success – the landfill project for Moscow waste in Arkhangelsk oblast’ was cancelled and the head of the region, who supported the construction, resigned. But are there any other consequences of the two-year contention?

In this presentation, I am examining the political consequences of environmental protests in Russia by studying environmental protests in the Arkhangelsk region against the Shiyes landfill and how they affected the political support of incumbents at the elections of different levels in the region.

 

Philipp Chapkovski: ‘Unintended consequences of corruption indices: an experimental approach’, 29.03.2022, 14:00-15:30.

Using the results of a large-scale (N=900) online experiment, this paper investigates how the information about regional corruption level may deleteriously affect interregional relations. Corruption indices are widely used as a measure of the quality of governance. But in addition, to be a valuable tool for investors and policymakers for making informed decisions, they may also result in statistical discrimination: people from a more ‘corrupt’ region may be perceived as less trustworthy or more inclined to dishonest behaviour.

In our experiment, we manipulated the number of information people have about three different Russian regions in two simple behavioural games (‘Cheating game’ and Trust game). In a Cheating game after the main stage where they report whether they observed a head or a tail on a flipped coin, they guessed how many participants in each of the three regions reported heads. In the baseline treatment, we provided them with a set of generic information about each region (such as population size and share of females), and in the main treatment, they were additionally informed about the degree of corruption in each region. They also had to make a transfer decision in the standard trust game for three potential recipients in each region. The presence of corruption information made people substantially overestimate the degree of dishonesty in more ‘corrupt’ regions. The behavioural trust towards a person from a region was also significantly lower if the region was marked as ‘corrupt’. The results demonstrate the potentially harmful unintended consequences of corruption indices that have to be taken into account by policymakers.

 

Iuliia Krivonosova, Doctoral researcher at Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia, and at the Kompetenzzentrum für Public Management, University of Bern, Switzerland: ‘Internet voting in Russia: Democratizing Power of Internet Voting Revised?’, 11.05.2022, 14:00-15:30.

Internet voting has pride of place among democratic innovations. It enfranchises new groups of voters, brings greater voter convenience and decreases costs of voting (Alvarez & Hall, 2003; Goodman & Stokes, 2016; Krimmer, 2012). So far, the studies of Internet voting implementation have been limited to democratic countries, which helps to reinforce the narrative of Internet voting as an innovation with democratic potential. At the same time, authoritarian regimes have a lot of potential to become norm entrepreneurs (Sunstein, 1996) generating new “alternative norms of appropriateness” (Jones, 2015, p. 26) which has already happened in the field of cyberspace (Kneuer & Harnisch, 2016) and e-participation (Åström et al., 2012). Therefore, for Internet voting to be an innovative solution, it deems important to study its development in a non-democratic environment. I consider one of such cases – Internet voting implementation in the 2019 Local elections in Moscow, Russia – in order to answer the research question “How is Internet voting implemented in a non-democratic environment?”

State Duma Elections 2021: Results and Political Consequences

Today Margarita Zavadskaya took part in the research seminar organised by HSE University in St. Petersburg “State Duma Elections 2021: Results and Political Consequences”. At the seminar, Margarita will present her and Alexandra Rumyantseva’s paper ‘The party of people’s mistrust: foundations of the electoral success of the communists in 2021.

After the 2021 State Duma elections, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) re-emerged as a new political force with new people and creative local electoral campaigns within Russian political landscape. How and why the communists, who have been viewed as a system and rather passive opposition by most of analists and electorate, managed to successfuly accumulate political dissatisfaction of the voters during the September 2021 State Duma elections? We state that mobilisation against the pension reform in 2018 turned out to be the data on protests in 381 towns of Russia with population larger than 20.000 people, which took place during summer-autumn 2018, combined with the electoral data on State Duma elections 2016 and 2021.
The paper continues the presentation Margarita Zavadskaya and Alexandra Rumyantseva gave in October in Helsinki during the ElMaRB seminar. You can watch its recording on our blog.

Governing Authoritarian Elections: The Case of Russia

The new year has started and we continue to publish the recordings of keynote lectures given at our International Workshop. Today we are happy to share the excellent talk that Vladimir Gel’man, Professor of Russian Politics at Aleksanteri Institute and Professor at the European University at St.Petersburg, gave on the 26th of October. In the lecture titled ‘Governing Authoritarian Elections: The Case of Russia’, Professor Gel’man talked about

The mechanisms of electoral governance under authoritarianism aimed at preservation of political monopoly under the guise of multi-party and multi-candidate contest. However, the very framework of legal regulations and their implementation relied upon numerous political and institutional devices, carefully chosen and arranged on the basis of “menu of manipulations”, typical for some electoral authoritarian regimes. Under such conditions, regimes employs the combination of high barriers, vague norms, biased enforcement of rules, and top-down mechanisms of control. Russia demonstrated the evolution of mechanisms of electoral governance towards near-elimination of very possibilities for unwanted electoral results. Still, these mechanisms are imperfect, as they perform at the expense of legitimacy of elections and not always prevents undesired outcomes. This is why authoritarian elections is a risky game, vulnerable to disequilibrium, observed in the wake of post-election protests in 2011-2012. Based on this perspective, I will discuss the experience of elections in Russia since the Soviet collapse until the State Duma elections of 2021.

 

Political support during the pandemic: success of the communists and COVID-scepticism

On the 10th-11th of December, Sakharov’s Centre, Levada, and Memorial organised the 4th conference “Russian realities: state, socium, civil society”. Margarita Zavadskaya gave a talk “Political support during the pandemic: the success of the communists and COVID-scepticism”. The main arguments of her presentation were summarised by Boris Grozovsky and published online:

Political support for the regime changed under the influence of both long-term and short-term factors. The political consequences of the pandemic are close to none, but there is a number of nuances. “The success of the communists” in 2021 is “success” only under the conditions of the current regime; if it were softer, no one would be surprised. And this is connected to covid skepticism.
The pandemic as an external shock affects the level of political support. People who have been themselves ill (or their loved ones) do not experience a decline in support of the government and the health care system, of the system of institutions as a whole. That is, the pandemic did not affect the decline in confidence in the enlarged government. The pandemic has left no political traces. However, it interacts with other factors. This is not a shock localized in time, like a natural disaster, it is extended in time and less intense. This reduces the effect of shock and suddenness.
Covid is not visible. We do not always observe the consequences directly, plus there is an effect of fatigue from this agenda. In democracies, political support grows in a situation like this (the “rally around the flag” effect), but this is a short-term effect. The second effect is hyper-responsibility: if there is an increased number of deaths, this affects the decrease in support for the authorities. This phenomenon is less common.
What is happening in Russia? It seems like nothing. In fact, there are some effects:
1) The pandemic affects the economic situation – the damage is quite large. If the economy is declining and government support is low, citizens should, in theory, “punish” the government with a decrease in support. The loss of job or a decrease in income affected the decrease in support, but also very slightly (the effect was weak or insignificant). One of the most pressing issues is inflation. Economic problems came to the fore not in 2020, but in 2021 (the pandemic worries people less now).
2) Feelings of anxiety, anxiousness, expressed through the questions like how well the government is coping with the crisis, whether people fear getting ill, have become a top predictor of support. The more anxious people feel, the higher their support for the government (hopelessness and anxiety induce people to look for an “anchor” in the form of state institutions).
3) But the winner among the factors influencing political support was covid skepticism (the higher it is, the lower the support of the authorities). However, it is not clear what is the cause and what is the effect (were people skeptical of the government even before the pandemic or did the pandemic cause a decrease in support). The share of covid skeptics was about 38% in 2020, now – about 30% (these people think covid is fiction). Here Russia, along with Chile, is the leader. Did we dream of such opposition?
Support for the communists increased despite the clear-up of the political field. Does this mean that the communists have returned from political oblivion? In the week before the elections, the share of negative references to the Communist Party of the Russian Federation on TV channels increased sharply. The Kremlin was very much afraid of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation as a political force capable of uniting the electorate against the ruling party. This is an amazing result of both this party and the entire civil society. The communists became the beneficiaries of Navalny’s removal from the political field, the growing popularity of Smart Voting, and the growing distrust of the state presented also in the form of covid skepticism. The Communist Party turned out to be a “dust collector” of the protest vote.
The state is mistrusted so much that people do not trust all its institutions and its vaccine. This continues to strengthen the communists. Do these processes have the potential for increasing politicization? It is unlikely: the groups are scattered, they have little in common, they have poor communication channels.

The full version of Margarita Zavadskaya’s talk in Russian can be watched here:

Norbert Kersting: Direct democracy integrity and the Russian Constitutional Plebiscitarian Referendum 2020

In October, we organised our International workshop Electoral Integrity and Malpractice in Russia and Beyond: New Challenges and Responses. The event was sponsored by the ElMaRB project, funded by the University of Helsinki 3-year grant for post-doctoral researchers, and INREES network. 20 scholars from Finland and abroad participated in our workshop and around 40 people more watched the streamed keynote lectures. We discussed electoral malpractice and integrity in Russia, Ukraine, Estonia, Italy, Eastern EU, and Central Asia. The two days were filled with fascinating presentations and discussions, and we are planning to compile a special issue based on the workshop in the future.

But now it is time to start sharing the recording of the keynote lectures. The first speaker was Norbert Kersting, Professor in Comparative Political Science at Local Muenster University and Chair of Comparative Political Science – Municipal and Regional Politics’. His research focuses on comparative political science, political culture, modern instruments to promote political participation and discourse, local politics, parliamentarism, e-democracy, regional integration, and sport. He published various articles and books, such as the edited book “Electronic democracy” (2012) in the IPSA series: World of Political science. He co-authored a book on “Local Governance reform in global perspective” (VS-Springer 2009). During the workshop, Professor Kersting will give a talk ‘Direct democracy integrity and the Russian Constitutional Plebiscitarian Referendum 2020’.

Referendums at used in modern authoritarian systems as well as in democracies. The new Direct Democracy Integrity Index is a newly developed empirical instrument to evaluate the variety and integrity of referendums. Based on the electoral cycle a referendum cycle was defined in order to evaluate the implementation and the integrity of referendums. It covers electoral laws and electoral procedures as well as thematic limitations of referendums in different political systems. It highlights voter registration and the initiation of referendums. It focuses on campaign and media coverage as well as on campaign financing. Furthermore, the voting process itself, the post referendums vote count, and the role of the electoral authorities are important areas for evaluation. The new instrument was used to analyse constitutional referendum as in the Turkish, Russia, etc. What is the level of integrity in Russia and elsewhere? Where is integrity and what kind of malpractices exist?

If you missed his brilliant talk, here is the recording of it:

Does co-optation matter for protest mobilization?

Today we held another ElMaRB seminar, during which Margarita Zavadskaya and Alexandra Rumyantseva, data analyst at the Center for Advanced Governance (Moscow) and lecturer at the EUSP presented the research they have been working on – ‘Does co-optation matter for protest mobilization? Evidence from the Russian protests against the pension reform in 2018’. Andrei Semenov, Senior Researcher at the Center for Comparative History and Politics at Perm State University and Aleksanteri Institute former Visiting Researcher, acted as a discussant.

The Russian pension reform in 2018 put an end to the ‘rallying around’ the political leader V. Putin and pulled down his rating back to the usual 60%. The reform revised the retirement age and suggested a five-year increase from 55 to 60 for women and from 60 to 65 for men. This lead to a massive outcry and protests in almost all Russian regions. Tens of thousands of protesters took into the streets claiming that the state reneged on its basic social obligations and that given the average life expectancy it is unlikely to most of the would-be retirees would live up to the pension age at all.

This research addresses the question of whether the in-system political parties affected the frequency and scale of protests in Russian regions. There is evidence that some systemic opposition supported the protesters, while most of the observers argue that systemic parties cooperated with the state and promoted demobilization of the protest movement. In other words, does political co-optation decrease protest?

Zavadskaya and Rumiantseva’s preliminary findings suggest that in-system parties, against expectations, favor the scale and frequency of protest: a larger share of systemic opposition in local legislatures is positively associated with a protest on a city level. They collected an original dataset of 616 municipal districts from which in 317 there were protests. They measured protest through its frequency per region and locality as well as a number of coalitions between opposition actors.

Expert discussion on the 2021 State Duma Elections at the Aleksanteri Institute

If you missed our discussion on the elections held on the 8th of October, worry no more – now you can watch it with subtitles in our blog! The event was moderated by Margarita Zavadskaya, who gave a brief outline of the 2021 election results. Her introduction was followed by a presentation by Vladimir Gel’man, who spoke about how differently (or not) these elections were compared to the previous ones. Olga Dovbysh continued the conversation, discussing what was the role of online media and global international platforms such as Google in this voting. Elena Gorbacheva spoke about traditional media and shared what the media monitoring of five TV-channels ElMaRB project conducted for Golos revealed about the election campaign in Russia. Markku Kangaspuro spoke about Finnish-Russian relations from a historical perspective and pondered, whether these elections change anything for Finland. During the Q&A session, the researchers discussed the issues of Smart Voting, the real popularity of the United Russia party, and other themes. Were there any alarms or surprises this year? Is there anything positive to look forward to? Watch the recording and find out.