Probing, Brokering, and Resisting the State: Place-Based Activism in Moscow
- Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization
- Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies, The George Washington University
- Volume 30, Number 2, Spring 2022
- pp. 161-185
- Additional Information
In the wake of the post-Soviet transition, there was significant academic interest in organized civil society and the liberal opposition in Russia. In more recent years, attention has turned to more everyday and episodic forms of local activism by citizens with little history of involvement in politics. But how can we conceptualize the way in which these activists engage with the state? In this paper, we draw on relational approaches to the state from anthropology and geography and case study research with citizens who oppose construction projects in south-west Moscow, identifying three different dimensions of engagement: first, residents probe the state to examine the avenues that are susceptible to their demands; second, they act as brokers, establishing links between civil society and the state; and third, residents at times resist redevelopment by directly contesting particular construction works. These forms of engagement show how citizens struggle against and seek to tap into different elements of state power as they preserve their neighborhoods from unwanted forms of development.