Whom do Russian protesters blame (and why it matters)?

Katerina Tertytchnaya and Tomila Lankina, 20 September 2016

In recent years, economic hardship in Russia has led to an increase in industrial and socioeconomic protest activity across regions. Protests over wage arrears, strikes and hunger strikes were particularly prominent in the first 8 months of the current year. And although the Russian Communist Party (KPRF) is particularly active in coordinating protest events across Russia’s regions, many protest events are spontaneous and grass-roots based. Overall, beyond labor protests, Russians appear very concerned about housing issues and the increase in prices for services such as transport. In this post we analyze variation in protest activity over time and across types of protests to study whom protesters pursuing various causes blame. We do so by studying where protest events take place (for example, whether they take place in front of the local town hall or regional parliament), the slogans and expressions protesters use, the images and text on their placards and posters, as well as journalistic descriptions of the events. Protest data for this analysis are harvested from namarsh.ru. Focusing on blame attribution during protest events in order to understand public opinion has several advantages over employing more abstract concepts like economic voting patterns. (On the question and analysis of Russian protests in recent years, see a report by CEPR). The protest categories we employ here further allow us to study patterns of blame attribution depending on the causes advanced in each of the events.

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