Data for the Russian Protests Dataset is collected from the namarsh.ru website. The data cover protests ranging from small-scale acts to large-scale demonstrations featuring tens of thousands of protesters. For each protest event we collect information regarding the following: (i) the date and location of the protest event; (ii) type of protest, such as whether the protest event is a strike, demonstration, march, occupation or other; (iii) number of participants, where such information is available; and (iv) whether police repression and/or other forms of disruption were used during the event. The dataset does not include events organized by the ruling United Russia party or by pro-government youth movements like Nashi.
Based on the core set of issues or causes that protesters target, protest events are classified into six broad categories. Politically-motivated anti-government and anti-regime protests at municipal, regional and national levels are classified as political. Since 2014, we have been also identifying protest events related to the conflict in Ukraine. Ukraine-related protest events concern protests in which citizens express grievances related to the economic and political consequences of the conflict; or protest events in which citizens advance demands for greater decentralization, making direct reference to the “Ukrainian precedent.” Economic protests target unpopular economic policies, such as those affecting exchange rates and wages. Wage- and worker rights-related labor strikes are also included under this category. Social protests advance the grievances of socially vulnerable groups of people such as pensioners, victims of Chernobyl, students, the disabled and/or citizens on state benefits. Cultural protests are those in which citizens protest against the destruction of monuments and other historically-important buildings and sites. Legal protests target unpopular legislation and its implementation as well as illegal acts by state bodies or private companies. Finally, environmental protests mainly feature concerns like the destruction of forest reserves, parks and protected woodlands.
Below, we present a brief overview of how the frequency of national protest events fluctuated in the July 2012-2015 time period.
Figure 1 below illustrates how the frequency of national protest events fluctuated in the period between the summer of 2012 and 2015. The graph presents the frequency of all protest events in this period in dark grey, while summary statistics are subsequently presented for political, economic and social events separately.
Figure 1: National Protest Trends, July 2012-2015
As we can see, the total frequency of protests around this period spikes on four occasions. In early spring 2013, which marked the one-year anniversary of President Putin’s return to power, a series of politically-motivated protest events were recorded across the country. In the fall of the same year, that is, around September–November 2013, the frequency of protests in Russia also increased, with protests targeting a variety of economic, social and political causes. While peaking in February 2014, the frequency of nation-wide protests drops shortly after the annexation of Crimea. Yet, in this period we also record several protest events directly related to the conflict in Ukraine. Figure 2, which focuses on the frequency of political and Ukraine-related protests alone, illustrates this trend. Lastly, Boris Nemtsov’s assassination, which coincides with the March 1st protests, is associated with increase in protest activity across the country.
Figure 2: Political and Ukraine-Related Protest Trends
Figure 3 below maps the territorial distribution of Ukraine-related protest events in the period between February 2014 and July 2015. Regions shaded in dark blue (Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sverdlovsk, Voronezh, Samara, Penza, Saratov, Novosibirsk, Buryatiya, Arkhangelsk, Tver, Omsk, Tomsk, Chelyabinsk, Vologda, Khabarovsk, Kaliningrad, Orenburg and Zabaykalskiy krai) are those where protesters took to the streets at least once to demonstrate against Russian intervention in Ukraine and to air their grievances regarding the economic and political consequences of the conflict. Beyond Moscow and St. Petersburg, Ukraine-related protests are primarily concentrated in Russia’s border regions.
Figure 3: Regional Distribution of Ukraine-related Protest Events