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Article

A top-down movement with grass-roots effects? Alexei Navalny’s electoral campaign

Social Movement Studies. 2018. Vol. 17. No. 5. P. 618-625.
Dollbaum J. M., Semenov A., Sirotkina E.

Today’s Russia is a hostile environment for genuine political activity, and especially for movements that aim at changing the current power structure. This is due to the factually limited manoeuvre space of oppositional actors who face obstacles in the form of repression, surveillance and restricted access to the public sphere. Moreover, society is largely apolitical, with political activity often considered futile, immoral, or dangerous. In this profile, we portray the electoral campaign of the opposition politician and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny, who built a popular movement around his bid to participate in the 2018 presidential elections. Although the campaign failed to build up sufficient pressure for Navalny to be granted access to the elections, and despite the strong hierarchy inside his campaign, we argue that it contributed to the politicization of parts of the younger generation in the country’s provinces – which may have greater long-term effects than any concrete projects envisioned or controlled by the campaign’s strategists.