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The role of networks in mass mobilisation against the Soviet regime

Ainė Ramonaitė
Vilnius University
Ainė Ramonaitė
Vilnius University
Open Panel

Abstract

During the last decades, analysts of contentious politics are increasingly interested in the network perspective to the study of collective action. Networks are proved to be important mobilizing structures that facilitate the formation of social movements. In non-democratic settings, networks should play even more important role on protest mobilization, as they not only facilitate recruitment and formation of collective identities, but also provide information channels in the absence of free media and reduce perceived risks of repression. The paper analyses the emergence of anti-communist movement “Sajudis” in Soviet Lithuania during the late 1980-ies using social network analysis. The development of mass anticommunist movement in Lithuania in 1988 is an interesting case of mass protest mobilization in an undemocratic setting. The movement was established in June 1988, and in less than five months it developed into a mass movement covering all regions of Lithuania and having about 200,000 members in a country of 3,7 million inhabitants. The paper explores the mobilizing role of different types of social networks that existed in Soviet Lithuania including dissident circles, samizdat networks, private educational circles, underground Catholic movement, youth subcultures, semi-legal cultural societies as well as legal organizations. The purpose of the paper is to identify what kind of pre-existing social networks facilitated the emergence and rapid expansion of “Sajudis” movement. The organizational strength, relation to the regime, the nature of social ties, position in the broader network of civil society and other characteristics of the networks are analyzed. The paper draws on the data collected during the research project “The phenomenon of ‘Sajudis’: network analysis of a civic movement”.