ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

Back to Paper Details
Back to Paper Details

Non-Contentious Strategies of Environmental Social Movements in Contemporary Russia

Environmental Policy
Mobilisation
Activism
Maria Chiara Franceschelli
National Research University, Higher School of Economics – HSE
Maria Chiara Franceschelli
National Research University, Higher School of Economics – HSE
Galina Selivanova
Institut für Politische Wissenschaft und Soziologie Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

Abstract

This study concerns the development of non-contentious environmental movements in contemporary Russia. Environmental issues fuel a new wave of social mobilisation in the country. Previous literature has consistently explored collective action in illiberal post-soviet states, concluding that the social movements repertoire of action in this area is predominantly non-violent. Whereas contentious events are mostly limited to occasional outbursts, non-contentious tactics might guarantee the movements’ survival in an environment which is hostile to the development of a critical civil society. However, there is a considerable lack of information about the strategies implemented by contemporary environmental grass-root movements in shaping environmental policy in Russia. Generally characterised by the prioritisation of direct service provision over advocacy, these strategies ensure good relationships with the administration, boost civil participation, and foster the trust of the civil society. In turn, the change in policy is pursued through the autonomous introduction of new practices, rather than openly claimed or lobbied for. The study aims to identify the strategies of environmental participation in post-soviet illiberal contexts and investigates the cooperative and non-contentious nature of Russian environmental participation. In order to do so, the study explores the relations between three actors involved in the development of local environmental policies: state institutions, private businesses and civil society. The research is based on the case study of Razdel’niy Sbor, a prominent movement that set up an autonomous system of waste sorting and recycling in St. Petersburg and other Russian cities. This organisation has put significant efforts to promote and provide environmental solutions since 2011, and has managed to establish a dense action network and an efficient cooperation with private businesses and the public administration. Investigating this movement, the study addresses the following research questions: • How does Razdel’niy Sbor formulate and frame its goals in terms of environmental policy? • What strategies does Razdel’niy Sbor implement to achieve these goals? The study posits that the movement’s strategy is “pragmatic”, as it prioritises direct service provision over advocacy for change, and that this pragmatism results from the adaptation to the socio-political context. The change in environmental practices boosted by the service provision is an essential step towards policy improvements. These assumptions are investigated through qualitative data collection strategies, specifically in-depth interviews with movement representatives, private business owners and municipal legislators. The interviews touch on the movement’s framing and motivations, its structure and organisation, the cooperation with other relevant actors, and the perception of the movement by private companies, civil society and public institutions. This project is relevant to the study of social movements in post-soviet space as it explores the peculiarities and motivations of non-contentious social movements strategies, and aims to define a paradigm that is area-specific. It is also relevant as environmentalism increasingly gains space in Russian public discourse and internal policy, as shown by the reforms that were recently introduced by the government and by the mushrooming of environmental movements in both urban and rural contexts. A thorough exploration of contemporary environmental participation strategies is necessary to reach a deeper understanding of societal response to current issues.