The Role of Middle Class in Moscow Protests between 2011 and 2013

Master's Thesis, 2015

69 Pages, Grade: 8


The role of middle class in Moscow protests, 2011-2013: Master in Eastern European and
Russian studies program, Master thesis / Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and
Political science; Vilnius, 20. 71 pages
Key words: Russia, middle class, protests, economy, living standards.
Summary: This master thesis "The Role of Middle Class in Moscow Protests, 2011-2013" aims
to analyze the relationship between mass movement in Moscow in the period from 2011 until 2013 and
emergence of middle class in the State. The main objective of the paper is to prove that Financial
Economic Crisis of 2008-2010 gave a sufficient impetus for the middle class in Russia to join the
protest movement against unfair elections. In work the attempt to find an answer to the questions such
as the reason why middle class joined protests in 2011, what processes preconditioned this mass
decision and why the protests did not go further is made. The hypothesis is formulated as following: in
the basis of middle class social discontent and their accession to the protests in 2011-2013 lies
economic situation, which emerged in the country after financial and economic crisis, 2008-2010 rather
than political engagement. In order to test this hypothesis the following analyses were made: the
description of the protests themselves, description of middle class in Russia, analysis of polls and
researches on this matter, investigation and short description of economic situation in the country
within the years from 2008 till 2011, and interviews with political activists from non-systematic
opposition were made.
The work clarifies the importance of living standards and Western democratic approach to the
market and policy in Russia from the side of middle class and also opens up new questions which aim
deeper investigation.

Introduction ... 5
Research Problem ... 6
Salience and novelty ... 7
Questions: ... 7
Objectives: ... 8
Hypothesis ... 8
Research design and research method ... 8
Literature review ... 9
Theory and Method ... 11
Qualitative Research Method ... 11
Theoretical Framework ... 12
Methodology ... 14
Theoretical approaches towards social movements studies ... 16
Middle Class Definition ... 17

Research Analysis ... 21
Description of protests in Moscow, and the reasons of the failure ... 21
The Reflection of Economic Crisis in the Mood of Russian Middle Class and
Transformation into Political Crisis ... 26
Conclusion ... 48
Supplements ... 51
References ... 63

1. Introduction
In January, 2000 Vladimir Putin took the responsibility of the President of the Russian
Federation for the first time. It was the period in the history when Boris Yeltsin was physically and
politically weak, and the large country needed a strong, active ruler. A little more than a year before,
Yeltsin named Putin as Russia's prime minister and appointed him as his chosen successor. That
preference would be put to the test when Yeltsin made a surprise exit from politics on Dec. 31, 1999.
"We want our Russia to be a free, prosperous, flourishing, strong and civilized country, a
country that its citizens are proud of and that is respected internationally,"
said Putin in his
inauguration speech. It seemed that Putin met the expectations of the people during the first years of
ruling. After he was replaced by Dmitri Medvedev Russia obtained more democratic, open-minded
ruler but totally dependent on new Prime-Minister Vladimir Putin. In the end of Medvedev presidential
term first mass protests since Yeltsin's time took place. They were caused by the Parliamentary
elections in 2011 that were declared by opposition as unfair. The rally took place on Bolotnaya square
on December, 10. More than 100, 000 people participated there and demanded new elections as they
were totally against the fact that United Russia gained the absolute majority of votes. This meeting
caused a row of the following protests, and when Putin was elected as a President for the third time in
March, 2012 the protests gained even more power and followers. It is hard to say that the protests
occurred due to weakness of Medvedev's power as far as they continued with Putin's inauguration
accordingly. The fact became clear ­ citizens announced to the Government and the whole World that
they are against the policy led by Putin's regime. Those protests have shown that some people in
Russia were matured enough to analyze the policy Russia had attained and they demand democratic
state, freedom of expression; economic boom that Russia enjoyed till 2008 was over and the reforms
did not seem reliable any more. Opposition which was oppressed in Russia for ages did not succeed at
the mass protests but they showed new tendencies in Russian life.
7 2000 ; ,2000,

Many scholars and politicians noticed appearance of new social class among unsatisfied
Russians the representatives of which were totally different in their education, welfare from the people
State got accustomed to see in the protests ­ the new so called middle class. This work is dedicated to
the questions which occur with the appearance of these people, their role and ambitions they wanted to
gain through expression their discontent.
1.1. Research Problem
The protests in large Russian cities in 2011-2013 revealed public sentiments and its attitude
towards current ruling power. The investigation covers only example of Moscow as it was the core of
protest movement in Russia.
High level of people's discontent with the Government and President is based on different
aspects. Among most frequently mentioned aspects are political (protests against unfair elections) and
social (corruption, use of official position by police officers, bureaucracy, freedom of expression, etc.).
This work does not deny the presence of these factors which caused the protests but it is worthwhile
also to investigate less mentioned but also very important economic reasons
. The importance of the
economic aspect occurs as the main contingent at the protests tends to be more educated, well-paid, and
literal in political, economic and social state life. In order to prove this statement the data collected by
Levada Centre and polls made by Sasha de Vogel among middle class in Russia on this matter are used
(see table 1.1)
This poll clearly shows the dominating image of participats - most of them are mature, well-
educated people working in non-public sector or having ther own business. Such types of applications
The decision to investigate economic reasons of the protests was made as the sufficient part of the protests leaders and
supporters are not only politics but also successful businessmen ­ Gennady Gudkov, Aleksey Navalny, Polina Deripaska,
Boris Nemtsov, Dmitry Gudkov, Andrey Makarevich, Eugenia Chirikova etc.;
Trasnlated from Russian by the author, original data: 12 , , 17.06.2013, ;

help to establish the hyposesis (to be descibed further) concerning importance of middle-class for the
protests in Moscow 2011-2013. Wide use of such polls will be used in the following parts of the work.
The problem which will be investigated in the paper concerns appearing middle class as a new
formation that played significant role in protests in 2011-2013. Their active participation, their views
on politics, economic transformation of their State, reasonswhich led this social cluster to the protests­
all these require analysis and clarification.
In order to descibe the problem more widely it is neccessary to make the following statement:
As it was said before, the reason of protests is not entirely in political, economic, or social problems.
For main part of population the discontent with Government lays in unequal rights and big gap between
ruling elite and people as it was expressed by protesters. Middle class basically is the way to fill this
gap. Thus, the problem appeared in Russia in recent years as a mixture of rough policies and
unpromising economic future that led to social movements. In order to explain mass uprising of
established, socially and politically passive middle class some other reason except traditional political
must be described. This paper seeks an attempt to find other possible factors led to social discontent as
economic decline emerged in Russia after financial and economic crisis and worsened living standards
as a result of various factors that will be mentioned in the analytical part of the work.
Salience and novelty of the topic is in the attempt to describe and evaluate the
importance of economic aspect of these protests and describe middle class as a new political player in
Russian society. The last protests which took place in April 2014 and still need analytical approach and
generalization of the events in Moscow since 2011. The work can be a starting point for further
investigations and comparative analyses of Eastern European and Post-Soviet States' protest
There are several interconnected questions posed in this work:
Why did protests in 2011-2013 become a starting point of middle class's social activity?
Which processes in the State have caused the protests of middle class?
Why didn't they go further and power of the protests seized?

Define the time of middle class establishment in Russia, give the definition to middle
class, and analyze its changes through the time of its existence in Russia;
Make a description of Moscow protests in 2011-2013, point out main leaders, ideas,
achievements, identify beginning of the movements, identify causes, change in protesters' quantity,
attitude towards protests among activists;
Make an analysis of economic situation in Russia that could precondition discontent
among middle class;
Make an analysis of polls led among population regarding economic and political
situation in the country;
Point out economic issues which do not satisfy new social class, i.e. middle class;
Conduct interviews independently in order to compare the opinions presented in the
articles of Russian and foreign scholars, the hypothesis of this paper and point of view of people who
participated at the protests correspondingly.
1.5. Hypothesis
In the basis of middle class social discontent and their accession to the protests in 2011-2013
lies economic situation, which emerged in the country after financial and economic crisis, 2008-2010
rather than political engagement.
1.6. Research design and research method
The Master thesis is based on case-study approach, namely Moscow Protests in 2011-2013.
This approach is chosen in order to analyze the specific situation, which took place in Russia in a
particular period of time and find out the peculiarities of these protests. As it was mentioned before, the
focus is on the investigation of middle class role in the uprisings and the main reasons which caused the
people of higher class to participate there. This study aims very deep investigation of the events in a
short period of time, a wide specter of middle class importance in the oppositional State life. In order to
follow the aims of the work it was decided to use qualitative research method. This method is more
appropriate to understand the behavior of this group of people and moreover to understand the reasons

which governed the people who went to the streets to express their dissatisfaction with the Government
The main way of investigation is based on the statistical data from the debriefings made by
Levada Centre and independent interviews and questionnaires conducted specially for this work.
Interviewees were chosen from the active protests-participants. They were proposed to answer several
questions which would help to solve main questions of the paper. The choice of qualitative research
was made since it can provide complex textual descriptions of how people experience a given research
issue. It provides information about the "human" side of an issue ­ that is, the often contradictory
behaviors, beliefs, opinions, emotions, and relationships of individuals. The open-ended questions
which are considered to be the main feature of the qualitative research also have several positive
· meaningful and culturally salient to the participant
· unanticipated by the researcher
· rich and explanatory in nature
When these three aspects ­ ready-made statistical data and interviews were collected, they were
analyzed and the final conclusions were be made.
1.7. Literature review
The protests in Russia took place recently, and time is needed for theoretical works to occur.
There were not many theoretical academic works, which would be entirely dedicated to this problem.
Nevertheless, there is enough literature describing political issues and figures in Russia, mainly the
President Vladimir Putin. Most theorists are unanimous in their opinion that most problematic for
Russia in 2011 was the weak presidential role and hard presence of V. Putin at the political arena.
Uncertainty of Russia's future caused by rapid fall of Russian economy during the crisis, unsuccessful
diplomacy towards the USA, the EU, demographic decline, reduced revenues from energy sources and
negative experience of the war with Georgia.
Highly Managed Democracy which appeared as a new
notion during Putin's presidency cannot exist for a long time, experts claim. It is only preliminary state
which should be developed by one of the following ways ­ come back to authoritarianism or turn to
real democracy. This type of democracy suffered because of the crisis, when trust to the Government
After Putin's Russia : past imperfect, future uncertain / edited by Stephen K. Wegren and Dale R. Herspring.. Lanham
[Md.]: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2010.

was under big suspicion, and people lost the reason to live in autocratic country.
Weak social position
and small role of NGO-s in Russian reality are also considered to be a problem for society and seize
accelerating power of people's identity.
The Russian political system is very conservative, and development delay of other subsystems
of society (including the economic, scientific, educational, social and public spheres of life). Putin's
regime, starting with the subjugation of the media, and then the judiciary and Parliament paralyzed
differentiation processes of the institutional system, separation of "society from the State", initiated
reforms of the 1990s . It is no longer about the new "stagnation" but about growing phenomena of
social and cultural degradation of the country. Following the logic of self-government, the present
regime itself cannot stop this movement. Volume of coercion will grow every year, the scale of
electoral fraud or new trials will increase. "Putinism" is a system of decentralized use of institutional
resources of violence, have retained block structures (from rus. or )
remaining from the totalitarian regime, but appropriated by the holders of power for their own private
clan-group interests. Regime is unstable, with dubious chances in the future to reproduce or order a
peaceful transfer of power.
There are visions which contradict our position that economic backwardness of the country was
the reason for middle class to protest. Oleynik states that there were only political under the question
but nevertheless admits that the protests were caused not only by unfair Parliamentary elections ­ this
factor became the last one and discontent of people boiled over. He does not agree that macroeconomic
policy could be the reason for people to protest, nevertheless he points out the inefficiency of Putin's
regime and mentions corruption as one of the factors provoked mass movements against the
According to Sabine Fisher the strikes in Moscow were the result of Kremlin miscalculation of
Russian society mood and situation set in the State. Russian economy partly recovered in 2008 but the
Petrov, Nikolay, Highly Managed Democracy. The Tandem and the Crisis: Russian Politic and Law, May-June 2011,
Vol.49, No 3.
, , , , :
« », 2010, 2(70),
, . ., «»: . . . . 2009. . 101.
3, 9-21.
, .., M , 3, 2012,

further growth rates have not been comparable with the boom years of the past decade (see Figure 1.2.).
Economy and State are vulnerable because of wrongly led policy. On the other hand, opposition that
was oppressed for ages has become too artificial and does not have real power consequently protests
would not lead to success.
The revolution which should come true according to some scientists was
doomed to failure due to the same reasons. Other reasons of uprisings' failure mentioned by scholars:
no clear idea among opposition leaders, disorganized structure of protesters, pessimism of most part of
Russian society who do not support protesters, strong centralization of the protests in Moscow, etc.
Despite the fact that the protests started in 2011 became a crucial point for the life of Russian
civil society the list of works devoted to this topic is not rich enough. Moreover the role of middle class
and its place in the movement is investigated even less. The issues of political opposition, role of
elections and tough policies have been of bigger importance for the scientists and journalists.
Therefore, being concentrated on the preconditions caused mass involvement of urban creative class
into political movement I hope to widen the problem of the development of social consciousness in
modern Russia and raise new questions on this matter.
2. Theory and Method
2.1. Qualitative Research Method
The method selected for this investigation was case study as a variant of qualitative research in
order to investigate very specific time frame and social group in history of protests in Russia. The term
qualitative research is used to describe a set of non-statistical inquiry techniques and processes used to
gather data about social phenomena. Qualitative research refers to some collection of words, symbols,
pictures, or other nonnumeric records, materials, or artifacts that are collected by a researcher and have
relevance to the social group under study. The uses of these data go beyond simple description of
events and phenomena; rather they are used for creating understanding, for subjective interpretation,
and for critical analysis as well.
Fisher, Sabine, After Russia 's parliamentary elections: emerging fissures: Russia Insights from a changing country,
Institute for Security Studies, Paris, 2012, 41-43.
Kozlovsky, Oleg, Seven Challenges of the Russian Protest Movement, Russian Analytical Digest, No. 124, 18 March

Qualitative research differs from quantitative research in several fundamental ways. ...
Qualitative research studies typically involve what has been described as "inductive, theory-generating,
subjective, and non-positivist processes"
. According to Creswell identification of both approaches,
the difference lies in five philosophical foundations: ontology (researcher's perception of reality),
epistemology (the role or roles taken by researcher), axiological assumptions (researcher's values),
rhetorical traditions (the style of language used by researchers)
. The differences are identified in the
table (see Table 2.1)
Qualitative Research Strategies can be grouped into three broad strategic classes. These are
(1) explanatory research studies, (2) interpretive research studies, and (3) critical research studies.
Nevertheless, there are different additional types of research approaches are employed for conducting
qualitative research. The four research approaches most often followed are case studies, grounded
theory, ethnography, and action science. (See Table 2.2) Case study being additional variant of
qualitative research though is closer to Explanatory Research Studies as it poses "explanatory"
questions, for example, "Why the middle class started to protest in Russia?"
Case study research excels at bringing us to an understanding of a complex issue or object and
can extend experience or add strength to what is already known through previous research. Case studies
emphasize detailed contextual analysis of a limited number of events or conditions and their
relationships. Researchers have used the case study research method for many years across a variety of
disciplines. Social scientists, in particular, have made wide use of this qualitative research method to
examine contemporary real-life situations and provide the basis for the application of ideas and
extension of methods. Researcher Robert K. Yin defines the case study research method as an
empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context; when the
Lee, Thomas W., Using Qualitative Methods in Organizational Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1999, p.10.
McNabb, David E., Research Methods for Political Science: Quantitative and Qualitative Methods, M.E.Sharpe,
Armonk, NY; London, England, 2009, p.225
Creswell, John W., Research Design: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1994
McNabb, 227.

boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident; and in which multiple sources of
evidence are used.
In order to present case study results there are several steps researcher should submit: (1) the
study question, (2) its propositions (hypothesis) if any, (3) the unit or units of analysis, (4) the logic that
links the collected information to the propositions and (5) the criteria selected by the researcher for
interpreting the case.
The following table describes how this theory is applied to the case study of this research:
Middle Class' Protests in Russia (2011 ­ 2013)
Frame the Case
In this work Case Study is used as more appropriate
method to investigate the phenomenon in Russian society which
is considered to be outstanding in comparison to previous
protests. The mentioned time framework was chosen in order to
analyze the whole wave of uprisings and identify the steps of its
development. The further uprisings tend to be less active and did
not involve big amount of people. In this case study most interest
is the behavior of newly-established middle class in Russia as a
new social class after the State gained its independence.
Operationalize Key
The construction of the work is based on the attempt to
answer the main research questions:
Why did protests in 2011-2013 become a starting point of
middle class's social activity?
Which processes in the State have caused the protests of
middle class?
Why did they not go further and power of the protests
Define units of
There two main units of analysis:
Yin, R. K. Case study research: Design and methods: Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1984.

1. Protests (2011-2013) in Russia, mainly Moscow,
2. Middle Class who participated in these protests in its attitude
towards State's policy
Collect the data
Literature review;
Papers written on this matter
Analyze the data
Analysis of collected data mentioned above
Prepare and
present the report if the
Presentation of Master Thesis
Table 1.1. Case Study Research's steps
2.3. Methodology
Having delineated a comprehensive methodical framework and discussed certain pivotal middle
class analytical, methodological model should be elaborated in order to reveal, analyse and juxtapose
data collected for the research. Thereby it is necessary to outline how the data will be collected and
Case study research is not limited to a single source of data, as in the use of questionnaires for
carrying out a survey. In fact, good case studies benefit from having multiple sources of evidence.
There six common sources of information which are widely used during case study research:
Direct observations (e.g., human actions or a physical environment);
Interviews (e.g., open-ended conversations with key participants);
Archival records (e.g., student records);
Documents (e.g., newspaper articles, letters and e-mails, reports);
Participant-observation (e.g., being identified as a researcher but also filling a real-life
role in the scene being studied);
Physical artefacts (e.g., computer downloads of employees' work).

In these work the main sources of information are the following: interviews, direct observations
and documents (such as expert analytical and newspaper articles and statistical data/ questionnaires
from Levada Analytical Centre, etc).
Interviews. In this work open-ended (non-structured) interviews are implemented. This type of
data collecting is the most appropriate as the material they can provide is richer and more extensive
than surveys. In this type of interview the length of answer and time-frame of interview are not
predictable as well as the answers of the participants. This type of source collecting also allows asking
some questions during the conversation in order to ask more details, paraphrase the question in order
participant could adopt it to him/herself or to reveal some important data that were not gained before.
This helps researcher to understand how the participants construct the reality and how they see the case
from the inside.
Participants of the interviews in this research are the people who suit the definition of middle
class was provided before and who participated actively at the protest or even were organizators or
coordinators of movements. They are offered to answer eleven questions (see Figure 2.6). In order to
make an analysis 20 people were interviewed.
The questions can be divided into Introductory (question no.1), Obligatory (questions no.
2,3,9,10), Additional, i.e. important but coming from the previous question (questions no. 4,5,6,7,8)
and Conclusive (question no.11). Questions are divided into two parts: questions about middle class
(no. 1 and 2) and about the protests and the attitude of participants towards protests themselves and the
problems raised there.
The data from interviews were processed in correlation with the paper's questions. It is
necessary to find out whether the participants' observations prove the hypothesis posed in the research
or not. The answers will be compared with each other and then applied to the theoretical base of the
Documents ­ the main documents used in this work are articles, mentioned in literature review,
articles, interviews and speeches of the leaders of the movements (e.g., S.Udaltsov, A.Navalny, etc),
Excerpt out of 69 pages


The Role of Middle Class in Moscow Protests between 2011 and 2013
Vilnius University  (IIRPS)
Eastern European and Russian Studies
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Russia. middle class. protests. living standards
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Anna Kamayeva (Author), 2015, The Role of Middle Class in Moscow Protests between 2011 and 2013, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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