Overcoming Depoliticization: the 2014 Local Electoral Campaign in St. Petersburg

  • Elena BelokurovaEmail author
  • Dmitry Vorobyev


This article presents the results of an empirical study conducted during and after the 2014 local elections in St. Petersburg. In these elections, a number of new activists tried to run as candidates for the municipal council under the conditions of a depoliticized society. Our research was inductive: we progressed from field study to later theoretical interpretation of our results. The formulation of our research questions was therefore simple: how and why did the activist candidates participate in the local elections and what can their electoral campaigns tell us about how both activists and people in Russia see contemporary politics? To answer these questions, we analyze the different types of campaign conducted, the communication between candidates and voters, the characteristics of support groups and social movements, and the campaign outcomes and their significance for understanding politicization and depoliticization in Russia today. The data for this study was collected through participant observation and in-depth interviews with activist candidates and their supporters. Detailed analysis of their narratives not only allowed us to understand their experiences but also enabled us to formulate some conclusions about contemporary Russian politics and about how activists and ordinary citizens view the political system. Thus, we argue that the activist candidates not only tried to become candidates but also—through their campaigns and selection of campaigning methods—helped to overcome depoliticization and strengthen local social movements.


Local elections Activism Depoliticization Electoral campaign Local social movement 



This article is based on research supported by the Norwegian Research Council (NEPORUS project, NORRUS grant no. 228205) and the Russian Foundation of Fundamental Research (the project “Quality of Urban Space: Vectors of Civil Initiative Groups’ Development in Russia and Germany”, RFFR № 16–03-00508).


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.North-West Institute of ManagementRussian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public AdministrationSaint PetersburgRussia
  2. 2.Independent ResearcherSt. PetersburgRussia

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