Anti-War Civic Mobilization in Russia

The response of Russian civil society to the war in Ukraine.

Research project 2019-2020

Irina Olimpieva


The widespread participation of young people—and in particular the youngest age cohort—in the anti-corruption protests organized by the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) in 2017 came as a big surprise to political scientists and sociologists, who usually consider Russian youth to be politically indifferent and apathetic. Thanks to the heavy involvement of high school students, these protests earned the nickname “schoolchildren protests,” while FBK leader Alexey Navalny gained a reputation as a politician who knows how to speak to the Russian youth. The presence of young people in anticorruption protests prompted some observers to suggest that young Russians are less tolerant of corruption than the older generation and that an anticorruption agenda would be capable of mobilizing Russian youth to engage in civic and political activism.

Do young Russians view corruption differently, and if so, how exactly do their attitudes toward corruption differ from those of the older generation? How active are young people in their rejection of corruption? Can a new generation become a social force capable of demanding political changes that would reduce corruption in the country?

These questions were the focus of the project “Fostering Intolerance Towards Corruption among Young Russian Professionals,” conducted by IERES GWU in collaboration with the Center for Independent Social Research (St. Petersburg) and Transparency International (Russia) in 2019. We also wanted to find out how young people assess the effectiveness of state anti-corruption measures and public anti-corruption initiatives, including Aleksey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, and—more generally—how they position themselves in the web of relationships between the state and society in today’s Russia.

The object of our study is the so-called Generation Z, which is often referred to as “generation Putin” (Foy 2020) or “puteens” (The Economist), meaning young people born at the turn of the 2000s that grew up under the reign of Vladimir Putin. The Russian Generation Z is particularly interesting, since the early socialization and maturation of these young people took place against a background of authoritarian consolidation and rapid growth of corruption.