Staunton, September 9 – The Moscow Institute on Social-Labor Rights has released a report on protest activity during the second quarter of 2020 when the pandemic in Russia was at its height. The report say that the pandemic both depressed the number of protests and changed their format (trudprava.ru/images/2020_2_Quart_Monitoring.pdf).
Because of the restrictions on public activity, the amount of protest activity in Russia declined from the fourth quarter of 2019 when there were 624 actions of various kinds and the first quarter of 2020 when there were 534 cases to just 424 cases in the second quarter of this year.
At the same time, much of the protest activity shifted from the streets to online forms, with open letters, video appeals, online meetings, and online pickets the dominant form of protest. There were also a few hunger strikes in Sochi, Krasnoyarsk, Kirov and Chita, the report said.
The pandemic and the restrictions imposed to combat it gave Russians new reasons to protest, but the restrictions had the effect of restricting protest largely to online forms. One consequence of this was the professional associations became more important as the basis for protests because they already had an online presence.
As far as the future is concerned, the report offers three conclusions. First, many protests will remain online. Second, they will increasingly focus on workplace issues like non-payment of wages or loss of work given that unemployment rose to its highest point this year in the third quarter.
And third, according to the report, political parties need to take both the changed nature of protests and the changed focus of public concern into their plans for the upcoming elections so as to capture the support of those who have been hurt the most economically by the coronavirus pandemic.