Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Professional Groups in Russia Displaying Ever Greater Collective Solidarity, Lev Gudkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 18 – Members of professional categories like journalists and doctors are displaying ever greater corporate or collective solidarity because they now feel that the authorities are attacking their rights and have concluded that these attacks will affect the country as a whole, according to Levada Center director Lev Gudkov.

            This consolidation on the basis of professional categories “began last year,” the sociologist says. Its start was when journalists came out collectively too defend their colleague Ivan Golunov. Given their access to the media, the journalists quickly attracted attention to what they were doing (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2020/02/18/83986-professionalnyy-protest).

                That changed the journalists but it also had a broader impact and convinced other professional groups that “it is possible to do something.”  As a result, Gudkov continues, this form of identification and activism has increased “even in the provinces” although “to a lesser extent” than in the capital and other major cities. 

            In the regions and republics, he says, the authorities acted quickly and forcefully to block this development. But in Moscow, “protest attitudes [have become] stronger for several reasons.” First, “Moscow is the most educated city” and so has the greatest number of professions and professionals, thus providing a base for this development.

            Second, the private sector is more developed in the capital than in the provinces and so more people are working at jobs that are less dependent on the state. And third, the capital has social networks that can support protests unlike the provinces in which individuals may act but then not get the necessary backing to continue.

            According to Gudkov, “people continue to unite in professional communities because social networks are more often constructed along these lines. We know our colleagues at work better than we know others and we trust them” thus providing the foundation for collective action even when civil society is “poorly developed.”

            “In Western countries,” he points out, such “solidarity is completely normal. But in Russia political and civic culture are suppressed. In it, opportunism and cynicism dominate. Western countries are democratic and legal states. We still haven’t escaped from Soviet totalitarianism.”

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