The last year was marked by a rich blossoming of a great number of new civic initiatives in the Russian Federation, not only in the capital and in million cities but also in smaller towns. Apart from traditional kinds of civic participation – work of nonprofit organizations, meetings, marches, which could have been seen by all of us, including those in the course of December events, – a large gathering of volunteers took place, for instance, who were supervising the election. Election observation became a constant civic activity today. Besides, further forms appeared, which can be named “new form of civic participation in the city“. These are new city practices. The most radical ones of them are called “partisaning“. These are forms of participation in solving problems of the city by active citizens united in initiative groups. As long as I know, such activities exist in St. Petersburg as well as in further cities. “Partisaning” means an initiative of citizens, clerks as a rule, who come together and “save“ the city like it used to be in the Timur movement (reference to the book by Arkady Gaidar “Timur and His Crew“ – Remark by the Translator) – lay out a flower bed or fix broken “pedestrian crossing“ signs by themselves at night, etc.
Another form of civic participation visible for everybody is a new form of a kind of public entertainment: “Occupies”, public promenades for expression of the own point of view, street universities etc. Another form that attracted our attention is civic activity of self-organization. In Tyumen as well as further cities including Perm, residents come together and found the so-called public assemblies. Working groups with no specialization have been operating to help to solve problems of the city and the city community, directly implementing their right for the participation. For instance, they may be involved, in the recration of streams or solving the problem of the conflict between transportation companies and city residents.
Other new forms of civic participation are various kinds of crowdsourcing and Internet initiatives. They are very-eyecatching. For instance, the website protechki.net (Russian “protechka“ stands for “leakage“ – Remark by the Translator), founded by a public activist from St. Petersburg, is a selfless devotion, which let repair roofs in 800 apartments in St. Petersburg, if I don’t confuse the figures.
I would say there is a broad spectrum of such activities. Besides, there are also new thematic forms. I don’t like them much but there are some. Self-organization arose in the preserving field. Now these are not only orthodox gonfaloniers. They can be citizens, who are united by the so-called anti-orange mood, for instance. Besides, these are quasi-nationalist initiatives, new secular church invasion, new orthodoxy etc. We can see them now.
In general, I would say that a blossoming of activities has been taking place and the presence of various interest groups in the public space has been increasing. This is an extremely risky point but this is justified. This is a right step, we have entered the situation at last, where such interests are highlighted in the public space, which used to have been concealed before. Groups appear now, which used to have been dim, deaf and dumb before, which couldn’t have been heard by us. Besides, political satire of various kinds appears – anti-orange as well as anti-President ones. We see pamphlets, punk prayers, etc. Life has become risky, but very vivid!
“GRANI” is member of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum since 01.12.2011.