Understanding Grassroots Activism in Russia


Thursday, October 31, 2019, 12:00pm to 1:15pm


CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge Street, Room S354

Despite a lull after the Soviet collapse, grassroots activism in Russia is growing. The protests for free elections that swept across Russia this summer may have captured international headlines, but many other grassroots groups have been organizing over the last decade. What types of civic movements exist in today’s Russia? What risks do activists face? How do they interact with the state or state-protected interest groups? Finally, what role could grassroots groups play in democratizing Russia? Yevgeniya Chirikova sheds light on these questions through her experience as an environmental activist and creator of Activatica.org, a website covering Russian grassroots activism.


Yevgeniya Chirikova, Environmental Activist
Elizabeth Plantan, Postdoctoral Fellow, Roy and Lila Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Harvard Kennedy School


Aurélie Bros, Senior Fellow, Energy Project, Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies; Lecturer on Government, Harvard University

Yevgeniya Chirikova is a Russian environmental activist who is well-known for organizing a grassroots movement to stop the construction of a highway through Khimki Forest, a green space northwest of Moscow. For her efforts, Chirikova was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize, an environmental “Nobel,” in 2012. However, as a consequence of her activism and involvement in the 2011-2012 Russian opposition protests, Chirikova feared for her family’s safety and left Russia. Now in Estonia, Chirikova continues her advocacy through Activatica.org, an online news platform covering grassroots activism across Russia, and through an international campaign to stop the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Dr. Elizabeth Plantan is a China Public Policy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Ash Center. Dr. Plantan researches comparative authoritarian politics and state-society relations in China and Russia, with a focus on environmental activism. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Government from Cornell University. In addition, Dr. Plantan holds a master’s degree in Russian & East European Studies from Indiana University – Bloomington and a bachelor’s degree in Government and Russian & East European Studies from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.

Co-sponsored by the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies and the Roy and Lila Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Harvard Kennedy School.

For more information, please call 617-495-4037.