Are volunteer and protest activities compatible? (Based on self-description of the Russian volunteers)


  • Oleg A. OBEREMKO National Research University Higher School of Economics
  • Anna G. ISTOMINA National Research University Higher School of Economics



volunteers, protest activity, social identity, attribute space of self-identification, volunteer ethos, private space, public space, positive freedom, negative freedom, analysis of categorical data, logic and semantic analysis, deconstruction


The article explores social self-identification of volunteers in the context of the broadly understood social activities (activism). The focus of the study is to describe how active Russian volunteers understand the differences between volunteer and protest participation and how the incompatibility between two forms of social activity can be explained. Based on sixty semi-formalized interviews involving active volunteers from different volunteer associations of the Perm region, the author reconstructs a space depicting volunteer and protest activities. The space has four axes each with two poles: good / absence of good; words / deeds; privacy / publicity; loyalty / disloyalty. The first three axes refer to the simplified view life; the person does not want to socialize in the world of mature civil actions living in an unexceptionable private space and avoiding actions where the opinion of others must be taken into account and compromises are to be found. Such a naivety and avoidance of civic socialization allow volunteers achieving positive freedom not engaging in distracting protest actions against structural problems. Only the fourth axe reflects mature civil position of a volunteer who is ready to search for compromises and common interest in the world of confronting desires to stay loyal toward the existing order and to choose the positive action rather than the negative one. The analysis helped to determine forms of argumentation and different points of view as well as identities of volunteers and political activists.






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