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At present, the political involvement of Russians in the overwhelming majority of types and forms of political life, except for participation in elections, remains at a rather low level. The highest level of activities is found in the pre-reform period. In the last year, only 9% of the polled Russians took part in some forms of collective publicly useful activity (27% in all the years of reforms). The most widespread forms of participation in social life is participation in an election campaign (11% of respondents for the last 10 years); those who signed collective letters, appeals to the mass media and authorities account for 8%, those who donated money for the benefit of some project or organization of public importance make up 7%.
One of the indicators of the maturity of civil society and of the quality of political participation is the involvement of people in the activity of nongovernmental public organizations. Although an enormous number of nongovernmental public organizations and political parties work in today's Russia, the participation of the population in their work is rather limited. In the last year, only 1 out of 9 Russians took some part (whether formal or informal) in the activity of public organizations.
For the last 10 years, conventional forms of participation are the most widespread ones in Russia. For the last 10 years, only 6% of respondents resorted to protest forms of participation (rallies, demonstrations, strikes and individual forms of protest).
Participation in elections is the most mass form of the participation of the population in politics and governance. However, the population considers participation in elections not so much as a channel of involvement in the preparation and adoption of managerial decisions or as an instrument of dialog with authorities and agreement of interests and courses of politics, but rather as a way of expressing their support of or protest against authorities and politicians.
Political participation and the establishment of civil society are largely influenced by the nature of political culture of today's Russian society, which combines features of participatory democratic and paternalist subject culture. The findings of the research allow to come to a conclusion that the overwhelming majority of Russians interiorize the normative values of political participation as a central institute of democracy (the majority of respondents consider it as their civil duty to participate in elections, while some as a need to intensity their participation). The share of people who are complete absentees, supporters of nonparticipation in the affairs and governance of the country at various levels is rather little (ranging from 7% the affairs of the rayon to 9% the affairs of the country). However, the share of people who consider participation in governance as their personal duty is also smaller (only 1-3% of respondents believe that they themselves must find possibilities to participate in governance, another 5-8% believe that they must participate, if authorities organize their actions). The overwhelming majority of Russians are of the opinion that their duty as citizens is only to participate in elections and to delegate power to their candidates (40%-49%), or, in addition, to control the work of elected officials (27-31%). That means that the role of active participants in the governance of the affairs of their city, rayon, oblast and country as a whole is chosen only by a rather insignificant share of Russians.
Russians have many causes to participate in collective actions. During their lives, a significant share of respondents (41%) has encountered violations of their rights or interests (most frequently it occurred in connection with delays in payment of salaries, in the area of housing and utility services, and labor disputes). Actions to protect their rights and interests were attempted by a little more than half of respondents (55%), while the others decided not to do anything. Those who attempted to do anything most frequently used individual actions (appeals to authorities, to the management of enterprises and organizations, and personal appeals to court). Passive forms - collective letters, complaints, appeals - were used as rare collective actions. As the reason for their omissions, Russians consider the absence of confidence in the success of their struggle, and low awareness of where they can appeal to, the absence of any confederates and ways to find them, and the absence of organizers who would be competent enough and could provide assistance.
Only few - 10% - attempted to implement some idea or project with the help of collective actions. Further, in the overwhelming majority of case, these attempts succeeded, and in 1 out of 9 cases collective initiatives failed. However, only a very small share of organizers of various public initiatives enjoyed support from nongovernmental public organizations and political parties.
Thus, we may conclude that there are enough causes in Russia to initiate collective actions (the rights and interests of people are violated rather frequently), but in the majority of cases people do not attempt to solve their problems using any collective actions, and either they rely on themselves only, or they simply resign themselves to the situation. In those cases when an attempt to implement some idea is made by collective actions, it succeeds most frequently. That means that there are channels to participate and change the system, within which people live and work. They are not completely closed, although there are many obstacles on the way to self-organization. It is likely that the main problem is a small number of attempts of collective actions, rather then an impossibility to achieve the result using this method.
A low level of participation in social activity was found by social scientists based on various researches conducted during the last few years. Nevertheless, a survey of the reasons for this low participation of people remains important, while a survey of possible ways to involve people in politics and governance, most prospective forms and types of participation is even more important. Although as of today the level of the participation of people is rather low, the potential of participation may not called low. Russians show a relatively high readiness to participate in some forms - ranging from conventional to protest ones, from passive to personal ones (64% of respondents said that they could participate at least in some form of collective actions).
From the viewpoint of their participation, Russians find as most acceptable the passive forms of participation that do not require personal effort, time, presence - such as writing letters, appeals to the mass media and to authorities, participation in the collection of humanitarian aid, donations, collective appeals to court. The potential of protest and even forcible forms of participation may also be evaluated as relatively high (about one-third of respondents might take part in strikes, rallies, and demonstrations; one-quarter of respondent might take an active stance against the police, and 10% of respondents might obstruct the work of transportation). The potential of participation in the personal conventional forms of participation within formal organizations is far lower (about one-quarter of Russians might participate in the work of public organizations). Some 9% of respondents consider direct personal participation in governance as possible for themselves (there are ready to run for office in bodies of self-government and authorities).
Problems related to the immediate life of people, their environment (living and housing conditions, municipal services, social welfare) represent the largest mobilization resource for the involvement of the population in collective actions. Second rank problems of the social and ecological environment of people - ecological problems and problems of self-governance, organization of life in the rayon, as well as criminal problems and violation of human rights. The mobilization resource is far lower for problems that are of a global societal nature, and problems related to violation of individual personal civil rights.
However, as of today the confidence of Russians in the effectiveness of various forms of public participation is rather low. Only a very small share of respondents (ranging from 3% to 9%) are absolutely confident that some of the forms of public political activity may be effective in the solution of the problems set forth.
The main reason for the fact that people consider as impossible for themselves participation in various forms of collective actions is the absence of leaders, organizers of collective actions and the notion of people that they do not have any confederates, and they do not know where to turn to.
As of today, those who act as organizers of collective actions or take an active part in them make up less than 1%. The parameters that distinguish the activists from other Russians are first of all socio-economic factors (the activists are a group of highly educated people with a permanent employment and a relatively high income level). Those people who have lived most of their lives in the province, but intend to move to large cities and to settle there, or live in administrative centers of rayons and have an opportunity to demonstrate their activity become more socially and politically active. Therefore, it is necessary to pay more attention to the search of and the direction of the activity of the activists in the kray, oblast and rayon centers of Russia in comparison to megalopolises and rural areas. Previous life experience related to participation in various public organizations (the experience of work in the Komsomol, the CPSU, and trade unions) is a considerable factor of involvement in active social activity. The activists and the population as a whole are substantially different in terms of their value orientations, civil position, awareness, etc. What distinguishes the activists is their confidence in the fact that by participating in collective actions and their personal participation in public political activities they can influence the situation at all levels of governance in the country.
Organizers of collective actions, expect for some individuals, are nongovernmental public organizations and political parties. The activity of these organizations to involve people in their activities is now very low. Only one-fifth of respondents (20%) said that in the last year they were approached by some public organizations or authorities seeking assistance. Neither authorities, nor public organizations act as organizers, leaders of public actions or collective publicly useful actions. Most frequently, all these organizations choose a mass impersonal form of address in the form of letters in the mailboxes, placards in the streets and entrances, announcements. Despite that, the majority of addresses to people have a positive feedback from the population.
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