Work Protests are on a (Slight) Downward Trend, but May be Moving to the Capitals

The “Center for Social and Labor Rights“, a Russian NGO who defends the right of Russian workers, has released its latest monthly monitoring of work-related protests throughout Russia. And it has a couple of interesting data points.

Work protests in Russia’s regions has been ongoing almost continusly since the 2014 economic crisis, both being largely forgotten by the general media and a center point of interest for Russia watchers. They almost always remain local in scale (with the main exception of the trucker protests, which took place across 52 Russians regions), and are most often the result of firms not paying their workers, mismanagement accusations, or mass layoffs.

There has also been recently a spike in political protests (the 26th of March anticorruption protests, as well as yesterday’s protests organized by Khodorovsky’s “Open Russia” foundation, but also people protesting against decisions of their regional authorities), but there are not included in these numbers. For Foreign Policy, Amie Ferris-Rotman wrote a great dispatch looking at such a political protest. You can also take a look at my piece on the troubles Russian governors have dealing with protests (work-related or otherwise).

The March report released by the Center for social and labor rights show that the number of work-related protests has slightly decreased: 87 protests on the January-March period, compare to 91 last year and 101 in 2015. The center notes that “for the first time in ten years, the number of protests counted in March was less than in February”, though it’s too early to know if this is significative. Overall, the numbers remain much higher than the average of 46 protests during the 2008-2013 period.

Number of protests recorded. Blue: average 2008-2013;


What’s interesting is that, beyond the raw numbers, the territorial distribution of the protests seems to be changing, with the Center recording in the first months of 2017 a major decrease of protests in regional centers. These provincial capitals, which often rely on aging soviet-era industries, have been hit hard by the crisis and became the most prone to protests against wage arrears and mismanagement by local firms. In 2015, 45% of all work-related protests happened there.

However, the first months of 2017 saw a 10% decrease in the numbers of protests in these regional centers. Meanwhile, the share of protests in the “megapolis” (Moscow & Saint-Petersburg) jumped from 10% in 2015 to more than 20% today. The graph is pretty clear:


It is too early yet to say whether this “polarization of protests between the capitals and the periphery” (the Center writes) will prove lasting, or even if it’s more than a statistical fluctuation. But it’s definitely something to keep an eye on.


Author: Fabrice Deprez

Je suis journaliste depuis 2015, un travail qui m'a déjà emmené en Ukraine, en Russie et dans les pays Baltes. Parmi mes (nombreux) intérêts se trouvent les transformations économiques et politiques de la région, les questions internationales et les problématiques digitales. Sinon, j'aime écouter du hip-hop russophone et manger du plov.

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