Is the War on Message? Political Communication in Russia Before and After February

New Voices on Eurasia: Maria Sidorkina

Graphic with the event title and Maria Sidorkina's headshot
New Voices on Eurasia with Maria Sidorkina

How can we understand the success with which Putin's regime has managed the war against Ukraine at home? That is, what paved the way for the Kremlin to use the war to re-secure a contingent social consensus around Putin? In this talk, Maria Sidorkina sets aside the strong-arm tactics the regime used to dismantle the opposition's political and media institutions, to consider the structure of the public sphere before February 2022. What was the relationship between the regime, the "silent majority," and the opposition in Russia such that the latter was powerless to resist the regime's public dominance? Drawing on fieldwork data with regional civic activist collected over the last decade, she shows that oppositional political actors had developed channels to effectively address regional publics and to mobilize them for local governance. However, within the national conversation, opposition leaders repeatedly failed to design their "message" to address ordinary Russians—leading to the opposition’s continued social marginalization.

Maria Sidorkina is an Assistant Professor of Slavic and Eurasian Studies and Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin, where she conducts research and teaches courses on protest and public life in Russia and post-Soviet Eurasia, Soviet society under socialism, digital ethnography, and language and interaction. After receiving her PhD in Anthropology from Yale she was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard’s Davis Center, as well as the Center for Humanistic Inquiry at Amherst.