Observers at the elections in Russia
Last few years were marked by growing civic activities in Russia (aid to victims of fires and floods, peaceful demonstrations and protests), including emergence of a very massive movement of domestic election observers. Hundreds of thousands of Russians across the country started to participate in election observation beginning from federal elections, 2011– 2012. In this context, tree main questions are relevant. How has this movement emerged and developed? What is the qualitative composition of its participants? How socially significat is the movement in terms of its impact on the development of civil society and democracy? Mixed method research was used: qualitative research (7 in-depth interviews), and a quantitative survey (N=1506) conducted online. Results of the study show that despite the fact that people’s participation in election observation was massive, this activity was not chaotic. Process of involving citizens in election observation was based on well-built system, coordinated by new organizations. They distribute videos aimed at attracting citizens to become election observers; train in election legislation; develop and distribute manuals, handbooks and “road maps”; organize “mobile groups”, hot lines, and parallel vote tabulation. Qualitative composition of domestic election observers feature educated people under 45 with relatively high level of material welfare, not members or supporters of parliamentary parties. Moreover, election observers are actively involved in NGOs as well as in volunteering and donations. Activities of domestic election observers in Russia for the last two years enhance development of civic skills and increase levels of legal awareness thus contributing to empowering Russian civil society and democracy.