Muscovites Involved as Active Citizens
Far from being passive, Muscovites – at least more than half of them –
are more likely than residents of other Russian cities to join together with others
in pursuit of a common cause, engage in civic campaigns online, and trust other
people and non-profit organizations (NGOs). While in terms of offline civic
engagement Muscovites do not differ much from the rest of the country, their
activity can be encouraged by creating an appropriate infrastructure, according
to Irina Mersiyanova, Director of the HSE Centre for Studies of Civil Society
and Non-Profit Sector, and Irina Korneeva, Research Fellow of the same Centre.
phenomenon described by the authors as 'urban silence', i.e. social inertia and
a reluctance to join others for community action, is not characteristic of
Muscovites; in fact, 57% of the Russian capital's residents would join others
for a common cause. According to Mersiyanova
and Korneeva's paper 'Urban Silence' in Moscow:
Prerequisites for Involvement in Civil Society Practices, Muscovites in general have
greater trust in other people and NGOs – the institutional framework of civil
this means that the capital's residents have a tendency towards civic
engagement, they are more likely to engage online than offline, the latter type
of involvement being about the same as elsewhere in Russia. That said,
Muscovites are still more likely to donate, volunteer and otherwise support NGOs.
to the authors, providing an infrastructure for civic participation could encourage
grassroots activity and ultimately contribute to wider urban development.
paper is based on data from two nationwide surveys using a sample of 1,500
people in 43 Russian regions, including 131 respondents in Moscow, in 2014, and
33,200 respondents in 83 regions in 2011, and published by the HSE Centre for
Studies of Civil Society and Non-Profit Sector as part of the 2015 Monitoring of the State of Civil Society.
Activity Manifested in Everyday Life
such as trust in other people and being prepared to join in for a common cause,
a sense of responsibility and confidence in one’s power to influence things in the
immediate vicinity such as one’s residential building, as well as the city and
entire country, trust in NGOs and civil society initiatives, and a certain
level of subjective well-being all contribute to social engagement.
trust in other people promotes mutual assistance, social integration and
collaboration. According to the study's authors, Muscovites are more likely
than people in other parts of Russia to trust both their closer circle and a
wider range of people.
though the overall level of social trust is somewhat low – only 28% of Moscow residents
(compared to the national average of 22%) believe that most people can be
trusted, while 66% of Muscovites (vs. 75% of respondents nationwide) prefer to
be cautious around other people, the level of trust in people from one's inner
circle tends to be higher at 75% for Muscovites compared to the national
average of 64%.
than half (57%) of Muscovites, compared with one-third of respondents
nationwide, would be willing to join in with others to address shared concerns,
particularly in the spheres of housing, public utilities and consumer services
(21%), leisure activities, sports and tourism (14%), philanthropy (12%), and
public governance (12%).
in Inverse Proportion to Distance
tend to feel personal responsibility for things in their immediate vicinity,
but less so for things perceived as remote; thus, 84% feel responsible for
their neighbourhood, 73% for things happening in the wider city, and just 57%
for developments in the country overall, similar to people in the rest of
terms of influence over their immediate neighbourhood, Muscovites appear less
empowered at 70% compared to the national average of 81% – perhaps due to a low
proportion (12%) of Muscovites who feel they can ‘fully influence’ things in
their immediate vicinity, compared to the national average of 30%. The
respondents' assessment of their ability to influence developments in their
city and wider country stands at 53% and 36% respectively for Muscovites, and
55% and 39% for Russians nationwide. The most likely spheres of influence
mentioned by Muscovites included leisure and tourism (19% of responses),
housing and utilities (15%), philanthropy (14%), and science and education (14%)
– compared to the rest of the country, Muscovites feel more able to influence
quarters of those who believe that they can make a difference also believe that
the best way to change things and influence others is to lead by example,
followed by convincing one's friends (37%) and voting in the election (31%);
nationwide responses stand at 64%, 36% and 34% respectively. A quarter of
Muscovites favour methods such as sharing information online and participating
in NGO activities, while street protests and mass media statements are less
turns out that Muscovites have more trust in others but less confidence in
their own ability to make a difference than people elsewhere in Russia.
Meanwhile, according to the study's authors, creating a reliable feedback
system between society and government could help build Muscovites' confidence
in being part of the city's governance.
terms of involvement in civil society groups, Muscovites are most likely to
participate in residents' committees and similar homeowners' bodies and in interest-based
groups such as sports, tourism and automobile associations (4% vs. 1%
nationwide for both types of organizations), followed by labour unions,
charities and local initiatives for protecting consumer, property and other
rights (3% each type). Overall, 18% of Muscovites and 17% of respondents
countrywide have participated in civil society organizations, yet Moscow
residents' involvement in certain types of NGOs exceeds the national averages.
Russians – 81% of Muscovites and 79% nationwide – are aware of the existence of
NGO and their activities and often mention veteran organisations, labour
unions, political parties, gardening associations and charities (more than 50%
of respondents in each case); of those who are aware of NGO activities, 67% of
Muscovites (vs. 54% of respondents nationwide) trust at least one NGO.
to the study's authors, this trust is self-perpetuating: Muscovites get involved
in NGOs because they trust them, and by being involved develop even more trust
in these organizations.
Involvement Is Possible
to the national average, Muscovites tend to participate more often in public
benefit and civic activities – 62%, including 59% who have been involved
offline and 28% online, compared to the national averages of 59%, 55% and 18%,
respectively. Volunteer work for the community, such as subbotniks (voluntary collective efforts to remove garbage, plant
trees, etc. in the neighbourhood), alongside residents' meetings and rescue and
relief initiatives are among the most popular, while letter-writing campaigns,
speaking at meetings and participating in public protests are less popular.
terms of online activities, Muscovites are more likely to interact with
government websites (23% vs. 13% nationwide), comment on social media and news
sites (11% vs. 7% nationwide), and write blogs (9% vs. 4%).
to the study's authors, there is a potential for Muscovites to become even more
active as citizens; in fact, 44% of Muscovites vs. 37% respondents nationwide
expect that by 2020, most Russians will be participating in NGOs, and 39% of
Muscovites would like to donate to charitable causes.
February 10, 2016