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The Middle Class Are Involved More in Civil Activity

Russians under 45, top-managers, public sector employees, and people with high incomes are more involved in civil society practices than others. As Irina Mersiyanova and Irina Korneeva found out in their research, getting involved with nonprofit organisations greatly determines people’s civil activity

Top-managers turned out to be the most socially active Russian citizens, say Irina Mersiyanova, Director of the HSE Centre for Studies of Civil Society and the Non-Profit Sector, and her colleague at the Centre, Research Fellow Irina Korneeva. They take part in almost all civic practices, from local actions at their places of residence to volunteering and helping strangers.

The high level of activity of top-managers can be explained by their wide range of social roles. People, who have many social roles, says Meriyanova, are more likely to be involved in volunteering. Low resource groups, such as pensioners, poorly educated people and those on low incomes are involved in civil activity the least.

According to the research results, 42% of the respondents took part in some form or other of political and social activity in Russia in the last year. Giving money is the most impressive area. Almost a half of the respondents make donations. A quarter of all the respondents dedicate themselves to volunteering. The majority of the respondents feel themselves responsible for what is happening in their homes, towns or country. But only 38% feel they can influence the situation. One of the keystones to being active citizens is involvement with non-commercial organisations.

The empirical research is based on a public survey conducted in 83 areas of Russia. 33,200 respondents over the age of 18 took part.

Social and Political Activity

Mersiyanova found that the number of Russians involved in civil society practices is not increasing. Over the last year less than half of all Russians (42%) got involved in any civic or political activity. The research shows that only 2% of the respondents participated in peaceful demonstrations and protest actions.

Levels of civic and political activity vary in different social and demographic groups. Top-managers (30%), researchers and teachers (37%), healthcare workers (34%), people with high income and those engaged in private business (30%) take part actively in civil society more often than others.


Over the last year 46% of Russians made donations, 11% did it many times and 31% – several times. 51% of Russians didn’t make any donations. The number of citizens making donations didn’t grow, which can be explained by new channels of money transfers: nowadays money is usually donated via SMS.


Volunteer activity is one of the most important indicators of grass-roots civic organisation. According to this research, in 2013 a quarter of respondents were engaged in volunteering. 6% of them did it many times, 16% – several times.

It is worth mentioning, that a person’s self-identification as religious is a significant factor in volunteering. Living in an urban kind of environment is another.


A sense of responsibility for what is happening is essential for the development of a civil society in any country. 86% of Russian people feel responsible for what is going on in their homes and neighborhoods. 73% feel some responsible for the events in their town, and 60% – in the country as a whole.

The 34% of Russians who don’t feel any responsibility for the country overall are those over the age of 66, poorly educated people and inhabitants of big cities with populations of a million upwards.

Those citizens, involved with at least one non-commercial organization, engaged in volunteering or making donations, experience a sense of responsibility more often.

Estimation of Personal Influence

80% of citizens feel that they can influence the situation in their homes and neighborhoods. 52% suppose that they can influence the situation in their town.

Only 38% of Russians, usually well-educated people, Moscovites, top-managers, specialists, and students believe they have an opportunity to influence the situation in the country as a whole.

Russians over the age of 66 and poorly educated people on low incomes declare that they have no opportunity to influence anything in the country.

The researchers highlight the fact that participating in the activity of a non-commercial organization increases the level of self-confidence about having an impact on the situation in society.

Russians’ Virtual Practices

The development of an information society brings new technologies into all spheres of civic life. The Internet is at the centre of the information society infrastructure. 34% of Russians are active users of the Internet.

For the last three months the following groups of respondents browsed the Internet almost every day: highly educated people (57%), students (81%), top-managers (62%), specialists (60%), employees and technical executives (40%), traders (50%), education and research employees (50%).

The largest group of users are browsing social networks, (38%). Every third respondent uses the web to find information for work or study (32%). 27% of Russians read news, newspapers and magazines online. An even smaller group uses the internet to get information on government websites, express views on political and social issues by commenting in blogs, networks, on news sites, and to donate money online.


Author: Olga Sobolevskaya, March 18, 2014