Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Josef Korbel School of International Studies, International Studies

First Advisor

Barry Hughes, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Rachel Epstein

Third Advisor

Aaron Schneider


Comparative politics, International relations, Protest, Russia


This dissertation develops and evaluates a structural theory of protest onset, applied to the Russian case. Russian stability has become a pressing international political concern, as Putin has annexed the Crimea, fomented one war, in Ukraine, and become a major player in another, in Syria. In December 2011, thousands of Russians gathered in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and other cities for the largest set of protests since the fall of the USSR. Waves of protest have reappeared sporadically since. Each time, events create islands of dissent, spread widely, but unevenly, throughout the country - in a picture reminiscent of the pre-collapse Soviet Union.

The dissertation argues that only an integrated theoretical framework can adequately explain protest onset variation. Such a framework must include three leading positions: social mobilization capacity, grievances, and political opportunity structure. It must include an additional element as well: state capacity, which is only weakly present in the theoretical canon of Social Movement Studies. The project requires novel sub-national data to test the integrated framework. Independent variable data derives from the Russian Federal Statistics Service. Dependent variable data derives from activist-curated web collections.

According to statistical results, structural factors do, in fact, systematically explain variation in Russian protest from 2007 to 2013. A time series negative binomial regression model reports that protests are most likely in federal subjects featuring highly urbanized populations, high unemployment, and low social spending. These structural factors provide a probabilistic explanation of Russian protest variation over the time horizon. A paired case study, focused on Novosibirsk and Krasnoyarsk Krai, evaluates quantitative results and offers model specification suggestions.

Conclusions indicate that targeted public spending serves as a tool with which the Russian state can coopt public obedience; local governments can employ revenues as a tool to maintain social order. These finding generate novel international political implications, particularly connected with commodity price fluctuation and wars in Ukraine and Syria.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Carey C. Neill


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

273 p.


International relations, Political science