Krzhizhanovskogo Street, 24/35, korpus 5, 117218, Moscow, Russia
Tel.: +7 (499) 128-85-19
Fax: +7 (495) 719-07-40
Federal Center of Theoretical and Applied Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences
This article attempts to expand the sociological perception of risk as one of the factors that build up protest potential and provoke protest activity. In this context, protest activity is reviewed from the risk sociology standpoint, as a response to unfavorable conditions, which stem from a person’s vulnerability to such conditions. The study concerns the characteristic features of protest activity and protest capacity of young people who live in a high-risk environment. The data under analysis was collected during 2012 – 2013 on-site research carried out with the help of research consultants from the RAS Sociology Institute Risk and Disaster Department, in a Russian region that was characterized by a high-risk environment and vigorous protest activity of the local youth, caused by controversy surrounding the local mining industry. This research resulted in the creation of a database, which comprises several hundred formalized interviews (501 in 2012 and 394 in 2013), with the share of young people amounting to 21% in both cases. The present study divides the youth from the aforementioned region into those who took part in protests and those who showed potential for doing so. The analysis reveals certain differences between these two groups, in terms of social and demographic traits, attitude towards the social and political environment in their region and in the country as a whole, trust towards various social entities, overall estimate of the risk level, and attitude towards the development of the local mining industry. We have managed to establish the priorities that influence young people when they decide whether to take part in protests, namely the choice between the adverse impact on the environment and the locals’ health and the economic benefits that the community will reap from exploiting mineral deposits. We have also described the factors that, on the one hand, diminish young people’s protest capacity, and on the other, turn this capacity to action. The study highlights the importance of such actions as: lowering the risk associated with the mining industry to a socially acceptable level; fulfilling the regional government’s obligation to provide the community with the promised economic benefits; and increasing the level of trust towards the authorities. The analysis helps us arrive at the conclusion that it is vital to make responsible decisions, balancing between economic benefits and socially acceptable disadvantages.
risk sociology, risk, protest activity, protest capacity, young people.