Protest Publics as Democratic Innovators in Authoritarian Environments

  • Artem UldanovEmail author
  • Tatiana Davtyan
  • Fedor Alekseenkov
Part of the Societies and Political Orders in Transition book series (SOCPOT)


This chapter aims to examine how mass protests affected processes of sociopolitical changes in Russia and China in the case of Hong Kong and Turkey. All three countries (with certain exceptions in the case of Hong Kong) are characterized as authoritarian states where blast of mass protests happened during the period 2011–2017. In each case, the situation with authoritarian rule has different aspects: Russia slowly moves from a democratic hybrid regime to authoritarianism since 2003 under control of President Vladimir Putin; In Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is trying to unite the nation around his figure and changing political regime to achieve undisputed power; and Hong Kong was under British rule till 1999 and returned into China on a particular agreement that the political regime established during the “colonial” period, which will not be reduced to all-China conditions. Nevertheless, different pathways led to similar results—shrinking space for independent political institutions and violations of fundamental rights and freedoms are not tolerated by the part of society in all three countries. Without working mechanisms to launch policy change, citizens choose protests as a way to show authorities their disagreement and anger over the authoritarian manner of policy-making.

We argue that in these countries, activists and citizens were able to organize themselves around a discourse of policy change, to form a “protest public,” unsatisfied with the political regime; and then, due to the reaction of the state, to create alternative democratic practices in sociopolitical activity. With such a strategy, a “protest public” could be considered as an actor of change, whose role is to create democratic innovations to oppose strict and repressive policies maintained by the state.


Russia Turkey Hong Kong Mass protests Public participation Authoritarian regimes Protest publics 



The chapter was prepared within the framework of the Academic Fund Program at the National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE) in 2016–2017 (grant № 17-05-0018) and by the Russian Academic Excellence Project “5-100.”


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Artem Uldanov
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tatiana Davtyan
    • 1
  • Fedor Alekseenkov
    • 1
  1. 1.Public Policy DepartmentNational Research University Higher School of Economics (NRU-HSE)MoscowRussian Federation

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