This article analyses digital activism comparatively in relation to three Post-Soviet regions: Russian/anti-Russian in Crimea and online political deliberation in Belarus, in juxtaposition to Estonia’s digital governance approach. The authors show that in civil societies in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, cultural forms of digital activism, such as internet memes, thrive and produce and reproduce effective forms of political deliberation. In contrast to Estonia, in authoritarian regimes actual massive mobilization and protest is forbidden, or is severely punished with activists imprisoned, persecuted or murdered by the state. This is consistent with use of cultural forms of digital activism in countries where protest is illegal and political deliberation is restricted in government-controlled or oligarchic media. Humorous political commentary might be tolerated online to avoid mobilization and decompress dissent and resistance, yet remaining strictly within censorship and surveillance apparatuses. The authors’ research affirms the potential of internet memes in addressing apolitical crowds, infiltrating casual conversations and providing symbolic manifestation to resistant debates. Yet, the virtuality of the protest undermines its consistency and impact on offline political deliberation. Without knowing each other beyond social media, the participants are unlikely to form robust organisational structures and mobilise for activism offline.
Comparative Sociology – Brill
Published: Feb 13, 2017
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