Opportunities and Constraints for Russian Activists-in-Exile after Russia’s 2022 Invasion of Ukraine
After Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, thousands of Russian citizens opposing the war or afraid of its impacts relocated abroad. Among this wave of emigrants is a subpopulation of Russian activists who were involved in anti-regime or oppositional activism before their “exit.” How are these activists continuing their activism from abroad? How do they interact with policymakers and civil society actors in their host countries? How are those interactions shaped by the political, institutional, and legal environment? Finally, how are international NGOs and foundations interacting with this group of new exiled activists? This talk draws on interviews with Russian exiled activists and their supporters during fieldwork in Estonia and Germany in 2022 and 2023, as well as a parallel set of interviews with INGOs and foundations during the same time period, to address these questions. The findings identify important differences in host country political opportunity structures which constrain or enable activist networks, their access to political institutions, and their choice of tactics. The project also reveals how INGOs and foundations are pivoting their funding strategies in response both to authoritarian restrictions and to new opportunities for collaboration with exiled activists. This research not only provides insight into Russian activism abroad, but also contributes to scholarship on authoritarianism, transnational activism, philanthropy, and diaspora politics. It will also be of interest to policymakers and practitioners interested in better understanding or supporting this new wave of Russian activists abroad.
Elizabeth Plantan is an assistant professor of political science at Stetson University. Her research interests encompass the global study of civil society, authoritarian regimes, and environmental affairs, with a focus on the comparative and international politics of China and Russia. Previously, she was a 2022-2023 Wilson China Fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC and 2018-2020 China Public Policy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School. Her research has been published in Comparative Politics, Studies in Comparative International Development, Post-Soviet Affairs, and Russian Politics, among other venues. She has also published op-eds and public-facing scholarship in The New York Times, The Washington Post, ChinaFile, Russian Analytical Digest, and elsewhere. She holds an M.A. & Ph.D. in Government from Cornell University.