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Struggle over public space: grassroots movements in Moscow and Vilnius

Jolanta Aidukaite (Lithuanian Social Research Centre, Vilnius, Lithuania AND School of Social Sciences, Södertörn University, Stockholm, Sweden)
Christian Fröhlich (School of Social Sciences Södertörn University, Stockholm, Sweden AND Higher School of Economics, National Research University, Moscow, Russia)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 7 July 2015




The purpose of this paper is to explore urban mobilisation patterns in two post-Soviet cities: Vilnius and Moscow. Both cities were subject to similar housing and urban policy during Soviet times, and they have implemented urban development using neoliberal market principles, provoking grassroots opposition from citizens to privatisation and marketisation of their housing environment and local public space. However, the differing conditions of democratic Lithuanian and authoritarian Russian public governance offer different opportunities and set different constraints for neighbourhood mobilisation. The purpose is to contrast local community mobilisations under the two regimes and highlight the differences between and similarities in the activists’ repertoires of actions in two distinct political and economic urban settings.


The paper employs qualitative methodology using data from semi-structured interviews conducted with community activists and state officials, presented using a comparative case study design.


Although, citizens’ mobilisations in the two cities are reactions to the neoliberalisation of housing and local public space, they take different forms. In Vilnius they are institutionalised and receive formal support from national and local authorities. Moreover, support from the EU encourages organisational development and provides material and cognitive resources for grassroots urban mobilisations. In contrast, residents’ mobilisations in Moscow are informal and face fierce opposition from local authorities. However, even in an authoritarian setting, grassroots mobilisations evolve using creative strategies to circumvent institutional constraints.


Little attention has been paid to grassroots urban mobilisations in post-Soviet cities. There is also a lack of comparative attempts to show variation in post-Soviet urban activism related to housing and local public space.



This study was funded by the Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies (Grant No. 753/42/2012). Support from the Basic Research Program of the National Research University Higher School of Economics and the Lithuanian Social Research Centre is also gratefully acknowledged. The authors would like to thank the special issue’s editors and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments. Special thanks goes to Kerstin Jacobsson for critique and inspiration.


Aidukaite, J. and Fröhlich, C. (2015), "Struggle over public space: grassroots movements in Moscow and Vilnius", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 35 No. 7/8, pp. 565-580.



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