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Women’s protests in Russia

Frederick Lauritzen

5th June 2023


Women’s political protests are often far more significant than men’s ones. On 26th May 2023 the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation stated that the Council of Mother’s and Wives (Совет матерей и жен) represents foreign agents. Such an act constitutes the recognition by Russian authorities that, if women’s voices are heard and their protests seen, civil society will take note. Leaving aside the social reasons for such an attitude and such a reaction, the fact speaks for itself: when women protest, there is concrete trouble.

The Tsarist regime fell because of the March Revolution of 1917 begun by mothers and wives asking about their sons and husbands dying at the front during World War one. Their slogan was 'bread and peace'. On the 8th of March (23rd February old calendar) 1917 International Women's Day demonstration in Petrograd gained momentum. Their request was bread and peace. The Tsar abdicated seven days later (15th March 1917). One could argue that the October revolution simply took advantage of the protest and upheaval indicated by women a few months earlier. Many countries celebrate International Women’s Day on the eighth march to remember this event.

Women's protests played a role asking about their male relatives serving for the USSR in Afghanistan in 1989 as they did during the Chechen campaign in 1995. Some could argue that the Afghan war was the straw which broke the back of the USSR leading to its collapse and disintegration. The Chechen war and its failure led to the fall of the Yeltsin presidency which was then replaced by Putin in 1999.
There is no point speculating on how central or important women’s protests are in each society. Women’s protests are a crucial fact in a social upheaval. They identify the actual collapse of a perceived balance within a society.

The Russian government and parliament have accepted this as fact and therefore have silenced eventual protests from the Council of Wives and Women. Putin by this law indicates that if women protest the war in Ukraine, he risks having to handle a revolution at home like 1917 or 1989-1991.

Kallipolis offers analyses of women’s protests through its ‘Women Protest Index’. The indicator allows one to measure the effective stability of a given society.

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