Françoise Daucé

Collective mobilizations in post-Soviet Russia constitute an enigma for Western political sociology due to their numerical weakness and their incapacity to strengthen democratic practices in the country. This perplexity can be explained by the unsuitability of the research tools used for their study. Academic research on social mobilization has long been based primarily on postulates concerning the modernization of social movements in a economically and politically liberal context. Western and Russian leaders involved in the transition process demonstrated a will to foster the constitution of organizations independent from the State and the creation of a civil society as an opposition force. In the early 90’s, the practices of voluntary organizations in Russia became closer to Western ones. Notions such as “associative entrepreneurship”, “professionalization” or “frustration” were shared by Russian movements. However, later evolutions showed the unsuitability of these concepts to understanding the full complexity of these movements. That is why this issue of “Research in question” aims to suggest new theoretical perspectives for studying associations in Russia. These are at the crossroads of various grammars, where civic and liberal principles are combined with domestic and patriotic preoccupations. This complexity, which resists a purely liberal vision of social organizations, draws convergent criticisms against their action. In order to investigate this complexity of practices as well as criticisms, the tools produced by a pragmatic and multiculturalist sociology are useful to show the diversity of social and political bonds that link militants in contemporary Russia.

Amandine Regamey

The legend of women snipers who allegedly fought against Russian forces in Chechnya was first fueled by war stories among Russian troops before Russian authorities officially embraced and promoted the narrative. It was eventually disseminated in society through movies and literature. This legend offers insights into the war narratives of Russian troops about the war in Chechnya and its portrayal in Russian society more generally. It consists of different intertwined layers that vary in importance and significance, all of which contribute to its success. Drawing on the figure of the « Wight Tight », mythic women mercenaries from the Baltic States, the legend portrays Russia as a victim of an aggression thus legitimizing the war in Chechnya. Additionally, the legend recounts the experience of Russian soldiers, therefore providing grounds for Russian political and military leaders to stigmatise women and justify the violence committed against civilians. Finally, it allows men serving in Chechnya to construct a male identity based on the war experience, which is able to oppose the imaginary threats of these female enemies. The text addresses also the way war legend can help understand armed conflict, and the way scattered sources and questionable testimonies can be turned into an object of research.