Alexei Yurchak. Monstration: Meaning, Absurd and Political Statement in Today’s Russia

In the past years a new form of oppositional political statement occurred in the context of marches called “monstrations” that take place on May 1st in many Russian cities. This statement may seem “absurd” and “apolitical”, and this is exactly how it’s characterized in the state mass media. However, to a certain extent it is a quite specific political statement, even though built in an unconditional way. Due to its special manifestation this political statement cannot be directly described in terms of binary political language that dominates in today’s Russia both among state mass media and liberal opposition. According to this language, Russian political space is currently subdivided into two parts — “patriots” and “traitors” (according to state discourse) or into “active citizens” and “aggressively passive people” (according to liberal discourse). Most of the political statements today can be described using this binary scheme. However, monstrations are built in a different way: remaining opposition events and statements they nevertheless aren’t regarded in terms of this binary description of the political space. How are these statements built? Why should they be referred to as political statements? What role do these events play in forming the oppositional political space? Is there a continuity in the strategy of monstrations with unofficial Soviet language? These are the questions the presentation will dwell upon.