Eco-Nationalism: Anti-Nuclear Activism and National Identity in Russia, Lithuania, and Ukraine

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Eco-nationalism examines the spectacular rise of the anti-nuclear power movement in the former Soviet Union during the early perestroika period, its unexpected successes in the late 1980s, and its substantial decline after 1991. Jane I. Dawson argues that anti-nuclear activism, one of the most dynamic social forces to emerge during these years, was primarily a surrogate for an ever-present nationalism and a means of demanding greater local self-determination under the Soviet system. Rather than representing strongly held environmental and anti-nuclear convictions, this activism was a political effort that reflected widely held anti-Soviet sentiments and a resentment against Moscow’s domination of the region—an effort that largely disappeared with the dissolution of the USSR.
Dawson combines a theoretical framework based on models of social movements with extensive field research to compare the ways in which nationalism, regionalism, and other political demands were incorporated into anti-nuclear movements in Russia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Armenia, Tatarstan, and Crimea. These comparative case studies form the core of the book and trace differences among the various regional movements to the distinctive national identities of groups involved. Reflecting the new opportunities for research that have become available since the late 1980s, these studies draw upon Dawson’s extended on-site observation of local movements through 1995 and her unique access to movement activists and their personal archives.
Analyzing and documenting a development with sobering and potentially devastating implications for nuclear power safety in the former USSR and beyond, Eco-nationalism’s examination of social activism in late and postcommunist societies will interest readers concerned with the politics of global environmentalism and the process of democratization in the post-Soviet world.
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Editorial Reviews

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Eco-nationalism is an outstanding work and long-awaited contribution to our understanding of the relationship between environmental activism and national awakening during the Gorbachev era. It is an absolute must for those who want to understand the source, causes, and dynamics of nationalism in late- and post-communist society.”—John Löwenhardt, Institute of East European Law and Russian Studies, Leiden University

“This is a superb study that combines theoretical insight with extensive, on-site research in three republics of the former Soviet Union. Unique in its systematic comparisons of social movements in the three republics, and in its exploration of the interaction among issues of environmentalism, nationalism and political participation. A “must read” for students of communist and post-communist systems.”—George W. Breslauer, University of California, Berkeley

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822318316
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books
  • Publication date: 8/12/1996
  • Pages: 221

Meet the Author

Jane I. Dawson is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Oregon.

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Anti-nuclear Activism and National Identity in Russia, Lithuania, and Ukraine

By Jane I. Dawson

Duke University Press

Copyright © 1996 Duke University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8223-7782-5


Patterns of Social Mobilization in Late- and Postcommunist Societies

* * *

Since the explosion of popular protest in the West in the 1960s, considerable scholarly attention has been devoted to expanding our understanding of how people mobilize. Under what circumstances do people join together and publicly express common concerns and demands? Why do patterns of mobilization differ from group to group and across societies and political systems? In the past several decades, two important paradigms have emerged which provide insight into these questions. Resource mobilization theory, a structural approach, has focused attention on the role of access to mobilizational resources and opportunities in shaping patterns of mobilization. In contrast, an identity-oriented model points to the role of ideas, culture, and group identity in explaining how mobilization occurs. While initially viewed as competing models, it has more recently been suggested that these two paradigms may be utilized in tandem to provide a richer and more complex view into the dynamics of popular mobilization.

While these two models were developed in response to the explosion of social activism in Western societies in the 1960s and beyond, they provide an excellent jumping-off point for interpreting and comparing social-movement dynamics in other types of societies, particularly communist and postcommunist. In this chapter, I will (1) briefly review the basic tenets of the resource-mobilization and identity-oriented approaches and their synthesis; (2) employ a hybrid framework drawn from these two approaches to hypothesize how people might be expected to mobilize in late- and postcommunist societies; (3) consider the patterns of anti-nuclear mobilization observed in Lithuania, Russia, and Ukraine from 1985 to 1995 and provide a preliminary assessment of the utility of this Western paradigm in the study of social movements in late- and post-communist societies.

Determinants of Social Mobilization: Resources and Identity

While the dominant approach to collective behavior of the 1950s and 1960s focused attention on the role of individual grievances in triggering mass mobilizations, the new resource mobilization theory that emerged in the 1970s firmly rejected this focus on grievances, deprivation, and anomie. Rather than focusing on why individuals mobilize, resource mobilization theorists shifted their attention to how collective actors pursue their goals within a given structural context. Within this perspective, grievances are no longer viewed as primary determinants of mobilization. Instead, structural factors such as resources, organization, and opportunity become the key determinants of when and how collective behavior may occur. Grievances in society are considered to be sufficiently bountiful that they are always available for mobilization; movements only occur, however, when structural changes facilitate their emergence. In its most extreme variant, McCarthy and Zald have argued that "the definition of grievances will expand to meet the funds and support personnel available."

Resource mobilization theorists focus on social movements as rational actors operating on the basis of cost-benefit analyses. Collective actors are assumed to utilize strategic instrumental rationality to determine how best to pursue movement goals within a given context. Given specific resource availability, preexisting organizational form, and opportunities, the collectivity will rationally select its tactics and strategy to maximize its potential for success. Thus, according to this school of thought, knowledge of resource availability, of organization, and of opportunity structures should yield a greater understanding of mobilizational patterns utilized by a particular social movement. Movement tactics, development, and level of success are expected to depend primarily on these structural factors.

While the resource mobilization approach has proven very useful for interpreting the activities of collectivities, it fails to address the important question of why individuals choose to participate in social movements. While collectivities are assumed to base their actions on strategic calculations, the rational-actor assumption runs into Mancur Olson's collective-action problem when applied to individual movement participants. According to Olson, in the absence of coercion or selective benefits, it is more rational for individuals to free ride than to participate in collective action. How then can we explain the existence of countless social movements?

An answer to this question was suggested by proponents of an alternative identity-oriented theory of social movements. Focusing primarily on the "new social movements" characteristic of postindustrial societies, theorists such as Pizzorno, Melucci, and Touraine pointed to the expressive function of social movements. Rather than viewing movements as rational actors, these theorists saw social movements as fora in which people could express feelings and search for meaning and identity. Movements thus provide a mechanism through which social identities are shared and negotiated. The key to mobilization is not objective but rather subjective factors.

While resource mobilization theorists were initially reluctant to cloud their crisp, objective model with elements of subjective motivation, over the past several years a consensus regarding the necessity of integrating the two approaches has been growing. The inability of resource mobilization theory to adequately address the question of why people participate has led to a new acceptance of the importance of expressive motivation in the creation and development of social movements. This integration of objective and subjective motivational factors is not new; sociological luminaries including Weber and Habermas have long maintained the importance of both material and ideal interests in motivating action. It is reasonable to believe that the exclusion of one or the other, while vastly simplifying theory, is unlikely to provide a complete picture of human action.

The resource-identity hybrid that is currently emerging attempts to balance the role of structural factors in determining movement profiles and development with the expressive function of movements. It is thus acknowledged that individual participation in movements is better explained in subjective rather than objective terms. Participants are thought to be seeking a forum through which to express their feelings and to strengthen self-identity. In charting the development of a movement, it is therefore necessary to look beyond strategic calculations and to also consider the movement's function in affirming and developing group identities.

Resources and Identity in Communist and Postcommunist Societies

While the resource mobilization and identity-oriented paradigms were developed to explain mobilizational processes in the capitalist democracies of the United States and Western Europe, they also offer a promising lens through which to view mobilization in communist and postcommunist systems. In focusing on the availability of mobilizational resources, organizational forms, and opportunities, resource mobilization theory provides a powerful explanation for the absence of independent collective activities in the USSR prior to 1985 and the emergence of social activism during the perestroika years. Furthermore, by adding the identity element to the framework, this perspective draws attention to the distinctive identities created and nurtured by the communist experience. Thus, the resource and identity hybrid appears to be a particularly promising tool for investigating mobilizational patterns in both communist and postcommunist systems.

Prior to the introduction of Mikhail Gorbachev's reform program in the USSR, the Communist Party's monopoly control over the public realm was widely acknowledged to be a defining feature of the Soviet system. While scholars frequently disagreed over how best to conceptualize Soviet state-society relations, most agreed that the absence of opportunities for independent public activities represented an important cornerstone of the system.

From the perspective of the resource mobilization framework, the Communist Party's monopoly control over the public realm easily translates into party monopolization of access to mobilizational resources. More specifically, communist systems may be defined by the party's control over both tangible and intangible mobilizational resources. Thus, important tangible resources such as funds, meeting space, and communications technology are all tightly held within the party's grip. Similarly, independent actors are severely disadvantaged in access to less-tangible resources such as social networks, organizational skills, specialist experrise, and legal protection for their activities. A key goal of the Communist Party is to restrict public access to mobilizational resources and eliminate opportunities for independent groups to coalesce and express their interests publicly. Conversely, the party itself is expected to act as a mobilizational machine which can quickly and efficiently mobilize its cadres in support of party interests.

With the introduction of Gorbachev's program of perestroika in 1985, this core characteristic of the communist system began to unravel. By introducing glasnost into the Soviet system, Gorbachev was signaling that the party would no longer maintain monopoly control over the public realm. Instead, opportunities for individuals to publicly voice their own concerns and demands were to be expanded. In addition, Gorbachev moved quickly to encourage people to join together and form independent associations to discuss their concerns and ideas. All of this was part of Gorbachev's strategy of energizing the "human factor" to achieve the political and economic revitalization of Soviet society that was so desperately needed.

In opening up the public realm to independent actors and collectivities, Gorbachev initiated the process of shifting both tangible and intangible mobilizational resources from the party to other competing entities in society. The process through which the party relinquished its privileged access to mobilizational resources, however, was neither smooth nor regularized. During the early years of perestroika, this shift in resources was accomplished solely through Gorbachev's exhortations to the party and to society. Despite Gorbachev's constant encouragement of new public activities, however, independent actors suffered from inadequate resources and opportunities for mobilization. New laws guaranteeing freedom of speech and association were not even put in place until 1990. This uneven process through which resources were gradually distributed to independent groups played an important role in shaping the new social movements that began to emerge in the late 1980s.

The communist experience left a lasting legacy for independent groups attempting to mobilize during the Gorbachev period and after. Three aspects of this legacy are particularly important for understanding how people in the USSR and its successor states have mobilized since 1985. First, the party's longstanding monopolization of resources combined with the economic deterioration of the country led to a general scarcity of mobilizational resources for these newly emerging independent actors. Second, the ad hoc transferal of mobilizational resources from party to society led to an uneven distribution of these resources among competing groups; some groups were privileged in their access to resources, and this access changed constantly over time. Finally, the communist experience greatly shaped the types of group identities that were available for mobilization in the late 1980s and beyond. This threefold legacy of resource scarcity, of uneven and evolving distribution of mobilizational resources, and of identities emerging from the communist experience has played a powerful role in shaping mobilizational patterns both during the perestroika period and later. In order to understand how the communist legacy has affected social movement characteristics and development, we need to take a closer look at each aspect of this legacy. In the following sections, we will first examine the impact of this triple legacy during the perestroika years and then turn our attention to the post-1991 transition period.

Resource Scarcity

During the seventy years of communist rule in the USSR, significant progress was made in leveling inequalities and creating the basis for an egalitarian society in the Soviet Union. Despite moderate success in meeting this primary ideological objective, the regime failed in its goal of sustaining rapid economic growth and overtaking the capitalist world in economic efficiency and productivity. The result of the communist experiment was a society in which all (outside the nomenklatura) were relatively equal, but in deprivation rather than prosperity. The low average standard of living which characterized Soviet society in the late 1980s and has continued to haunt most of the fifteen successor states indicates that resource mobilization studies focusing on how resource-poor constituencies mobilize in Western societies are likely to provide useful insight into Soviet and post-Soviet social movement dynamics.

In addition to a general lack of material resources in Soviet society, more subtle disadvantages in access to important tangible and intangible mobilizational resources for nonparty activities are expected to play a critical role in determining movement organization and tactics. In addition to limited access to funds, the newly emerging independent actors of the late 1980s found themselves seriously disadvantaged in comparison with the Communist Party with respect to other tangible mobilizational resources, such as access to meeting space and communications technology, and intangible resources, including organizational skills, specialist Expertise, and legal protection. Low access to key mobilizational resources by these newly created collectivities lead us to expect (1) classical social movement organization based on grass roots, with indigenous leadership and volunteer staff; (2) weak vertical and horizontal linkages between units; (3) weak intragroup linkages; (4) unstable group membership; and (5) preference for disruptive tactics.

While professional "social movement organizations" (SMOS), with paid staff and outside leadership, are expected to predominate in contemporary Western societies, their formation and maintenance depend heavily on the ability of the movement to secure substantial financial contributions from individuals outside the aggrieved group. In a society in which individuals had long been denied ownership of land and capital, and the overall standard of living was low, opportunities to accumulate significant resources from individual donors, however, were small. While donations from official institutions were possible in the USSR, they were subject to limitations in their quantity and distribution. Thus, Soviet movements would be far more likely to conform to the pattern of classical SMOS: relying on the time and energy of indigenous leadership, volunteer staff, and mass membership rather than material resources.

Due to the shortage of material resources, organizational objectives were likely to be limited by difficulties in obtaining permanent office and meeting spaces and by lack of adequate organizational and communications technology. Computers, copying machines, printing facilities, telefaxes, telephones, and transportation were likely to be in short supply, thus severely limiting the ability of movement members to organize and coordinate their activities. Loose organizational structures and weak linkages between territorially dispersed chapters would be expected. Given these weaknesses in communications capabilities, it is likely that linkages between movement leaders and followers would be weak. It is thus expected that a small core of devoted leaders might direct the activities of local chapters without regular or substantial input from the membership at large.

Membership is likely to be highly unstable outside the inner core due to lack of resources for maintaining membership networks through mass mailings, weekly meetings, and other regular communications. Stable participation in social movements is also likely to be constrained by growing economic shortages, which require consumers to spend more time in the search for goods and severely limit the time they spend on nonessential activities. The magnitude of the perceived threat to group interests is thus likely to be an important factor in determining the number of movement participants; in the absence of an overwhelming and tangible threat, people are unlikely to find the time to engage in collective activities.

The tactics utilized by newly mobilized groups are also expected to be constrained by resource scarcity. Costly tactics, such as employing professional lobbyists, advertising extensively in the mass media, and providing substantial support for desired election candidates, are likely to be beyond the financial resources of most emerging movements in the Soviet Union. Thus, tactics requiring little investment will be favored. Disruptive tactics, such as mass demonstrations, strikes, civil disobedience, and violence, have predominated among poor constituencies in Western societies.

In sum, the newly created associations and movements of the perestroika period are expected to bear little resemblance to their contemporary Western counterparts. Rather than fitting the professional social movement model of resource-rich constituencies and societies, the new movements are more likely to display the characteristics of classical social movements of an earlier era in the West and of resource poor constituencies.


Excerpted from Eco-Nationalism by Jane I. Dawson. Copyright © 1996 Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission of Duke University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Anti-nuclear Activism in Comparative Perspective 1
1 Patterns of Social Mobilization in Late- and Postcommunist Societies 10
2 Lithuania: The National Element 34
3 Ukraine: Civic or Ethnic Mobilization? 64
4 The Battle against Khmelnitsky AES: A Close-up View of Mobilization in Ukraine 83
5 Russia: The Demand for Local Self-Determination 99
The National Enclaves: Tatarstan and Crimea 124
Conclusions 162
Notes 179
Selected Bibliography 199
Index 209
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