Part or chapter of a book
Criticism of Moral Policing in Russia: Controversies around Lev Protiv in Moscow
Introducing Vigilant Audiences
Cambridge, UK : Open Book Publishers
107 - 127 p.
Russia, vigilantism, public debates
Since the beginning of the 2010s, vigilante groups have appeared in the streets and on the Internet in Russia. Acting in the name of civil society, these "activists” (aktivisty) patrol the streets in order to find badly parked vehicles, inspect shops in order to check whether they sell expired products or hunt and trap alleged paedophiles. This paper focuses on public debates about Russian vigilante groups, id est on controversial issues surrounding their activity. It considers who voices the public critique and what exactly is criticized. The discussions encompass issues such as legality and morality of vigilantes’ acts, their retributions, their social usefulness and their efficiency. But do vigilantes care about critique, and how does critique affect their activity? The theoretical framework of this paper is influenced by pragmatic sociology, particularly the analysis of controversies, which emphasizes the role of the audience in public disputes. As a case-study, this paper focuses on a particular group, named Lev Protiv. Founded in 2014 and based in Moscow, this vigilante group presents itself as a "social project”, whose mission is to patrol train and metro stations, commercial areas and public gardens, urging smokers and drinkers to respect the law.