IAS/SIR Speaker Series: Dr. Elena Bogdanova

Complaining to the Authorities: Tradition and Legal Modernization in Russia

For our last IAS Speaker Series of the semester, Elena Bogdanova (Ph.D. European University St. Petersburg) presented some of her research on the modern-day complaint mechanism in Russia. With the current restrictions on public protesting, complaints addressed to various government agencies and officials are the “only legitimate open channel of interaction between state and society.” Unfortunately in the past decade, the Russian government has passed various laws that regulate citizens’ complaints. Perhaps even more concerning is the extent to which existing complaint mechanisms are used as a political technology to support and sustain Putin’s authoritarian style of government. Although the complaint mechanism has become more accessible and popular thanks to the standardization of forums and other online resources, the effectiveness of the system to produce beneficial responses and reform is being called into question as the judicial institutions have been weakened and the power of the Presidency has grown under Putin’s control. Dr. Bogdanova left the audience with many questions regarding the future of the complain mechanism and public dissent. Do the recent protests in Russia reflect citizen dissatisfaction with the complaint mechanism? Will the Russian government reform the complaint system to become more effective or will it drift even more towards repression of opposition?