The PEPS database
PEPS stands for Protest Events, Photos, and Slogans, and is the name of a novel kind of protest event database. It includes data about the Russian protest wave of 2011-13, which centered on the topic of electoral fraud. As of November 2016, it contains data on 967 protest events from 237 locations, most of them between November 2011 and January 2013, but also including a few election-themed protests from earlier in 2011 and in the period from 2013 to 2016.
The database has several important features that set it apart from existing protest event data sets, such as the German PRODAT (see Data for other data sets on protest in Russia):
- Rather than solely using media reports, PEPS makes heavy use of eyewitness/participant reports such as blogs and online photo galleries. This allows us not only to counterbalance media bias of various sorts (a general problem in reporting on protest events, and one that is especially serious given the political role of the media in nondemocratic states such as Russia), but also to account for diversity among protest participants, thus going beyond protest organizers’ and prominent spokespeople’s representations of the meaning of protest events.
- PEPS lists every single documented slogan (in particular those displayed on protest signs); in fact the database originally started out as a collection of slogans. This allows us to study the demands and forms of expression of individual protesters at a level of detail unparalleled in quantitative protest event analysis. The inclusion of protest slogans enables us not only to trace the movement’s evolution over time but also to study regional variation and the prevalence of particular topics or types of expression. As of November 2016, PEPS includes 5,380 different slogans.
- PEPS includes copies of the photographs used as well as local copies of other types of electronic sources (such as news items, blog posts etc), which is especially important given the volatility of Internet sources. This also allows users of the database to consult sources and go beyond codeable variables. Thus the database serves not merely as a basis for data sets that can be used in quantitative analysis, but also as a valuable repository of first-hand reports on individual protest events.
PEPS was created by Mischa Gabowitsch at the Einstein Forum in Potsdam/Germany, and is currently maintained by Olga Sveshnikova and Felix Herrmann at the Research Center for East European Studies at Bremen University. Others also participated in data collection at various stages, most notably Manarsha Isaeva (Berlin Social Science Center).
The database currently exists in two formats:
(1) a password-protected online version that contains all the data including the primary sources and is hosted at the Research Center for East European Studies in Bremen, and
Access to the data in formats #1 and #2b will be made available shortly through this site. (Previous and now obsolete versions of the database exist in .xls and Filemaker formats.) A Harvard Dataverse entry is forthcoming.
Publications that make use of the data collected include:
- Jan Matti Dollbaum, “Curbing protest through elite co-optation? Regional protest mobilization by the Russian systemic opposition during the ‘for fair elections’ protests 2011–2012”, in: Journal of Eurasian Studies, doi: 10.1016/j.euras.2017.01.002.
- Mischa Gabowitsch, Protest in Putin’s Russia. Cambridge; Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2016.
- Margarita Zavadskaia and Natal’ia Savelieva, “‘A mozhno ia kak-nibud’ sam vyberu?’: vybory kak ‘lichnoe delo’, protsedurnaia legitimnost’ i mobilizatsiia 2011-2012 godov” [“How about I choose for myself?” Elections as a “personal matter,” procedural legitimacy, and the mobilization of 2011-12], in: M.L. Aliukov, K. Kleman [Karine Clément], A.V. Magun, I.A. Matveev, A.V. Nevskii, N.V. Savel’eva, M.V. Turovets, S.V. Erpyleva, M.A. Zavadskaia, A.A. Zhelnina, O.M. Zhuravlev, Politika apolitichnykh: grazhdanskie dvizheniia v Rossii 2011-2013 godov [The politics of the apolitical: civic movements in Russia, 2011-13]. Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2015: 219-268.
- Artemy Magun, “The Russian protest movement of 2011-2012: a new middle-class populism,” Stasis 2(1)/2014: 160-191.
- Mischa Gabowitsch, Putin kaputt!? Russlands neue Protestkultur. Berlin: Suhrkamp 2013.
- Mischa Gabowitsch, “Social media, mobilisation and protest slogans in Moscow and beyond,” in: Digital Icons. Studies in Russian, Eurasian and Central European New Media 7/2012: 213-225.
This section will soon be updated with a more detailed discussion of methodological and ethical issues, with reference to previous methodological discussions and attempts to establish best-practices guidelines. For further discussion of media bias and the implications for protest event analysis in Russia, see publications #2 (pp. 32-36) and #6 above.
The recently launched DiscussData project at Bremen University’s Center for East European Research uses PEPS and several other datasets on post-Soviet protest as one of two case studies in its attempt to build an interactive platform that proposes peer review and quality discussion mechanisms for research data.