Mapping communication of Russian non-systemic opposition on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook

Digital platforms are crucial for securing the information flow between opposition groups in autocratic regimes such as Russia and fostering political debates despite the limited press and electoral freedoms. Previously it has been found that YouTube played a vital role in maintaining the continuity of the anti-establishment discourse of Russian political outsiders such as Alexey Navalny (Glazunova 2022). Though, it remains unclear how other platforms apart from YouTube are embedded and help the non-systemic opposition’s interaction with citizens and what platforms’ features drive their communication choices. After the serious deterioration of Navalny’s movement in 2021 caused by political suppression, it is further unclear what major political forces are left that can oppose the establishment discourse online. To address these gaps, we use digital research methods to produce the first comprehensive evaluation of information flows between Russian political outsiders and their followers within and across Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, detecting its leading elites and communities that most visibly contribute to political debate in Russia’s digital public sphere. The project asks how Russian political minorities communicate within YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter during the protests “Free Navalny” in 2021 in support of an imprisoned political activist. To identify the most visible members of non-systemic opposition in Russia across four digital platforms, we use the network analysis method, social media analytics, and qualitative analysis of social media profiles of the members of the Russian opposition. We engage with large-scale data collected via different computational tools for each platform, such as Facebook’s CrowdTangle, YTDT for YouTube (Rieder 2015), and Twitter Academic API and DMRC’s TweetQuery for Twitter data to understand how Russian non-systemic opposition interact online, what drives their choices over digital platforms, and what political actors play a central role in the maintaining of the information flow challenging the Putin’s elite discourse at the beginning of 2021.


DMRC research program

This project contributes to the research within the following DMRC research program:

Digital Publics Program

Project team


Project funding

This project is a pilot project for Dr Glazunova’s DECRA Fellowship Application (2023) dubbed “Cross-Platform Information Flows of the Russian Opposition: Evaluating Russia’s Digital Public Sphere” and is funded by the DMRC Grant Scheme in 2021. The outcomes of the study will be disseminated in 2022 in Q1 communication journal such as New Media & Society.