The Politics of Protest

Between the Venting of Frustration and Transformation of Democracy


This 2015 policy paper by Daniel Smilov analyzes popular sovereignty and protests in Bulgaria, Russia, Spain, Turkey and Ukraine, along with 10 major policy implications of these protests.

The paper takes stock of a large body of research and the rich discussions from two workshops, which took place in 2014 in Barcelona and Berlin, as well as during panels at several conferences.

It concludes that despite common trends across various protests, they do have a rather different nature and character. Protests in Ukraine, for example, stand out as a very specific case in which the people were motivated by a geopolitical choice for their country – between the European Union and Russia. Demonstrations in Turkey, meanwhile, were motivated mostly by fears of the leadership’s authoritarian tendencies and feeling that a non-secular political force was invading public spaces, reducing the freedoms of the public in their use. And in Spain, protests featured a strong leftist, anti-austerity element.