Motivational Dynamics of the 2020 Belarusian protests

Motivational Dynamics of the 2020 Belarusian protests" by Alena Oleinik


After the Belarusian Central Electoral Commission announced the result of the presidential election in August 2020, a series of protest events took place. The women’s marches were one of the hallmarks of the protest events in Belarus. The largest march took place in September and counted thousands of women. It was not clear why women were motivated to join the women’s marches given the mass scale of the general protests. The 2020 events in Belarus offered a timely opportunity to study women’s political participation in the context of the Belarusian women’s attendance at the women’s marches and general protests. Studying which motivations the Belarusian women protestors had to participate in both the general protests and women’s marches not only shed new light on the dynamics of protests but also has helped understand motivation from the gender perspective. Guided by the integrative model of individual motivation (Van Stekelenburg et al.,2011) and the feminist analysis of violence and nonviolence with relation to female identity, the author designed a qualitative study and conducted online interviews with the women participants of both types of the 2020 protest in Belarus. The results of the analysis demonstrated that different motives drove different protests: while the general protests were driven by the instrumental motive, the women’s marches were driven by the identity motive. This identity, central to which are the notions of nonviolence and care, was activated by state violence, i.e. the women’s rejection of violence. The findings concerning violence have transcended to theorize that state violence served as a modulator of motivational dynamics, similar in its mechanics to the amplifying effect that the group-based emotions have on the motives. In contrast to the group-based emotions’ intensification of the motives, state violence exerted the effect of modulation and modification of the motives in different protests.