Anarchists in Eastern and Western Europe - a Comparative Study

Project manager

Wennerhag, Magnus - Professor

Wennerhag, Magnus - Professor


The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies

Project type


Christian Fröhlich (Higher School of Economics, Moscow)
Jan Jämte (Örebro University)
Måns Lundstedt (Scuola Normale Superiore, Florence)
Grzegorz Piotrowski (Södertörn University and European Solidarity Centre, Gdansk)
Adrienne Sörbom (Södertörn University)
Mattias Wahlström (University of Gothenburg)

During recent years, scholarly attention has been given to civil society in Eastern Europe, and to a certain degree also to the social movements and political protests of the region. Little attention has however been directed towards the impact and role of radical leftist groups in these newly democratized post-communist political systems.

In social movement research it has been noted that anarchist and autonomist groups - what we analytically label 'the radical left-libertarian movement' - have played a prominent role for the broader left and new social movements in Western countries since the late 1960s, often appearing as the broader movement’s ’radical flank’. Albeit being a marginal political phenomenon, the ideas, strategies and forms of protests of these radical groups have many times – directly or indirectly – influenced more established organizations, e.g. political parties and trade unions. Especially since the 1990s, anarchist and autonomist activism have been visible through ’street parties’, squatting and during the protests of the Global Justice Movement and in the "Occupy" activism of later years.

The aim of the research project Anarchists in Eastern and Western Europe - a Comparative Study has been to make a comparative analysis of radical left-libertarian movements in five countries in the Baltic region – Denmark, Germany, Poland, Russia, and Sweden – focusing on their role in contemporary politics. The project has engaged with several questions: In what respects can one find differences and/or similarities in how these countries’ movements have developed? How can differences or similarities be explained by structural openings or closures in the polities in question, both regarding the movements’ interplay with the state and other political actors, and their ability to intervene in conflicts over the dominant meanings of democracy and politics?

The comparative analysis have been guided by a focus on (1) how the movements’ strategies and alliances are used to achieve political influence, (2) how the movements’ highlight and act upon political and cultural tensions, and (3) how the transnational diffusion of movement ideas and practices impact different national contexts.

Using a comparative framework based in social movement theory, we have conducted interviews, contructed a protest event dataset for protests staged by these groups during the period 2000-2015, analyzed texts and done fieldwork within movement organizations, at events and meeting places.

The research group has made up of scholars with extensive experience of research in the countries of the study. The project has been connected to the research environment for studies of contemporary social movements in the Baltic region and Eastern Europe, at the School of Social Sciences, Södertörn University.

Under senare år har forskningen kommit att uppmärksamma hur det civila samhället har utvecklats i de östeuropeiska länderna, och i viss utsträckning har även regionens sociala rörelser och politiska protester uppmärksammats. Däremot har de radikala vänstergruppernas roll i dessa nyligen demokratiserade postkommunistiska länder inte studerats i någon större omfattning.

Inom forskningen om sociala rörelser har det ofta betonats att anarkistiska och autonoma rörelser har spelat en viktig roll för de "nya sociala rörelserna". Dessa växte fram i västvärlden åren kring protesterna 1968 och väckte frågor om exempelvis miljö och feminism, och kom i allmänhet att ifrågasätta samhällets maktstrukturer. Ofta har de anarkistiska och autonoma grupperna tagit en mer radikal roll inom de nya sociala rörelserna. Även om de har haft en marginaliserad politisk position har dessa radikala vänstergrupper kommit att påverka exempelvis politiska partier och fackföreningar, på direkta eller indirekta sätt. Påverkan kan ha gällt vilka politiska frågor man uppmärksammar eller de sätt som man protesterar på.

Inom forskningsprojektet Anarkister i Öst- och Västeuropa - en jämförande studie har under 2012–2016 undersökts dessa radikala vänstergrupper och deras betydelse för politiken i dag. Genom att jämföra liknande rörelser i fem olika länder har projektet kunnat undersöka likheter och skillnader i hur de anarkistiska och autonoma grupperna har utvecklats, i Danmark, Polen, Ryssland, Sverige och Tyskland. Det har handlat om vilka strategier som grupperna använder för att påverka politiken, samt vilka andra politiska aktörer som man interagerar med för att uppnå detta. Inom forskningsprojektet har även undersökts vilka konflikter i samhället som dessa grupper uppmärksammar, samt hur spridandet av idéer mellan olika länder, från liknande rörelser, har påverkat dessa rörelser.

Undersökningen har genomförts genom ett större antal intervjuer med aktivister inom dessa grupper, genom kvantitativa analyser av de protester som dessa grupper organiserat under perioden 1997-2015, genom analyser av centrala texter som aktivister har författat, samt genom observationer vid de evenemang som grupperna arrangerar.

Hitherto the following books, articles, and book chapters have been published based on this project:


Magnus Wennerhag, Christian Fröhlich & Grzegorz Piotrowski (eds.) (2017). Radical Left Movements in Europeexternal link. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.


Grzegorz Piotrowski & Magnus Wennerhag (2015). ”Always against the state?: An analysis of Polish and Swedish radical left-libertarian activists’ interaction with institutionalized politicsexternal link”. Partecipazione e conflitto 8(3): 845–875.

Christian Fröhlich (2013). ”Schlüsselfiguren zeitgenössischer Anarchie-Bewegungen”. Forschungsjournal Soziale Bewegungen 26(4): 58–64.

Book chapters

Magnus Wennerhag (2017). “Radical Left Movements in Europe: An Introduction”, in Magnus Wennerhag, Christian Fröhlich & Grzegorz Piotrowski (eds.). Radical Left Movements in Europeexternal link. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Grzegorz Piotrowski (2017). ”Troubles With the (Troubled) Past: Anarchists in Poland After 1989”, in Magnus Wennerhag, Christian Fröhlich & Grzegorz Piotrowski (eds.). Radical Left Movements in Europeexternal link. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Christian Fröhlich (2017). ”Taking Every Opportunity Against the State: Anarchists in Contemporary Russia”, in Magnus Wennerhag, Christian Fröhlich & Grzegorz Piotrowski (eds.). Radical Left Movements in Europeexternal link. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Jan Jämte (2017). ”Radical Anti-Fascism in Scandinavia: Shifting Frames in Relation to the Transformation of the Far Right”, in Magnus Wennerhag, Christian Fröhlich & Grzegorz Piotrowski (eds.). Radical Left Movements in Europeexternal link. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Jan Jämte & Adrienne Sörbom (2016). “Why Did It Not Happen Here? The Gradual Radicalization of the Anarchist Movement in Sweden 1980–90”. Pp. 97–111 in Bart van der Steen & Knud Andresen (eds.). A European Youth Revolt: European Perspectives on Youth Protest and Social Movements in the 1980s.external link Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Grzegorz Piotrowski (2016). “Od post-anarchizmu do pop-anarchizmu: współczesne interpretacje idei anarchistycznych”. Pp. 299–314 in Skrycki Radosław (ed.). Stduia z dziejów polskiego anarchizmu vol. 2. Szczecin: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Uniwersytetu Szczecińskiego.

Research area / geographic area

Social Sciences Sociology Political Science Politics, Economy and the Organisation of Society Baltic Eastern Europe

Project time

2012 — 2016


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