Trade Unions and the Workers' Movement in Russia

The new workers' movement

The first project, on `the emergence of hierarchies in the new workers' movement', began in 1991 and was completed at the end of 1994, carried out primarily by Simon Clarke, Peter Fairbrother, Vadim Borisov and Volodya Ilyin, with valuable assistance from others in our research teams. We have also benefited considerably from our collaboration with David Mandel, Frank Hoffer, Kyrill Buketov and those around the KAS KOR and later ASTI news agencies. The project comprised a series of local studies on the emergence of independent trade unions and workers' organisations, and was supported by a grant from the Nuffield Foundation. The research was based primarily on interviews with activists in the workers' movement, and with local academics, journalists and commentators, backed up by reference to documentary and archival sources. The project focused on the rise of the workers' movement in Kuzbass, Vorkuta, the Urals, Samara, Saint Petersburg and Moscow, with additional research in Donbass and in Inta, and on the principal organisations of the independent workers' and trade union movement at regional and national levels. The first results of this project appeared as the core chapters of our book What About the Workers?, which assesses the development of trade unionism and workers' organisation by examining the character of trade unionism under the Soviet system, the emergence of the new workers' movement, and the response of the official trade unions.

Research was developed through more detailed studies of the three most significant organisations to emerge from the new workers' movement: the Workers' Committees and the Independent Miners' Union in Kuzbass, Sotsprof, and the Federation of Air Traffic Controllers' Unions. From 1994 to 1997 our research has focused on trade unionism in the coal-mining industry, within the framework of our ESRC-funded research project on the restructuring of the coal-mining industry. Simon Clarke and Vadim Borisov have worked with Petr Bizyukov on the workers' movement in Kuzbass, while Volodya Ilyin, Vadim Borisov and Peter Fairbrother have worked in Vorkuta. The results of this research have been published as The Workers' Movement in Russia and a series of articles and reports on trade unions in the aviation industry, on the workers' movement in Donbass, Kuzbass and Vorkuta.

Trade unions and workers' organisation in the coal-mining industry

We have continued to work on workers' organisation in the coal-mining industry, collaborating closely with both trade unions, but particularly with Rosugleprof, with most of our work in Kuzbass and Vorkuta, although Vadim Borisov has also done some work in Chelyabinsk, Tula and Rostov. This work has led to an extensive list of publications, including Volodya Ilyin's book on the workers' movement in Vorkuta, based on detailed archival and interview research, and Vadim Borisov's book on the Donbass miners' strike. Sarah Ashwin has completed her doctoral thesis, based on ethnographic research in one mine in Kuzbass, which has just been published by Manchester University Press, while Robert Ferguson has completed his study of worekrs and trade unionism in the coal-mining industry. Vadim Borisov's thesis on strikes in Russia is also almost complete.

In September 1995 an Information-Analytical Centre for the coal-mining industry was set up in collaboration with both trade unions and with financial support from the Westminster Foundation. The purpose of this initiative was to provide an independent source of rapid information and analysis of the situation at the local level to policy-makers within the trade union and political apparatus in Moscow with a view to overcoming divisions within the workers' movement by encouraging the co-operation of the two trade unions. Since the ending of funding from the Westminster Foundation monitoring has continued and reports prepared on an occasional basis.

The development of trade unionism in Russia

The latest phase of our research has focused on the development of the former official trade unions, building initially on our close links with the miners' union, Rosugleprof, forged through our research on the coal-mining industry, and more recently on our work the the ILO, ICFTU and ITSs in supporting the campaign over the non-payment of wages in Russia. In the autumn of 1996 Simon Clarke and Sarah Ashwin produced a substantial report on industrial relations in Russia for the ILO Task Force on Industrial Relations. From February 1999 they have started a major new project on trade unions and industrial relations at enterprise, regional and national levels, to run for three years in close collaboration with international trade union and labour organisations, including ICFTU, ILO, ICEM, IUF, PSI, IMF, FIET. In the meantime we are continuing to collaborate closely with the ICFTU in Russia, where Vadim Borisov is currently co-ordinating joint campaigning with the Russian trade union federations, and we are intending to conduct a series of enterprise and regional case studies on behalf of various ITSs and national trade union federations. In the first instance, Simon Clarke and Sarah Ashwin will be writing a book for Macmillan on the development of trade unionism in Russia.


The Restructuring of Management and Industrial Relations in the Enterprise.

The project on the restructuring of management and industrial relations in the enterprise is the core project of our research programme. Preparation for the project began in 1991, and Simon Clarke and Peter Fairbrother spent the first year evaluating potential research sites and identifying potential research collaborators. The project is being conducted in collaboration with four locally based teams of Russian sociologists, in Kemerovo, Syktyvkar, Samara and Moscow, involving a total of 24 researchers who have now been working together continuously for over five years. Each team combines a general survey of developments in their region with detailed longitudinal case studies of two to three enterprises in each region, while monitoring developments in other enterprises. The first phase of the project was funded by the East-West Programme of the Economic and Social Research Council and directed by Simon Clarke and Peter Fairbrother, the second phase by the INTAS programme and directed by Simon Clarke.

This research provides a detailed insight into the processes of restructuring in the enterprise on a longitudinal and comparative basis. The case study method is a well-established and rigorous method of sociological research which has little in common with the more `journalistic' approach which has recently become fashionable among economists. The difference is particularly marked in Russia, where there is an enormous gulf between formal and informal structures, between official and unofficial processes, and between published data and reality.

Our case studies use a wide range of qualitative sociological and ethnographic methods, which are unfamiliar to former Soviet sociologists. The Soviet tradition of industrial sociology was based almost entirely on questionnaire surveys with a strong social-psychological bias, for example to establish indicators of labour motivation or social tension. For this reason the principal priority at the first phase of the research was to recruit imaginative and open-minded young sociologists as our collaborators, and then to provide them with intensive methodological training. This phase lasted for eighteen months and was completed with a methodology workshop in Moscow in September 1992.

The intensive fieldwork for the case studies began in September 1992 and lasted until September 1994, since when developments within the target enterprises have continued to be monitored, supplemented with comparative research in a growing number of other enterprises. In general, two researchers are attached to each enterprise, typically with one working from the top down and the other from the bottom up. In most cases the researchers were already familiar with the enterprises in question, and in some cases had previously carried out research there, providing a valuable longitudinal dimension to the research and a range of informal contacts. The most intensive fieldwork has been conducted at the level of the shop.

This research has generated a large amount of extraordinarily rich primary data. The progress of the research is discussed at weekly meetings by each research team, which updates its research reports every three months. The teams circulate reports and interview transcripts to one another, and representatives of each of the teams meet with Simon Clarke every three months. All the researchers on the project come together every six months to hold a residential workshop, lasting between three days and one week, at which papers are presented and discussed and future research priorities identified.These methods of work have been extended to all our research projects.

An early article based on our case studies of four of the privatised enterprises was published in Europe-Asia Studies, and the data has informed a whole series of our publications, including our series Management and Industry in Russia, published by Edward Elgar. A selection of case study reports has been published as The Russian Enterprise in Transition.

Innovation in post-Soviet industry

The latest phase of research on enterprise restructuring is a new project on innovation in post-Soviet industry, starting at the end of 1998 and to run for three years, funded by the EU's INCO-COPERNICUS programme. This project is in collaboration with ISITO, the Centre for Labour Market Studies of the Institute of Economics and teams from Minsk and Georgia.


The first phase of this research was based on a number of principal themes:

1) The relationship between formal and informal relations in production. This is a theme familiar in Western industrial sociology, but barely explored in Russia. A selection of papers was published in June 1995 by Edward Elgar as Management and Industry in Russia: Formal and Informal Relations in the Period of Transition.


2) The forms and limits of enterprise paternalism. The question of enterprise paternalism was a topic of lively debate within the project as we sought to characterise the specificity of Soviet enterprise paternalism and its changing forms and limits. This debate was reflected in the papers by Petr Bizyukov (Kemerovo) and the Samara research group published in Management and Industry in Russia: Formal and Informal Relations in the Period of Transition.


3) Conflict and change in the industrial enterprise. This theme focused on the forms of conflict within the industrial enterprise, the ways in which conflicts are mediated, diffused and resolved, and the directions of structural change in the enterprise. A selection of papers has been published by Edward as Conflict and Change in the Russian Industrial Enterprise.


4) The privatisation of industrial enterprises in Russia. This theme builds on our research on industrial enterprises, since all of the enterprises that we are studying intensively have been involved in privatisation, supplemented by interviews with people representing a wide range of interests in the privatisation process, including officials with responsibility for privatisation at local, regional and national levels, local public committees monitoring the privatisation process, political parties, trade unions and workers' organisations, and industrial managers. This work has been extended to investigation of the process of bankruptcy, secondary privatisation and issues of corporate governance. The principal work in this area has been conducted by Simon Clarke, Veronika Kabalina (Moscow) and Pavel Romanov (Samara).


5) Welfare and social services in the transition to the market economy. This research focuses on the impact of the transition to the market economy on the welfare and social services previously provided through the enterprise. This research was carried out between September 1993 and December 1994 by the Samara and Kuzbass research groups, in collaboration with Peter McMylor of the University of Manchester and Ian Gough (formerly University of Manchester, now University of Bath). Monitoring of these aspects of enterprise restructuring continues.


6) The restructuring of wages and payment systems. This theme focuses on attempts to restructure work relations by restructuring wages and payments systems, with many enterprises trying to move away from traditional piece-rate systems towards systems based on time-wages and/or individual contracts. The principal work in this area has been conducted by Inna Donova and Olga Pulyaeva (Kemerovo) and Valentina Vedeneeva (Moscow).


The restructuring of the Russian coal-mining industry

This project was directed by Simon Clarke, in collaboration with Peter Fairbrother and Professor Huw Beynon of the University of Manchester. The project was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council from March 1994 to September 1996, with Vadim Borisov, Annette Robertson and Volodya Ilyin working as researchers on the project and the Komi and Kuzbass research teams carrying out fieldwork in the coalfields. The principal aim of the project was to unravel the complex network of contending interests and social, institutional and political forces whose interaction determines the form and direction of the restructuring of the Russian coal-mining industry. We supplemented this with a series of studies of particular mines, particularly those faced with closure, research into the employment impact of restructuring (which is the focus of Annette Robertson's doctoral thesis), and studies of strikes and conflicts.

Intensive fieldwork was carried out in Vorkuta, Kuzbass and Moscow, with additional fieldwork in Inta, Chelyabinsk and Rostov. In this research we collaborated very closely with both trade unions in the industry, NPG and Rosugleprof, as well as with the local and regional administrations and the Employment Service in the coalfields. This project was closely oriented to the policy process, so most of the papers and publications are in Russian.


Employment Restructuring and the Development of the Labour Market

This theme is the principal focus of our current research. A pilot project, based in Moscow, Samara and Kuzbass, was funded by ODA from September 1995 to September 1996. An extended project, involving deeper research at all four of our sites, is funded by the ESRC from October 1996 to December 1998 and a complementary project, on household survival strategies and new forms of employment, based on a large household survey, is funded by DFID from September 1997 to March 1999.

The primary objective of the research is to identify the processes of employment restructuring and redeployment within and between large industrial enterprises and new businesses by identifying the operation of the `internal' and `shadow' labour markets and the interaction between the two. The secondary objective of the research is to explore the limitations of existing statistical data on employment by relating the collection and reporting of data to the underlying processes at the level of the enterprise and its subdivisions and so to provide a sounder basis on which to interpret reported statistical data. A number of papers reporting on early research on this theme have been published in 1996 by Edward Elgar in a volume under the title, Labour Relations in Transition: Wages, Employment and Industrial Conflict in Russia.

The first stage of the research was completed with a seminar in Moscow in July 1996, attended by representatives of various ministries and regional offices of the Federal Employment Service, at which the results of this research were presented and discussed with the leading Russian researchers in the field. This seminar was sponsored by the Ford Foundation. A further seminar was held at Warwick in September 1996, attended by leading Western researchers in the field, which resulted in a book, Structural Adjustment without Mass Unemployment? Lessons from Russia, published by Edward Elgar in January 1998. The project reports of the first phase were published in December 1996 in English and in Russian, and can be downloaded from this site.

The main fieldwork for the second phase of the research was completed in July 1997, with all the researchers working together through August to prepare thematic reports on the basis of the case study materials, available statistical data, and our own work history survey. These reports were then revised over the autumn, in the light of additional fieldwork, and final versions prepared in December 1997. These thematic and enterprise reports can also be downloaded from this site. A progress report on the research to February 1998 is available. The results of this phase of the research will be published in a book, The Formation of a Labour Market in Russia, to be published by Edward Elgar early in 1999.

The third phase of the research involved the addition of a supplement to the Goskomstat Labour Force Survey in November 1997. For various reasons the supplement was eventually conducted only in Kemerovo oblast and Komi Republic, but we have obtained the Goskomstat data for Moscow and Samara oblasts as well and this data is currently being analysed. At the same time a series of case studies of new private sector employers have been conducted in our four regions. These will be made available on the website in due course. The principal component of this phase of the research is a survey of all adult members of 4,000 households in Kemerovo (1,000) and Samara (1,400) cities, Syktyvkar and Lyubertsy, Moscow oblast (800 each). The survey was conducted during April and May 1998, and the data was ready for data analysis from July 1998. The individual and household questionnaires can be downloaded. Data analysis will also draw on the Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Survey data, the 1994 Russian microcensus and the data of the All-Russian Centre for Public Opinion Research, VTsIOM.

CCLSPublications ISITOODA Project Highlights ISITOLatest Information

Gender Relations in Transition

This theme initially focused on gender relations in production, with work being done by Irina Tartakovskaya and Lena Lapshova of the Samara group, and Elain Bowers from Warwick. Subsequent research on this theme has been developed by Sarah Ashwin (Warwick) and Marina Kiblitskaya, Irina Aristarkhova and Galya Monousova (Moscow), while Irina Tartakovskaya has researched women's careers in industry. Our work on employment restructuring includes a component on the role of gender as a factor in the labour market, and gender issues are central to our consideration of household survival strategies. Irina Aristarkhova's dissertation, Women and Government in Bolshevik Russia and two papers, on Popular Conceptions of Gender Relations in the Middle Ages in England and Russia and on Trans-lating Gender into the Russian (Con)Text have been published as Working Papers and can be downloaded.

This was followed by research focusing on the issue of gender identity in Russia, with a particular emphasis on the role of the state in structuring gender identity and gender relations. This involved two projects, one funded by the Nuffield Foundation and co-ordinated by Elain Bowers from Warwick, and the second a collaborative project between Warwick, co-ordinated by Sarah Ashwin, Bielefeld Interdisciplinary Women's Studies Centre, coordinated by Birgitta Wrede, and groups based in Moscow and on the Volga (Samara and Ulyanovsk) funded under the INTAS programme. Within the framework of this programme research has been undertaken by Elena Mescherkina and Sergei Kukhterin in Moscow, both of whom have researched images of masculinity in the collapse of the Soviet system, primarily through in-depth interviews. Olga Issoupova (Moscow) has researched changing notions of motherhood, Marina Kiblitskaya (Moscow) compared three generations of women breadwinners, while Lena Omelchenko (Ulyanovsk) and Irina Tartakovskaya (Samara) focused on cultural representations of gender. A report on the first year's work is available. The papers resulting from these projects are being prepared for publication in English by UCL Press, although they may now appear under the Routledge imprint. Sarah Ashwin can be contacted at

The most recent project, starting in March 1999, involves groups in Moscow, Syktyvkar, Ulyanovsk and Samara. This project, also funded by INTAS, is being directed by Sarah Ashwin at LSE, in collaboration with Birgit Pfau-Effinger of the University of Bremen and now Berlin, on gender dimensions of employment choice.

The Samara group held a conference at the end of May 1996 on gender relations in post-Soviet society under the Soros Foundation's East-East programme.

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Teaching and Research Training

Our research programme is closely connected with our teaching and research training.
We offer unrivalled opportunities to our research students:

If you are interested, you can make an informal inquiry or make a formal application on-line. Connect to the Sociology Department page.

At present we have four research students conducting research in Russia, in close collaboration with our research teams, and four PhD students who have recently completed their theses:

Vadim Borisov is writing his PhD on `strikes in Russia', based on extensive interviewing of participants in strikes, particularly in the coal-fields, and first hand observation of major strikes in Donbass, Vorkuta and Kuzbass.

Elain Bowers is writing her PhD on `women in production in Russia', based on extensive fieldwork in industrial enterprises in Samara, Moscow and Syktyvkar, focusing on gender stereotyping, accommodation and resistance, and the barriers to women's collective organisation. Motherhood has led her to suspend her studies for the time being.

Rainer Anders started his PhD in October 1998, looking at the interaction of regionalist tendencies in Russia and the process of globalisation. He is intending to build on his work on the Far East to develop a comparative analysis with the Russian North West.

Claudio Morrison is currently preparing an MA dissertation on the peculiarities of post-Soviet management, drawing on his own experience working in the Russian textile industry to develop an analysis of the logic of post-Soviet management. Claudio is hoping to develop his research into a PhD thesis, for which he need MONEY.

Marina Kiblitskaya has completed her PhD on a comparative study of British and Russian enterprises undergoing privatisation and restructuring. Her two enterprises are railway rolling stock repair and maintenance plants in the two countries. Marina has conducted in-depth ethnographic research in the Moscow enterprise over a period of two years, and has done short-term intensive research in the British enterprise on three trips over a period of two years. The thesis can be downloaded from this site by registered users.

Sarah Ashwin has completed her PhD, based primarily on an ethnographic study of one particular Kuzbass mine, paying particular attention to women workers at the mine. Her thesis,which has now been published by Manchester University Press, focuses on collectivism and forms of collectivity in Soviet and post-Soviet Russia, providing an original analysis of the social integration of Russian workers.

Annette Robertson has completed her PhD on the employment impact of coal-mine restructuring, using life history interviews with a cross-section of employed and redundant miners to identify employment patterns, and the symbolism and culture of coal-mining and coal-mining communities.

Rob Ferguson has completed his PhD on workers' organisation in Russia. He is concerned with the relationship between shop floor conflict and workers' organisation, and the relationship between trade unionism and politics. His thesis combines a vigorous defence of the theory of state capitalism with an analysis of the development of the miners' movement in Kuzbass.

Claudio Morrison is currently preparing an MA by thesis on post-Soviet management, with the intention of transferring to a PhD when funds permit.

In addition we have in the past run a special MA programme for students from the former Soviet bloc, funded by the British Council. MA dissertations have been prepared as follows:

Irina Aristarkhova: Women and Government in Bolshevik Russia
Valerii Yakubovich:
Mikhail Maslovsky:
Yuri Alexeichenko: The Professional Formation of a Contemporary Engineer: Between Paradigms of Technocracy and Democracy

Tempus TACIS Programme

We had a very large programme, funded by the EU's Tempus TACIS programme, in collaboration with the College of Sociology in Moscow and the Universities of Manchester and Bielefeld, on the development of sociology in Russia. This programme prepared a new set of postgraduate courses in substantive areas of sociology, with associated textbooks and teaching materials, for young sociologists from Russia's regions and also involved a programme of exchange visits. The programme ran from September 1993 until September 1997. The courses in Moscow are continuing, with funding from the Ford Foundation.

We welcome inquiries from other researchers interested in participating in or collaborating with this programme. We particularly welcome inquiries from those with lots of money to fund the continuation of the research.

We are also very keen to recruit additional research students, who will be able to use our very extensive archive of research materials and network of research contacts as the basis for their doctoral research.