Last year Princeton University Library acquired 182 pieces of print ephemera associated with the mayoral election in Moscow. This collection of ephemera has been digitally imaged and is now available to researchers as a digital collection in the Princeton University Digital Library.
The 2013 Moscow mayoral election was in many ways a barometer for a particular moment in the volatile balance between a longstanding authoritarian federal regime and opposition forces in Russia’s capital, a barometer for the attitudes and reactions of a new urban middle class bristling under authoritarian rule. It stood as an index of the extent to which that class held and was willing to mobilize political capital, and the extent to which the larger population in Moscow was prepared to mount and support opposition to the regime.
In 2013 Alexei Navalny, a Moscow mayoral candidate openly hostile to the Kremlin, managed to run and to become the most serious challenger of the Kremlin-backed incumbent Sergei Sobyanin. There had long been a general perception that high-ranking elected municipal officials, and particularly those in the more populous urban centers, were de facto Kremlin installations who ran in the absence of any serious contest. Alexei Navalny had been a participant of some notoriety in the groundswell of protest and opposition which was set in motion following the State Duma Elections in 2011 and surged after the Presidential Election of 2012, and in 2013 he decided to run as a mayoral candidate in Moscow. He was ultimately not able to unseat the Kremlin-backed incumbent and thwart the Kremlin’s larger political objective for the 2013 Moscow mayoral election. He did, however, receive financial backing from representatives of Moscow’s new monied professional and entrepreneurial classes and succeeded in waging a vigorous and visible campaign and posing a significant challenge to the incumbent. That a rogue candidate was able to achieve this in Russia’s federal administrative capital and most populous city was seen by many as evidence that the Kremlin was no longer able to maintain its monopoly on political power. After declaring his candidacy Navalny was arrested and briefly imprisoned on what many saw as dubious charges, but his release less than 24 hours later was widely registered as a sea-change in Russian politics – a sign that the rogue candidate Navalny had managed to garner enough visibility and popular support to make his imprisonment politically inexpedient for the Kremlin, had succeeded in embarrassing the administration, forcing its hand and posing a formidable challenge to its chosen candidate for the Moscow mayoral seat.
This collection contains 182 pieces of print ephemera documenting the verbal and graphic languages deployed in the propaganda struggle that accompanied the 2013 Moscow mayoral contest.