Russian pensioners reverse welfare cuts


Reversal of benefits cuts, increased pension amount, and the dismissal/resignation of culpable lawmakers.

Time period

9 January, 2005 to 18 January, 2005



Location City/State/Province

St. Petersburg
Jump to case narrative

Methods in 1st segment

  • blocking the entrance to the highway and other places

Methods in 2nd segment

Methods in 3rd segment

  • blocked roads to governor's home and town hall

Methods in 4th segment

Methods in 5th segment

Methods in 6th segment

Additional methods (Timing Unknown)

  • In Tula, pensioners took over several buses

Segment Length

40 hours




Communist Party

External allies

not known

Involvement of social elites

The support of the Patriarch of the Orthodox Russian Church, Alexei II


Russian government, President Vladimir Putin,

Campaigner violence

No campaigner violence

Repressive Violence

Arrest of several party leaders in St. Petersburg.


Economic Justice



Group characterization


Groups in 1st Segment

Communist Party

Segment Length

40 hours

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

4 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


2 out of 3 points

Total points

7 out of 10 points

Database Narrative

Due to a large aging population, 34 million out of the 143 million Russian citizens lived on pensions in 2005. Prior to 2005, a typical Russian pension consisted of just over $70, which central and regional governments supplemented with free public transportation, housing subsidies, and for some pensioners, free prescriptions and telephones.

On 1 January 2005, the government enacted a law that replaced the benefits listed above with a cash subsidy that averaged just over $7 and supplemented the original $70 pension. They claimed that this would not harm the elderly citizens in any way, though $7 was much less than the monetary worth of the benefits that they had previously received.

The Communist Party organized a rally against this monetization of benefits on 9 January, the 100th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” when the guards of Tsar Nicholas II fired on nonviolent demonstrators and sparked the Revolution of 1905. The rally took place in a suburb of Moscow and garnered a few hundred supporters. The next day, 800 elderly demonstrators blocked the entrance to the highway that runs from Moscow to St. Petersburg. The police arrested twelve protesters, though they quickly released them when protesters threatened the police with legal action. There was no organizing body for this protest; word simply spread quickly amongst the angry pensioners that lived near the highway.

Over the next week, protests against the new pension measure spread across Russia, and many cities started holding daily protests. The patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Alexey II, voiced his support for the protests, even though he was known for rarely taking a stance on political issues. Opposition parties organized some of the protests, and others emerged spontaneous. On 13 January, 13,000 people gathered for a protest in St. Petersburg, demanding their benefits back and a raise in their pension amount. They waved red flags, which symbolized communism, and denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin, the ruling Russian political party, United Russia, and the specific lawmakers that had taken their benefits away. Protesters also called for the resignation or dismissal of the responsible lawmakers.

The regional government of Moscow, along with a few other rich regions in Russia, announced that they would reinstate the previous benefits. However, poorer regions were not able to follow through without the help of the central government. On 14 January, the central government announced that they would consider raising the basic pension amount in April by 15% instead of 5%. That day in St. Petersburg, protesters blocked several main roads.

On 15 January, the police arrested 10 political party leaders at a protest in St. Petersburg for not obtaining authorization for the protests. Nevertheless, unauthorized rallies and protests continued to take place around the country. Most of these were rallies outside of central government buildings, though in many cities like St. Petersburg, protesters continued to block off streets. Political parties organized some of these protests, but ordinary elderly citizens organized the majority of them. Young people started to protest in solidarity alongside the elderly. Two days later, Putin announced that pensions would increase on 1 March by $8. Pensioners saw this as a meaningless and vastly insufficient move, and continued to protest. In several cities, groups of pensioners and supporters that ranged from fifty to hundreds of people blocked the entrances to government buildings and important roads. The next day, Putin announced that the government would reintroduce free travel and would double pensions. Satisfied with this compromise, pensioners stopped protesting.


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Anon. 2005. “Thousands Of Retirees Protest Russian Pension Cutbacks.” Thousands of Retirees Protest Russian Pension Cutbacks. Retrieved November 20, 2015 (

Bigg, Claire. 2005. “Protests Across Russia Force Putin to Double Increase in Pension Payments.” The Guardian. Retrieved (

Buckley, Neil and Arkady Ostrovsky. 2005. “Huge Protests in Russia over Benefits.” Financial Times. Retrieved November 20, 2015 (

Buzgalin, Aleksandr and Andrey Kolganov. 2005. “Russia awakes: social protest 100 years after the beginning of the First Russian revolution.” LINKS. Retrieved December 9, 2015 (

Jeffries, Ian. 2011. Political Developments in Contemporary Russia. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Meyers, Steven Lee. 2005. “Putin Reforms Greeted By Street Protests.” New York Times, January 16. Retrieved (

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Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Irina Bukharin, 20/11/2015