Citizen-led Justice in Post-Communist Russia
From Comrades' Courts to Dotcomrade Vigilantism
This paper aims to provide a theoretical conceptualization of digital vigilantism in its manifestation in the Russian Federation where cases do not emerge spontaneously, but are institutionalized, highly organized, and systematic. Given the significant historical context of collective justice under Communism, the current manifestation of digital vigilantism in Russia raises questions about whether it is an example of re-packaged history backed with collective memory or a natural outspread of conventional practices to social networks. This paper reviews historical practices of citizen-led justice in the Soviet state and compares these practices with digital vigilantism that takes place in contemporary post-Communist Russia. The paper argues that despite new affordances that digital media and social networks brought about in the sphere of citizen-led justice, the role of the state in manifesting this justice in the Russian Federation remains significant. At the same time, with technological advances, certain key features of these practices, such as participants, their motives, capacity, targets, and audience engagement have undergone a significant evolution.