Internet Activism in Azerbaijan: Civil Society Renewed?

Project leader

Sofie Bedford, PhD

Project period


Project description

The empirical aim of this research project was to analyze the features and functions of the phenomenon of Internet activism in the Azerbaijani context. On a theoretical level the purpose was to link between the roles of civil society and informal social networks in the democratic consolidation process.

Observing successful dissent in the Middle East during the so-called Arab spring young activists in Azerbaijan attempted to mobilize support for similar anti-government protests both ‘virtual’ and in real life. As traditional descriptions of Azerbaijani civil society paint a bleak picture, similar to that of many other former Communist countries this mobilization symbols the rise of a new opposition in Azerbaijan consisting of “young, Internet-savvy, and Western-educated” individuals. The project found that if one looked beyond formal civil society organizations, informal social capital was blooming in the post-Arab spring era in Azerbaijan. Some rather active mobilization of youth was taking place in through social networking in a ‘virtual reality’, where online forums such as chat-rooms, blogs, Facebook and interest-oriented mailing lists were the main arenas for interaction. Theoretically the project provided an opportunity to contribute to the literature on activism and mobilization. It also elaborated on the roles of these activists on the civil society arena and in the ongoing democratization process.


Special Section: Political Mobilization in Azerbaijan – The January 2013 Protests and Beyond, Democratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization 22 (1) 2014:

The January 2013 Protests and Beyond, Sofie Bedford

Challenging the Aliyev Regime: Political Opposition in Azerbaijan, Shahla Sultanova

Two Can Play at That game: Social Media Opportunities in Azerbaijan for Government and Opposition, Katy Pearce

No Laughing Matter: Humor as a Means of Dissent in the Digital Era: The Case of Authoritarian Azerbaijan, Katy Pearce and Adnan Hajizade.

Sofie Bedford: Islamic Opposition in Azerbaijan: Discursive Conflicts and Beyond. In Simons, Greg and David Westerlund (eds.) Religion, Politics and Nation-Building in Post-Communist Countries. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2015: 155-187.


Research symposium: #protestBaku. Is Azerbaijan Next in Line for a Democratic Revolution? May 21 2013 (funded by a research initiation grant from Riksbankens Jubileumsfond).