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Research Report

A Quest for Democratic Citizenship: Agendas, Practices, and Ideals of Six Russian Grass-Roots Organizations and Movements

Leon Aron
Copyright Date: Sep. 1, 2012
Pages: 53
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 3-8)

    Both before and after the glasnost revolution and the fall of the Soviet Union, the US government has encouraged the development of human rights, civil society, and pluralist political culture through diplomacy and foreign aid. By encouraging political parties, human rights organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and political activists, the United States has traditionally played an active role in promoting the reform of political culture in modern Russia. Beginning in 1989, the “Support for East European Democracy (SEED) Act … has sought to promote democratic and free market transitions in the former communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe, enabling them to...

  2. (pp. 9-14)

    A qualitative study, this project attempts to provide a snapshot of Russian grass-roots civic-political and quasi-political opposition through in-depth research into several representative movements and organizations. The study is comprised of three distinct but overlapping phases:

    I. Extensive background research of the more visible organizations and movements using mostly Russian media and websites;

    II. Selection of the final group of organizations and movements; and

    III. Field research/observation and face-to-face interviews with the leaders of these organizations and movements.

    Prior to the field research phase, nearly two dozen organizations and movements were investigated with respect to the following criteria: (1) protest...

  3. (pp. 15-25)

    At the time of the interviews, the oldest leader was fifty, the youngest twenty-seven, and the rest between twenty-nine and forty-three. The average age was thirty-seven. Without exception, the leaders belonged to the middle class as defined by traditional national criteria, which emphasize not only—and perhaps not so much—economic status, but also education and profession. All were professionals with college or postgraduate degrees. In addition, three leaders had earned (or had begun to earn) second university degrees in business or law. (All the younger activists we met were full-time college students.)

    Perhaps indicative of a deeper socioeconomic metamorphosis...

  4. (pp. 26-34)

    At first blush, there is little that is overtly political in the agendas of all six groups and movements. “We are nonpolitical,” one of the leaders told us,81 and, if asked directly, most of the leaders and activists would likely agree. Indeed, national politics, not to mention regime change, seems to be completely outside their daily goals and activities.

    Yet the interviews made clear that, in the end, none of them could avoid grappling with nationwide issues and confronting key aspects of the regime. It is as if, having resolved to clean a small apartment, one is immediately confounded by...

  5. (pp. 35-36)

    By establishing continuity, evolution, or discontinuity with the earlier findings, this study supplies correctives and updates to some of the patterns, tendencies, and themes suggested by earlier research and highlighted in the literature review above. For instance, while the regime’s persistent control of television continues to hinder associations in their role as “facilitators of civil society” and to impede civil society’s ability to self-inform and self-organize, the data collected confirm the Internet’s ability to breach this monopoly and dramatically expand the “public sphere” into the virtual realm. The Internet’s transformation into a public venue and its contribution to civic activism...