On the whole,
the progress in the emergence of the structures of civil society in
Russia looks quite impressive displaying a plethora of organizations
and associations active in all sections of public life. No doubt
that, compared with the Soviet past, this in itself is a great
An important step to
recognition of importance of the grassroots organizations in Russia
was the Civic Forum of 2001, the largest gathering of
non-governmental organizations that expressed interest in
interaction with authorities. The practice of conducting forums was
continued in 2002 in Toliatti and in 2003 in Nizhny Novgorod
under the name of "Russian Forum".
In 2005, the Law "On Creation of
the Civic Chamber" was initiated by President Putin. The Civic
Chamber was conceived as a new superstructure for
community organizations. Comprised of 126
representatives of civil society and appointed through a three-tier
selection process, the organization has direct access to federal policymakers.
Its remit is to
provide expert advice on key state decisions and new legislation of
national importance that are likely to have major impact on the
At the same time, civil society organizations
and civil society in general in Russia are often treated with
the authorities. In 2005, stricter regulations of NGOs
were introduced. NGOs had to re-register with the Ministry of Justice and
to provide regular financial reports. The Duma and the Ministry of
Justice accused human rights groups of having links with
organized crime and working for "the West's money."
In January 2006, the "spy rock"
diplomatic scandal between Britain and Russia was used as a justification for tougher regulation
of NGOs including restrictions on foreign grants to
non-governmental organizations in Russia.
As a result, two conflicting processes
seem to be affecting community organizations. On the one hand, a new superstructure for community organizations is
taking shape: the Civic Chamber. On the other, many
non-government organizations created at the grassroots level are
being eliminated or are coming
under state surveillance. Community activism seems to be faced with
a choice: either operating within the framework of the new Civic
Chamber, or ceasing their activities.
of civil society in Russia reflects the transitional and incomplete
nature of the current period when the structure of public interests
and the country’s social structure itself have not yet fully
crystallized. The main problems of civil society
in Russia include:
Limited character of feedback with various social groups
clarity regarding the role of community organizations in societal
Poor understanding of the various forms of
interaction between community organizations and governmental
agencies at the federal and regional levels
continues to oscillate between protest forms (such as, protest voting
actions of protest, including hunger strikes) and political apathy
(such as, low turnout at elections).