Location: Bowdoin / Gender and Women's Studies / Redefining the Common Good After Communism / Abstracts / James Richter

Gender and Women's Studies

James Richter

“The Ministry of Civil Society”

James Richter
Bates College

    This research project examines Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent efforts to organize civil society behind his project of “sovereign democracy.”  Though Putin and his advisors have long recognized that competing in the global marketplace required some room for individual initiative, they  have  also feared that embracing globalization entirely would weaken the Russian state.  This fear became particularly acute after popular demonstrations in Georgia and Ukraine—which most members of the Russian elite believe were organized with Western help—overturned political leaders generally sympathetic with Russian interests.  In the wake of these “colored revolutions”, the Kremlin stepped up its efforts to create a network of “public” or “social” councils giving NGO representatives an advisory role at all levels of government, headed by the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation at the top.  These councils provide an institutionalized channel for societal demands that, theoretically, may make it ensure societal demands are contained within acceptable boundaries.  The overlapping membership between such councils and other NGOs supported by the Kremlin have created an interlocking directorate of social activists in Russia.  In the end, however, these councils have no accountability to the society they are supposed to represent, and most likely will devolve into just another state bureaucracy.