This article examines state–civil society relationships in contemporary Russia. Its objective is to assess opportunity structures of Russian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that are intertwined with the state. The article presents qualitative data from fieldwork in the Russian cities of Moscow, St Petersburg, Nizhniy Novgorod, and Perm in 2009 and 2010. The focus of NGOs in the field of disability was chosen because of their roles as social service providers and as advocates for the rights of the disabled. The findings indicate that despite the Soviet legacy of an occupying state, Russian NGOs widen their opportunities by maintaining close relationships with state structures. Thus, litigation strategies seem to be an effective instrument for fostering social change for the benefit of the disabled.
This paper examines how civic organisations dealing with social rights have responded to Russian welfare reforms. As beneficiaries of the Soviet paternalistic system of social provision, their interest has been to resist neoliberal policy shifts. However, the crackdown on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) under President Putin de-incentivises making challenging political claims. By distinguishing between ‘rent-seeking’ and ‘profit-seeking’ activities of NGOs (resulting in either the redistribution or production of public wealth), this paper enhances understanding of state–society relations in Russia. It highlights contradictory practices that allow the state to reduce overt, politicised protest by providing channels for certain privileged social groups and organisations.
This article examines anti-corruption activities in Georgia after the Rose Revolution of November 2003 under the administration of Mikheil Saakashvili. It aims to analyse the existence of different assessments on the country's success in fighting corruption and applies an interpretive framework to study these assessments as “narratives” that reveal the diverging or converging interests of anti-corruption actors in sustaining a common narrative on the country's reforms. The article examines how the two main anti-corruption actors – the Georgian government and international organisations – frame their activities into two different representations of success and seek a mutual validation on them. It aims to identify the factors underlying a (non)-convergence of these actors into a common representation or an “official transcript” of their activities. The case study of the adoption of a national anti-corruption strategy in Georgia in 2005 reveals the difficulty of these two actors to validate their representations and to sustain a coherent image. Certain inherent contradictions in the relations between donor organisations and transition or developing countries, in particular in the juxtaposition of the two notions of a “transfer of external knowledge” and “local ownership/political will”, are viewed as the main factors behind this problem of validation.
Why some political parties join popular protests, whereas others abstain or even oppose? Using paired case-study comparison between the Russian regions, we examine political parties' strategies towards “For Fair Elections” movement in 2011-2012 and explain these choices through two jointly operating mechanisms: level of party institutionalisation and cooptation. We show that despite the symbiosis of the state and political parties and overall parties' loyalty to the regime, they differ in their strategy and degree of involvement in social movement development. There is a considerable variation among the same parties’ regional offices in their strategies. We argue that the mechanism of party institutionalisation explains the switch between involvement and abstention, while cooptation does a better job in explaining the “support/ counteract” choice.