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Rethinking Russia : A Balanced Assessment of Russian Civil Society

Assessments of Russia’s civil society development have been almost universally negative, yet the assessments are usually based on very limited and unsystematic evidence. Missing from the discussion are new developments such as institutions and competitive funding for NGOs and other civic groups that suggest there is a foundation in Russia to support citizen participation in governance.

In this article we present current assumptions about Russian civil society, that public space between the home and government where citizens act collectively. We then report some unexplored developments in Russian civil society, including pockets of public activism, NGO activity, and newly institutionalized frameworks for citizen participation in governance. We submit that these developments merit attention in assessments of contemporary Russian politics.

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