Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, July 13, 2015

Isolating Russia

For the last couple hundred years of Russian and Soviet history the debate between the Slavophiles and the Zapadniki have gone on. The Slavophiles want to preserve the ideals and values of Russia and they want to avoid the importation of Western influences. The Zapadniki saw Russia's future in adapting industrialization and Western social and political ideas.

Currently, the Slavophiles are winning. But is that doing more than isolating Russian and strengthening Putin?

Unlikely Targets in Cross Hairs as Russia Aims to Expose Foreign Influence
Dmitry Zimin, the telecommunications billionaire and benefactor of a foundation known as the Dynasty Fund, was not calling for revolution or election monitors. His efforts were elsewhere: awarding grants to young Russian researchers and financing high school science camps.

But after a monthlong battle to remove the foundation from a list of “foreign agents,” the Dynasty Fund’s board announced this past week that the organization would close…

Mr. Zimin became an unlikely casualty of Russia’s campaign to expose foreign influences that President Vladimir V. Putin has deemed threatening. While some targets have been predictable, Russia’s new foreign agents include an organization that supports the mothers of soldiers and Memorial, Russia’s oldest human rights organization, founded to research repression under the Soviet Union.

Even with anti-Western sentiment at a fever pitch, the labeling of Dynasty as a foreign agent struck Russian scientists as bizarre. Founded by Mr. Zimin in 2002, Dynasty sought to reinvigorate Russian science after a devastating decade of post-Soviet budget cuts.

“In short, this man gave two billion rubles of his own money and they decided to abuse him,” said Mikhail Gelfand, a Russian biologist who had taught courses for Dynasty. “Dynasty formed around itself a community of successful and respectable people. Apparently that was seen by the government as something suspicious and dangerous.”

Officially, the cause was Dynasty’s support for the organization Liberal Mission, which held lectures on modern politics last year in Moscow, and the foreign money was Mr. Zimin’s own, from offshore banks…

On Wednesday, Russian lawmakers released a preliminary list of 12 nongovernment organizations that could be banned under a “patriotic stop-list” signed into law by Mr. Putin in May. It includes large organizations like George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, as well as smaller groups that seem unlikely targets.

Martyna Bogaczyk, vice president of the board of the Education for Democracy Foundation, based in Warsaw, said in a telephone interview that her group was taken aback to be put on such a list after 15 years in Russia holding teacher seminars, promoting volunteerism and working with local schools on civic initiatives. Noting the much larger organizations on the list, like Open Society and the MacArthur Foundation, Ms. Bogaczyk said: “We are not these kind of players.”…

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