Civil Society in Russia

So I am currently figuring out my plans next year for my study abroad experience. I’ll be in Moscow for both semesters, so I have time for a more long term project and I want to take full advantage of that opportunity. I plan on studying the recent rise of apolitical not-for-profit and volunteer organizations in Moscow. Russia has historically lacked a civil society, both during the Tsarist rule and the Soviet Union. This is why the current growth of volunteer work is so impressive, as it marks a shift of attitudes. During the Soviet Union, it was expected that the government would take care of the people. Perhaps not very well, but they nonetheless had that responsibility. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the disastrous nineties, the Russian people could no longer expect the same support they once received. I am fascinated by the shifting opinions of what the responsibilities of the government are.

Although political groups are active in Russia today, much like the Intelligentsia of the 19th century, it is all criticism and no action. When a group focuses all their efforts on criticizing the government and nothing more, they are still, in a way, relying on the government for something.  When participating in public protests, they seem to be suggesting they can have some impact on governmental policies. I think that the increase in volunteering suggests that many people are turning away from this view and ignoring the government entirely. Instead of waiting for change they may believe will never come, they are doing their best to help their communities, without any governmental aid. I hope to better understand what larger implications this shift could have on Russian society. Hopefully, gaining more perspective on Russian history will help me in this task.

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