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The Ideology of Putinism: Is It Sustainable?

October 2, 2023

Does Vladimir Putin have an ideology? The authors of this report argue that he does. Borrowing heavily from czarist and Soviet themes, as well as other intellectual sources like the twentieth-century radical right, Putinism elevates an idea of imperial-nationalist statism amplified by Russian greatness, exceptionalism, and historical struggle against the West. Statism, a key pillar of Putin's ideology, includes deference to a strong, stable state, allowing Russians to be Russians; such statism is based on exceptionalism and traditional values. Another pillar is anti-Westernism, which, when combined with Russian exceptionalism, promotes a messianic notion of Russia as a great power and civilization state, guarding a Russo-centric polyculturalism, traditional family and gender roles, and guarding against materialism and individualism. That this ideology is not spelled out in philosophical texts but most often absorbed through signs, symbols, and popular culture makes it both malleable and easily digestible for less-educated people. Will this ideology help keep Putin in power? This report suggests that it could. Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine and its radical break with the West have prompted the regime to mount even more sustainable ideology-building effort. It is hard to see where challenges to the Putinist ideology could emerge in Russia. Societal resistance to Kremlin propaganda has remained marginal, even during more liberal periods. An alternative pro-Western identity able to challenge the Kremlin's propaganda has failed to emerge and is less likely following the massive exodus of Russian liberals as a result of the Ukraine war. The flexibility of Putin's ideology machine and the simplicity of the narratives it spreads suggest that Putinism is not going anywhere soon and may become further entrenched in the Russian social sphere. 

American Philanthropy and Russian, Slavic, and Eurasian Studies in the United States, 1920–1940s

August 25, 2023

The unprecedented growth of Russian/Slavic/Eurasian area studies programs in North America during the Cold War was a direct consequence of massive government support, including from military and intelligence agencies, which turned these programs into some of the most influential and sustained areas of research activity in the English-speaking world. The boom in Russian/Eurasian area studies underscored the paucity and inadequacy of the previous scholarship, which was primarily represented by a small number of individual researchers, driven by their own idiosyncratic interests and agendas. If prior to the Second World War, the more systematic studies of the Eurasian space, produced in Germany, Austria-Hungary and France, enjoyed steady government support, the production of knowledge about Eurasia in the United States had to rely on funding from selected universities and private benefactors who came predominantly from the world of industry, finance, and commerce.

The Disinformation Landscape in West Africa and Beyond

June 29, 2023

The prominence of West Africa, and Africa as a whole, within the global disinformation ecosystem cannot be ignored. A report by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies released in April 2022 identified twenty-three disinformation campaigns targeting African countries dating back to 2014. Of these campaigns, sixteen are linked to Russia.This report examines several influence operation case studies from the West African region, with a particular emphasis on Mali, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, and Niger. The narratives, actors, and contexts supporting these influence operations are summarized alongside their impact on regional stability. Russian influence plays a significant role in these case studies, an unsurprising fact considering the geopolitical history of this region. This report also includes case studies from outside the Sahel region, consisting of thematically distinct but strategically noteworthy influence campaigns from elsewhere on the continent.

Nations in Transit 2023: War Deepens a Regional Divide

May 24, 2023

In 2023, Democracy Scores declined in 11 out of the 29 countries in the report, and 7 countries earned improvements. Yet civic activists and democratic leaders continued to strive for better governance across the diverse region.Key Findings:For the 19th consecutive year, democratic governance suffered an overall decline in the region stretching from Central Europe to Central Asia.Democratic institutions stood strong in Ukraine but collapsed further in Russia.On illiberal populism, European Union member states pursued diverging paths.EU hopefuls made democratic progress, but still face daunting obstacles.Autocracies remained trapped in a vicious circle of repression and instability.

Russia’s Influence In Africa: Scenarios To Inform Greater Democratic Resilience

March 13, 2023

This paper is the result of a scenario-building exercise that NDI conducted in October and November 2022 with African, American and European analysts. Through the exercise, NDI sought to better understand potential trajectories of Russian influence in Africa over the next three years (2023–2025), especially developments that could have implications for democracy on the continent. This scenario exercise involved: background papers on various aspects of Russia's engagement in Africa; an online scenario-building workshop with African, American and European analysts; the development of four scenarios, each reflecting a different possible future identified during the online exercise; and further refinement of the scenarios based on consultations with selected analysts. Each of the four scenarios reflects a different combination of two key uncertainties: Russia's capacity to project power in ways that undermine democracy in Africa and the opportunities for Russia to do so.

Philanthropy in BRICS countries and the UN Sustainable Development Goals

March 1, 2023

Philanthropy in the BRICS countries and the UN Sustainable Development Goals is a review prepared by Russian Donors Forum alongside with the research Philanthropy and social investment in the BRICS countries. The review analyses how philanthropy in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa is aligning its activity with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), what progress has already been made and what challenges the sector faces.The review studies the common features of philanthropy of the BRICS countries, as well as the role of Agenda 2030 in the sector of philanthropy and social investment in each of the countries.

Philanthropy and social investment in BRICS countries

March 1, 2023

Philanthropy and social investment in the BRICS countries is a study initiated by the Russian Donors Forum Association and the Ural Federal University Center for Research of Philanthropy and Social Programs. The International partners of the study are the Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support Association (WINGS) and the Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose Association (CECP Global Exchange). In addition to the research there has been published a review Philanthropy in the BRICS countries and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.The aim of the study was to conduct a comparative analysis of the donor communities of the BRICS countries and to assess the COVID-19 impact on the sector of philanthropy and social investment.The study represents a portrait of the donor communities of the BRICS countries, the external conditions of their activities, including the regulatory environment; highlights the urgency of the donor organizations' work. In addition, the authors of the study tried to identify the challenges that arose before the donor community of the BRICS countries in connection with the global crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as analyze the activities and approaches of the donor community aimed at combating the pandemic and its social consequences.

“This Is Why We Became Activists”: Violence Against Lesbian, Bisexual, and Queer Women and Non-Binary People

February 14, 2023

According to interviews Human Rights Watch conducted with 66 lesbian, bisexual, and queer (LBQ+) activists, researchers, lawyers, and movement leaders in 26 countries between March and September 2022, forced marriage is one of ten key areas of human rights abuses most affecting LBQ+ women's lives. Human Rights Watch identified the following areas of LBQ+ rights as those in need of immediate investigation, advocacy, and policy reform. This report explores how the denial of LBQ+ people's rights in these ten areas impacts their lives and harms their ability to exercise and enjoy the advancement of more traditionally recognized LGBT rights and women's rights:the right to free and full consent to marriage;land, housing, and property rights;freedom from violence based on gender expression;freedom from violence and discrimination at work;freedom of movement and the right to appear in public without fear of violence;parental rights and the right to create a family;the right to asylum;the right to health, including services for sexual, reproductive, and mental health;protection and recognition as human rights defenders; andaccess to justice.This investigation sought to analyze how and in what circumstances the rights of LBQ+ people are violated, centering LBQ+ identity as the primary modality for inclusion in the report. Gender-nonconforming, non-binary, and transgender people who identify as LBQ+ were naturally included. At the same time, a key finding of the report is that the fixed categories "cisgender" and "transgender" are ill-suited for documenting LBQ+ rights violations, movements, and struggles for justice. As will be seen in this report, people assigned female at birth bear the weight of highly gendered expectations which include marrying and having children with cisgender men, and are punished in a wide range of ways for failing or refusing to meet these expectations. Many LBQ+ people intentionally decenter cisgender men from their personal, romantic, sexual, and economic lives. In this way, the identity LBQ+ itself is a transgression of gendered norms. Whether or not an LBQ+ person identifies as transgender as it is popularly conceptualized, the rigidly binary (and often violently enforced) gender boundaries outside of which LBQ+ people already live, regardless of their gender identity, may help to explain why the allegedly clear division between "cisgender" and "transgender" categories simply does not work for many LBQ+ communities. This report aims to explore and uplift, rather than deny, that reality.

Fault Lines: Global Perspectives on a World in Crisis

September 8, 2022

During the last days of July and early August, 2022, the Open Society Foundations commissioned polling of more than 21,000 people living in 22 countries to gauge public opinion on key issues facing the world today.The polling, by Datapraxis, YouGov, and two local providers asked a series of questions that ranged from attitudes towards Russia's war in Ukraine; the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic; the need for international climate action; and the current cost-of-living crisis. The survey also sought to gauge support across a range of ambitious policy options.More than two-thirds of the respondents live in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, providing broad insights into how people around the world are reacting to this spiral of crisis. The findings suggest a high level of agreement regarding the most significant challenges facing the world today—and a common desire for effective global action in response. But they also show continuing divisions over Russia's aggression against Ukraine, and a lack of confidence in the international community's ability to work together to address global threats.

“We Had No Choice”: “Filtration” and the Crime of Forcibly Transferring Ukrainian Civilians to Russia

September 1, 2022

Since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Russian and Russian-affiliated officials have forcibly transferred Ukrainian civilians, including those fleeing hostilities, to areas of Ukraine occupied by Russia or to the Russian Federation, a serious violation of the laws of war amounting to a war crime and a potential crime against humanity. Many of those forcibly transferred were fleeing the besieged port city of Mariupol.Russian and Russian-affiliated authorities also subjected thousands of these Ukrainian citizens to a process referred to by Russia as "filtration," a form of compulsory security screening, in which they typically collected civilians' biometric data, including fingerprints and front and side facial images; conducted body searches, and searched personal belongings and phones; and questioned them about their political views. Ukrainian civilians were effectively interned as they waited to undergo this process, with many reporting that they were housed in overcrowded and squalid conditions, for periods as short as several hours for up to almost a month.Forced transfers and the filtration process constitute and involve separate and distinct abuses against civilians, although many Ukrainian civilians experienced both.This report documents the forcible transfer of Ukrainian civilians from Mariupol and the Kharkiv region to Russia and Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine. Unlike combatants who, once captured, are held as prisoners of war (POWs) and may be moved to enemy territory, the forcible transfer of civilians is prohibited under international humanitarian law, or the laws of war, and can be prosecuted as a war crime and a crime against humanity. The report describes various kinds of pressure the Russian military and other Russian and Russian-affiliated officials used to make Ukrainian civilians fleeing hostilities go to Russia or the so-called "Donetsk People's Republic" (DNR), an area of the Donetsk region controlled by Russian-affiliated armed groups and currently occupied by Russia (DNR is used in this report as a reference to this area, not as recognition of any claims to sovereignty). The report also describes the many challenges Ukrainian civilians faced and the abuses they suffered as they attempted to flee Mariupol for Ukrainian-controlled territory and avoid going to Russia, or as they tried to leave Russia for a third country.

Hackers, Hoodies, and Helmets: Technology and the changing face of Russian private military contractors

July 25, 2022

The first time Russia invaded Ukraine in the twenty-first century, the Wagner Group was born. The now widely profiled private military company (PMC) played an important role in exercising Russian national power over the Crimea and portions of the Donbas—while giving Moscow a semblance of plausible deniability. In the near decade since, the Russian PMC sector has grown considerably, and is active in more than a dozen countries around the world. PMCs are paramilitary organizations established and run as private companies—though they often operate in contract with one or more states. They are profit-motivated, expeditionary groups that make a business of the conduct of war. PMCs are in no way a uniquely Russian phenomenon, yet the expanding footprint of Russian PMCs and their links to state interests call for a particularly Russian-focused analysis of the industry. The growth of these firms and their direct links to the Kremlin's oligarch network as well as Moscow's foreign media, industrial, and cyber activities present a challenge to the United States and its allies as they seek to counter Russian malicious activities abroad.The accelerating frequency of PMCs found operating around the world and the proliferation of private hacking, surveillance, and social media manipulation tools suggest that Russian PMCs will pose diverse policy challenges to the United States and allies going forward. This issue brief seeks to offer an initial exploration of these questions in the context of how these PMCs came about and how they are employed today. The section below addresses the origin and operations of PMCs in Russian international security strategy, and also profiles the changing role of technology in conflict and the activities of these PMCs. The last section closes with a set of open research questions.

International Attitudes Toward the U.S., NATO and Russia in a Time of Crisis

June 22, 2022

This Pew Research Center analysis focuses on public opinion of the United States, Russia and NATO in 17 countries in North America, Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region. The report draws on nationally representative surveys of 19,903 adults from Feb. 14 to May 11, 2022. All surveys were conducted over the phone with adults in Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea. Surveys were conducted face to face in Poland and Israel and online in Australia.Data collection began a week prior to Russia's invasion of Ukraine in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the UK and Japan. All other countries began fieldwork the same day as or shortly after the invasion. Due to the time it takes to translate, program and test questions on our international surveys, we prioritized gathering data at the start of this significant international event rather than delaying, or pausing, fieldwork to add questions specifically about the war or the actions taken by world leaders in response. Analysis focuses on ratings of Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin, the countries they lead and NATO as the war in Ukraine was unfolding. In this report, the data is discussed in the context of over a decade of cross-national trends.Views of Russia and NATO also include data from the United States. We surveyed 3,581 U.S. adults from March 21 to 27, 2022, after the start of the war in Ukraine. Everyone who took part in this survey is a member of the Center's American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories.