On the Road to the Civic Forum: State and Civil Society from Yeltsin to Putin

By Weigle, Marcia A. | Demokratizatsiya, Spring 2002 | Go to article overview

On the Road to the Civic Forum: State and Civil Society from Yeltsin to Putin


Weigle, Marcia A., Demokratizatsiya


On 21-22 November 2001, an extraordinary event took place in the Kremlin: Vladimir Putin, members of his cabinet, and other government officials met with representatives of more than three hundred nongovernmental and noncommercial organizations (NGOs and NKOs) to discuss practical measures for solving Russia's social problems. The president and government ministers, attempting to strengthen the state after a decade of turmoil, made overtures to Russia's slowly developing civil society, claiming that an effective and democratic state requires a strong, well-organized, and independent society. President Yeltsin had also reached out to social groups, seeking a "social accord" to support his political and economic reforms in 1992 and 1994. But the 2001 meeting differed from Yeltsin's populist-driven sessions. Russia's growing civil society, although still undeveloped by contemporary standards, is now more structured, and its practitioners operate from a more interest-driven set of priorities. Independent activists are now able to engage the president from a position of increased strength, as evidenced by the fact that they rejected Putin's attempts to privilege certain NGOs over others, exacerbate disagreements between NGOs and some human fights groups, and determine the composition and orientation of the Civic Forum. (1) Russia's independent groups organized their own participation in the conference, put their mark on the structure of the forum, and composed an agenda for future action. Although Russian civil society, as its activists realize, is in no position to engage the state as an equal partner, the Putin-initiated Civic Forum was a recognition of the social and political importance of independent groups as they organize to consolidate their resources.

Still, the nagging question of motivation remains. Was the Civic Forum merely an attempt by a wily Putin to co-opt Russia's independent associations, to "tame" them using "open dialogue" to mask authoritarian plans? (2) Or was this meeting indicative of a new model of state-society relations, heralding an unprecedented opportunity for independent groups to gain legitimacy, obtain resources, hold state officials accountable, and help address social problems? (3) On these questions the jury is still out. It is clear that Putin, disingenuously or not, is now publicly articulating what theorists and activists have been saying for a long time: civil society is essential for the consolidation of democracy. The very public recognition of that fact legitimates the goals of civil society in official discourse and offers a presidential commitment to steer federal resources toward the institutionalization of civil society activity. It also challenges independent groups to organize at the federal level, dispense with debilitating bickering, pool their resources, and develop strategies to cooperate with state officials in the pursuit of common goals while holding those officials accountable for their actions.

Despite an overconceptualization of the term and disagreements over definitions, attributes, orientations, and levels of development, "civil society" has entered the parlance of transition theories and practice, as the Russian literature indicates. Civil society contributes to the consolidation of democracy for several reasons: the liberal (as opposed to communal) self-organization of society promotes values of democratic citizenship, (4) creates a support base for democratic leaders, (5) goes hand in hand with a free enterprise market economy, (6) strengthens the activity of democratic political parties, (7) prevents the state from drifting toward authoritarianism, (8) makes the executive and legislative branches from the local to the federal level more effective and responsive, (9) promotes a more efficient use of local resources, (10) and addresses social problems more effectively than the government can. (11) Civil society assumes sociological as well as political and economic importance by integrating individuals and groups into a community bound together by common laws and norms of behavior, (12) reconstituting a common public identity of individuals as voluntary citizens after the forced public participation of the communist years (13) and allowing citizens to define the standards on which social relations are based, thus preventing the state from "colonizing" public life. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

On the Road to the Civic Forum: State and Civil Society from Yeltsin to Putin
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.