Promoting Democracy and Human Rights in Russia

Promoting Democracy and Human Rights in Russia

Promoting Democracy and Human Rights in Russia

Promoting Democracy and Human Rights in Russia


European regional organisations have spent significant amount of time, energy and money in supporting Russia's transition towards the western liberal-democratic model since the end of the cold war. This book explores the role the Council of Europe, European Union and Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe have played in Russia's post-Soviet transition in the field of human rights and democracy.

The book argues that the organisations have played an important initial role in setting the reform agenda and in providing a general framework for interaction in the field of human rights and democracy. However, since the mid-1990s the impact of regional organisations has been slipping. Lately Russia has challenged the European human rights and democracy norms and now it threatens the whole framework for regional normative cooperation. Russia's attitude towards western liberal order has become more assertive and its defiance increasingly concerted even internationally.

The main finding is that democracy and human rights promotion is not a one-way transference of norms like much of the theoretical literature and European practices presume. The Russian case demonstrates that the so-called target state can influence the norm promoters and the interpretation of the norms in a fundamental way. This is a finding that has significant implications both for theory and practice.


This book explores European efforts to promote human rights and democracy in Russia since the end of the Cold War. The study started out as a PhD project in the early 2000s, when many western observers were full of hope that Russia’s new young and energetic leader would push Russia closer to the west. Since then, the rift between Russia and Europe has widened and the results of normative cooperation between them have disappointed both parties, albeit for different reasons. We are now witnessing again how vague references to the rule of law and democracy by new, practically unknown Russian president stirs hope in the west.

It is fairly safe predict that Russia will continue disappointing its western partners in many fields, yet some positive steps and improvement in human rights and even democracy is not excluded. This book sheds light to the complexity of valuebased cooperation between European regional organizations and Russia. The cooperation on democracy and human rights questions between European actors and Russia that began at the end of the Cold War has not been a huge success nor has it been a complete failure. European actors have managed to positively influence Russia in some issues while they have performed badly in other issues. These mixed results often escape popular journalistic accounts as well as academic research on today’s Russia.

The aim of this book is to offer a more nuanced picture of the relationship by analyzing cases of interaction around specific sets of practical norms between Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Council of Europe and the European Union. It has been a refreshing exercise to abandon abstract notions of ‘liberal democracy’ and ‘human rights’ for a while and concentrate on specific, concrete norms of human rights ombudsman, abolition of the death penalty and free and fair elections. It is comforting to note that not all is lost: by better policies, European normative cooperation can bear positive fruit also with Russia.

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