Thursday, March 11, 2021

Free Russia Forum Marks Fifth Anniversary

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 9 – Anyone familiar with Russian émigré organizations knows that few of them last beyond their first meetings and quickly dissolve into smaller bodies around one or more personalities. As a result, their impact as organizations as opposed to that of the individuals who form them is typically minimal.

            That makes the Free Russia Forum survival to five so impressive. Set up by Gary Kasparov, it continues to fill its mission as “an independent space for the Russian opposition to discuss important issues of Russian and international politics and how Russia can exit from its political, economic and civilizational crisis” (

            The Free Russia Forum seeks to “form an intellectual alternative to the Putin regime, an alternative on the basis of which it will be possible to construct a new European Russia. The first meeting of the forum was held in Vilnius five years ago. Since then, there have been four more, the last online.

            The Forum’s “principled position” is “openness and the possibility for all who want to take part to do so. Anyone who does, who shares the values of democracy and considers Russia an inalienable part of the international civilizational community can become a participant, sponsor, and organizer” of the group.

            Three years ago, the Forum set up a Standing Committee with a variety of working groups to serve as continuing body between the annual meetings. The group’s website has become a key source for anyone interested in what Russians who want a free and democratic future for their country should be turning.

            One of the Free Russia Forum’s greatest strengths is something it has sometimes been criticized for: It does not impose a single ideological program on its participants, although many Russian regionalists and federalists believe it remains, as one would perhaps expect given that most of its activists are or have been Muscovites, overly centralist.

            (For some of the regionalists’ criticism of the way their ideas are received at the Free Russia Forum, see and   

            But despite that caveat, the Free Russia Forum in only five years has become part of the intellectual landscape of Russia with a website all who are interested in where Russia may be heading need to pay the closest attention. Congratulations to all involved in the work that has made reaching this anniversary possible.

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