Staunton, Aug. 26 – Vladimir Putin has now shifted from seeking to control civil society organizations via legal restrictions and harassment to the creation of state-controlled” NGOs that can serve his regime the way public organizations commonly referred to as transmission belts did the Soviet regime in the past, Vsevolod Bederson says.
Examples of this latest evolution of the Kremlin’s approach to activism are the Bolshaya Peremena (“Great Change”) youth movement whose board is headed by Putin himself, and the revamping of the Znaniye (“Knowledge”) society whose board is led by Sergey Kiriyenko of the Presidential Administration (ridl.io/ru/ot-pyatoj-kolonny-k-privodnym-remnyam-dinamika-vozdejstviya-gosudarstva-na-nekommercheskie-organizatsii-v-putinskoj-rossii/).
Both these moves, Bederson says, show that “the state’s current aim is to replace the non-profit sector … with state-controlled institutions which will operate as transmission belts.” Earlier, such GONGOs “existed alongside real NGOs and competed with them.” Now, the GONGOs are becoming the state’s main lever for managing civil society.”
As transmission belts in Soviet times demonstrated, the Russian analyst says, “the transmission belt is not meant to simply channel civic activism in a controlled manner. It is intended to complete replace independent activism with state-controlled non-governmental activism.”
To the extent that Bolshaya Peremena and Znaniye become the model, Bederson argues, “we can expect other quasi-civic state-controlled organizations that are part of the power vertical to emerge in the future,” a development that will open the way to an ever more totalitarian way of rule.
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