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  Путь : Главная / / John Lloyd: Civil society in Russia is bloodied but not buried 

John Lloyd: Civil society in Russia is bloodied but not buried

John Lloyd: Civil society in Russia is bloodied but not buried 19 марта 2015 автор: Ллойд Джон

The Moscow School was planned as Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of openness allowed the exhumation of the suppressed people, histories and literature of pre-Soviet times and the USSR’s early years. Lena Nemirovskaya and Yuri Senokosov were Soviet intellectuals, she an art historian, he a philosopher; comfortably placed in the official intellectual hierarchy, uncomfortable in their Soviet skins. They were the planners — planning to illuminate how freedom might be used.

They were guided by Georgian philosopher Merab Mamardashvili. “Russia,” he told an American interviewer in 1989, “jumped out of history and committed the metaphysical suicide of trying to bypass reality for the ideal.” The task this middle-aged couple took on was to help Russians, especially the rising generation, to construct a grounded reality of democratic process, civil society, rights and, above all, responsibility.

Thus the Moscow School of Political Studies, later the Moscow School of Civic Education, was founded as the USSR crumbled. From the start its funding was largely foreign: a succession of western ambassadors told their governments that here was a centre to which support could be given that would not be wasted or diverted to Switzerland.

Ms Nemirovskaya taught herself English then buttonholed politicians, officials, institution presidents, journalists and corporate bosses to imbue in them the urgency she believed the civic education of Russia required. As throughout the post-Communist world, money from financier George Soros was vital. The school’s success, most evident in the late 1990s and early 2000s, attracted imitation: there are a dozen Moscow School-type institutions in the world now, modelled on the original.

Foreign money paid for most of it, from seminars and conferences to a lively website, all run by dedicated young staff. Seminars were addressed by Russians and foreigners. The former included Yegor Gaidar, the economist and former acting prime minister, and Alexei Kudrin, a previous finance minister. The foreigners included Boris Johnson, London mayor; Lord Mandelson, former UK cabinet minister; Lord Skidelsky, the biographer of John Maynard Keynes; and many more.

The participants — usually well educated, confident, clamouring to be heard — grew more self-assured, less impressed by western attitudes. In one session during Nato action against Serbia in 1999, French policy analyst Dominique Moïsi and I were subjected by the audience — mainly journalists — to a tirade of protests, pointing out that “the west” had attacked a traditional Russian ally (we were reminded that Anna Karenina’s lover, Vronsky, goes off to assist Serbia against the Turks).

Now the Moscow School has been closed. Identified as a “foreign agent” under the 2013 law that stigmatises non-governmental organisations operating in the field of politics and accepting money from abroad, it struggled to survive — but, shorn of funds, denied venues and faced with a vicious, co-ordinated attack in the pro-Kremlin media, Ms Nemirovskaya and Mr Senokosov were obliged to shut up shop and try to chart a new course.

The aftermath of the murder of pro-democracy activist Boris Nemtsov (another former speaker) is both a good and a drear time to craft a memorial — but not an obituary. The energy powering the Moscow School was a determination on the part of many, more than is now obvious, to grapple with Russia’s historic default to authoritarianism.

“We have to lift up our heads and liberate independent social forces,” said Mamardashvili, the School’s philosophical inspiration. “When nobody is independent no politics is possible.” Civic politics is still possible. And it will be fashioned by Russians, not — as the Kremlin believes — by foreign plotters.

Source: The Financial Times

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Путь : Главная / / John Lloyd: Civil society in Russia is bloodied but not buried
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