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Miloš Vec

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An anthropology of NGOs

The oppositional social coalitions that have proliferated in post-Soviet Russia have been as interpreted as national liberation movements in the last multi-national Empire. Arguments for world governance find favour mainly in states where such ethnic-national divisions do not exist. They often conflate such movements with organizations that, while calling themselves "movements", are by no means popular. Some pursue hopelessly separatist agendas. Others perform foreign policy functions a state finds inconvenient to accomplish directly. Others install a "benevolent colonialism" complete with local westernized bourgeoisies. Tishkov warns of putting the legitimacy of the state at the mercy of such ambiguous-natured organizations.

"Movements" as a post-factual rationalization

This essay is a reaction to Claus Leggewie's article, which provides a fresh look at the role of voluntary organizations and social movements in the world today. To a certain extent, Leggewie's position is an apologia of NGOs and mass-based social movements and their "democratizing role", which he traces back to the siege of the Bastille prison, an historical fact that he considers to have been unequivocally positive. Let us not debate about what actually happened in Paris on 14 July 1789, and join Leggewie in relying on historians' and painters' revolutionizing metaphors of Liberty Leading the People. Even so, the issue of "movements" isn't all that simple, although we have been used to the term since our very first history textbooks at school. Over the past decade and a half, the territory of the USSR and the post-Soviet states has witnessed the construction of various "national", "democratic", "revivalist", and other movements, although in all cases I know of nothing much actually moved. What did take place was active journalistic commentary, a politico-ideological indoctrination of a significant part of the population, and public manifestations of various sizes, sometimes as large as the mass meetings (by this I mean voluntary and purposeful gatherings of people at one place) of sports fans or lovers of bard songs.[1]

Sports aficionados or songsters are rarely termed "movements", although they also have their mottos and aims ("Go Spartak Go!"), but the term is almost always applied to gatherings around political, ethnic, or religious slogans, both by the activists themselves and by experts. Apparently this is necessary in order to reinforce the legitimacy and significance of collective actions which are expensive and difficult to organize. Often, however, incidental or sporadic actions by individuals or small groups are counted as "movements" and accorded a national or global significance by later interpreters of the "historic events". In the late 1980s and early 1990s, local ethno-nationalisms in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and the Russian republics of Bashkiria, Tatarstan, Chechnya, and Yakutia, obtained the label of national liberation movements or simply national movements. For enthusiasts of the phenomenon of "ethnic revival", this meant that, for "full symmetry", such movements should also exist in other ethno-territorial autonomous regions. That is exactly how scholars and political commentators in the 1990s perceived all displays of ethno-nationalism and ethno-political mobilization in the former Union republics and later in the new states as well as the Russian Federation's republics. As a result, the authorities' brutal dispersal of meetings and demonstrations in Tbilisi and Baku with the help of the armed forces was ex post facto turned into national movements and revolutions. Monuments, textbook pages, and calendar dates are now devoted to them – everything is done to make these Bastilles forever remain in the respective popular memories. For example, the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences has filled over a hundred volumes with an edition of the documents of national (civic) movements, and it has become obligatory to detect such movements in all ethno-territorial autonomies of that time. All that was needed to create an image of those movements was resources (people and money). Thus, the participation in that project of an influential politician who was writing a doctoral dissertation on ethno-politics resulted in a 10-volume collection within the series solely on the Republic of Urdmurtia, where ethnic nationalism had been minimal, and civic movements had been totally inexistent.[2]

The founders of voluntary organizations (whose very names sometimes usurp the sonorous term "movement"), the authors of various manifestos, and the organizers of meetings more often than not are not movements at all, if by that term we mean mass-based, programmatic, political, structured, and organized collective action during a particular time-span. It is precisely because of the frequent metaphoric and post-factual use of the term that one must be careful about large concepts such as "revolution" or "movement". In particular, they should not be considered synonymous with non-governmental voluntary organizations (NGOs), even if the latter use the programmes and mechanisms of "movements" (human rights, anti-globalization, ecological, ethno-nationalist, and other). This excessively broad definition of non-governmental organizations is of little use for understanding the nature of social coalitions outside the organs of state administration.

It is also useful to separate non-governmental organizations from the wider spectrum of social unions and associations which do not consider themselves NGOs and are so specific that it would be wrong to include them in this category. For example, many scholarly associations and societies do not consider themselves NGOs although essentially that is what they are, since they are non-governmental and informal unions. Moreover, some scholarly (expert) associations may even perform the role of NGOs as advocates of some client (protecting minorities and migrants, collecting and relaying information about problems and crises, participating in public campaigns, preventing and solving conflicts, expressing a stance towards government policies etc). Thus the well-known Summer Institute of Linguistics (now an NGO under the auspices of Unesco, known as SIL International) unites about 5 000 specialists on small languages spoken by minorities and indigenous peoples in about 60 countries. Beside linguistic studies and translation (mainly of the Bible into minority languages), the tasks of this scholarly organization include spreading literacy to peoples living in isolation. Incidentally, the activities of this organization used to be prohibited in a number of Latin American countries, since some of the Institute's activists were linked to the US secret services. International NGOs created mostly by academic anthropologists, such as the Minorities Rights Group, Cultural Survival, and the International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs, have made a significant contribution to the protection of small groups and cultures.

However, expert communities' practices of advocacy are not only stimulated by principles of professional ethics. Most frequently, they follow a politico-ideological direction and are linked to the requirements of state bureaucracies. This has been true of scholarly associations in the social sciences since their inception. The Russian Imperial Geographical Society, which initially included ethnographers, helped determine the tribal composition of the Russian Empire in order to better manage the non-Russian border areas; later, the Commission for the Study of the Tribal Composition (KIPS in Russian), through elaborating the methodology of the 1926 census, helped construct "Soviet socialist nations" out of the ethnographic material at hand. Between the 1960s and 1980s, many western scholarly organizations participated in "containing Communism", just as now they are taking part in "rebuilding" the post-Soviet area, above all with the aim of irrevocably dismantling "imperial Russia". The programme and organizational activities of the scholarly Central Eurasian Studies Society, created only a few years ago by the young Harvard academic John Schoeberlein, are entirely devoted to constructing the new geopolitical category of "Central Eurasia", stretching from Yakutia to the Crimea, but virtually without any Slavic component. The yearly conventions of this association now bring together up to one thousand scholars. Similar expert communities and peacemaking NGOs deal with the Caucasus, which is understood as the territory of Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia, plus a grey zone called "the Northern Caucasus".

Ethno-cultural and ethno-political organizations are no easier matter. Usually they are not satisfied with the status of NGOs or voluntary associations, since they want to be "national organizations", in other words, represent certain ethnic nations and therefore have other powers and a different status than normal NGOs. Thus, for instance, in 1992, as a minister, I invited the then leaders of the organizations of Russia's German minority to a series of Russian-German government meetings devoted to the problems of that group (emigration to Germany, the creation of autonomous regions within Russia, preservation and support for the culture of Russian Germans). Those leaders, and especially the president of the Union of Russian Germans Genrikh Grout, tried to act as "representatives of their people" and fully-fledged actors in inter-state relations. Similar claims to political and other representation were repeatedly put forward by voluntary organizations of Bashkirs, Tatars, Chechens, Circassians, and dozens of other associations. Thus the leaders of the World Tatar Congress were constantly present at the negotiations with the Republic of Tatarstan that I conducted as representative of the federal government in 1992. The president of the Congress, Indus Tagirov, once told me: "Now you – the authorities – can no longer make any decisions without us, you will never be able to drive us back." I do not know where Genrikh Grout and Indus Tagirov are now; what I do know is that they were wrong in the exaggerated claims they made in negotiations with the state. However, I admit that their actions forced the authorities to adopt more active and positive policies on issues that had remained unresolved for decades.

The state and NGOs

Apart from the weaknesses of NGOs that Claus Leggewie points out (lack of internal democracy, lack of external control and feedback), there is a whole range of other problems that deserve our attention in the framework of this important debate. Above all, there is the issue of relations between voluntary organizations and "movements" on the one hand and the state on the other hand. Despite the changes in the ratio of various social coalitions (from the family and the sports club up to the state and global information systems), to this day, states remain the most important and significant form of human collectivities. States control the entire territory of the Earth, they have a rigid membership and territorial borders, they provide the infrastructure of life support, and guarantee public order and security to the communities living within their borders. States hold the exclusive right to many resources, to collect taxes, to do justice and to exercise coercion against people, up to taking their lives. Part of these functions may be consensually delegated to, or usurped, by other coalitions, such as the United Nations or Nato. Some states do not exercise or make use of all these functions and powers, especially where securing development and security for their citizens is concerned. But that does not change the facts of the matter. The point is that, as formulated by the Aspen Institute, which is devoted to educating top-level American executives, at one of its conferences, "strong states" mean "strong hopes" [3] Only strong and effective polities in the form of national bureaucracies and civil societies at one with them are capable of solving the most complex and important problems of social development. The alternative is a degradation of human collectivities due to the non-observance of common norms, uncontrolled rivalry and domination, and a chaos of forces in the world arena.

Over the past decades, states have democratized and cooperated more than before, although their genetic disposition for dangerous rivalry has not disappeared from this stage of history. States can no longer permit themselves to act lawlessly towards their own communities, otherwise their leaders and the executors of terror may find themselves in prison. States are losing many of their functions in the sphere of economics and finance. Powerful associations and institutions are emerging which are stripping the state of some of its powers and even bringing bureaucracies under their control. This concerns especially mass media and business communities as well as certain trans-state social coalitions (diaspora networks, protectionist movements, and the like). Understandably, this leads to talk about "failed states" and "rogue states", the end of the era of nation-states, the coming of an era of world governance and world citizenship, and so on. However, it is worth noticing that such talk usually emanates from representatives of strong (successful) states that certainly do not intend to abolish themselves in favour of world governance or split up for the sake of ethno-cultural or regional self-determination. The others are behaving much more guardedly. For example, I know of no academics or politicians from countries such as India or China, or regions such as Latin America or the former USSR, who actively support the idea of world governance through trans-state organs and limiting the sovereignty of nation-states. If that were to happen, India and China might be exposed to rapid disintegration along ethno-territorial or religious lines. And then, with hindsight, just like the USSR, they would be "explained" as having been the world's last multi-national empires, broken up by national liberation movements.

For the majority of the world's population and for the majority of states, securing effective state governance, preserving civic concord and preventing conflicts remains a more relevant task. The well-known Western journalist and philosopher Michael Ignatieff was right when he said in his latest book about ethnic conflicts that "However paradoxical it may sound, the police and armies of the nation-states remain the only available institutions we have ever developed with the capacity to control and channel large-scale violence."[4] Thus, however inconvenient this may be, we must agree that order has primacy over the form in which it is realized, i in other words there must first be some kind of power in a human community (otherwise people will simply slaughter each other) before we can talk about different degrees of legitimacy, justice and efficiency. Anti-etatism, the negation of the state, is a self-destructive utopia that is attractive to some activists but cannot be realised for a number of fundamental reasons.

One of the varieties of "making the world a better place" is talk about the utility of non-governmental organizations and of actions in their favour. These organizations are considered (especially in countries with imperfect democracies or authoritarian regimes) to help improve governance, avoid the shortcomings of traditional representative democracy, and provide more sensitive governance in culturally complex societies, such as virtually all contemporary states, through the principles of consociationalism (consensual democracy) and public dialogue. In principle, this thesis is hard to dispute. It is a kind of ideal that we should keep in mind and which we can strive for. But there are a number of serious obstacles on the way to this new world governed by unions of bureaucracies and NGOs, with an "Organization of United Ethno-Nations" instead of the UN (as in the well-known Norwegian scholar Johan Galtung's project, "Peace by Peaceful Means")[5] And the first of these obstacles is the NGOs themselves.

The strength and weakness of NGOs

There is already a whole NGO culture in the world, with its characteristic symbolism (colours, pictures, music, but no realistic images such as eagles, lions, and sceptres, so as to avoid resemblance with state symbols), behavioural patterns (an informal style of intercourse, performative expression, a disregard for etiquette and protocol to stress one's distinctness from the business/political/state bureaucracy), and a special type of leadership (based on rebel spirit and a talent for fundraising that is unnecessary to leaders of other communities). NGOs develop clustered networks[6] within which there are hierarchies and competition, especially for sources of funding. The best-known among the biggest global NGO networks are social volunteer, child protectionist, human rights, ethno-cultural and peacemaking ones, although every country and every region has its particularities.

Over the past 15 to 20 years, I have mostly had to deal with the two latter categories of NGOs, and I have personally created two voluntary organizations that continue to function to this day. These are the Network for Ethnic Monitoring and Early Warning (created in 1993) and the Fund for Humanitarian Assistance to the Chechen Republic (since 1998).[7] I can also draw on a rich fund of observations concerning ethnically-based or ethno-political organizations. My experience in this field goes back to the 1970s, when I was studying the social movements of North American Indians, not to mention my later experience as federal minister for nationalities and 15 years of working at the Russian Academy of Science's Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology.

What seems important to me are the "good governance" projects that Leggewie proposes. These are certainly unthinkable without active and influential social associations, whom it would be just as detrimental to idealize as the state. First of all, for what cause or "about what" do NGOs exist? This is all but an idle question, since the competence, emotions, and politico-ideological commitment of NGOs' founders may give rise both to simply stupid, naive, and whimsical projects and to self-destructive, dangerous monsters that do not deserve any legitimization and support, especially from the state. Let¹s leave aside the numerous hobby, cult, sectarian, esoteric and other organizations and "movements", including associations such as the "Folk Healers of Russia" and the like. Let's take organizations that are more serious and have even been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Even among them we may find what I call "social constructs around a false idea". For example, in the 1970s there emerged, at first among indigenous peoples (the usual designation for the native populations of states that have developed on a colonizing settler basis), a movement of "unrepresented nations and peoples", which became international, obtained an associate status with the UN, and acquired headquarters of its own in The Hague (the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, UNPO). At first, its agenda of broadening representation and eliminating the historical discrimination of small groups with vulnerable cultural systems yielded many positive results. Activists of indigenous organizations in Guatemala and Indonesia received Nobel Peace Prizes.

The most successful example of such nativist movements are the native organizations of indigenous peoples living in the world's arctic regions, and their international union called the Inuit Circumpolar Conference. The ICC was one of the founders of the now influential Arctic Forum, which brings together indigenous organizations, governments of Northern countries, business circles, and scholars in order to work towards common aims. Representatives of the indigenous small peoples of the North of Russia, Siberia, and the Far East, and above all the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON), joined this powerful social-state network, which has had a positive influence on the activities of Russian NGOs in this field. The progress that these organizations have made since the first Congress of the Peoples of the North in the Kremlin in 1990 with Mikhail Gorbachev is truly striking. Instead of two or three "big chiefs" such as Vladimir Sangi, Yeremey Aypin, and Yevdokiya Gayer, there is now a whole squadron of competent and active regional and community leaders; instead of bombastic statements such as "all Northern lands are ours!", they have brought about the passing of federal and local legislation, negotiated corporate support, and acquired political representation. The indigenous peoples of the North still suffer from many real problems, and NGOs still use the strategy of complaints and traditionalist romanticism, but the situation has changed radically, and changed for the better. Indigenous NGOs have a real perspective of working out a culturally-oriented modernization and sustainable development together with the state and business. [8]

The UNPO's activites in The Hague took a different track when the flags of separatist regimes and organizations that emerged after the collapse of the USSR and Yugoslavia were hoisted above its headquarters. In the context of new geopolitical rivalries and western euphoria about rebuilding the post-communist world, "unrepresentedness" came to be seen as a breach of order rather than an improvement, as a process of exiting the system rather than finding one's voice within it. The flag of separatist Chechnya in The Hague was presented to the Chechen population as proof of international recognition of the self-declared state by President Dzhokhar Dudayev. Around a dozen other flags of "unrepresented peoples and nations", mainly from the region of the former USSR, were also hung there. The Abkhaz, Chechen, Karachay, and other flags were a direct invitation to armed struggle. Such a voluntary organization is practically impossible to abolish, though it causes great damage. This is the problem that Claus Leggewie calls the question of "rule-led and continuous control by those affected". It should be noted that among the leaders of the UNPO in the early 1990s was the Hawaiian activist Haunani Trusk, only her struggle was not for restoring the sovereignty of the Hawaiian state (abolished at the end of the nineteenth century) under its last Queen, Liliokalane, but for the restoration of a status quo in the Russian Caucasus that had existed before the region's accession to Russia at the end of the eighteenth century.[9] Are there grounds for the existence of such an NGO, even if in the 1990s it was supported by the US Congress?

Some Russian ethno-political NGOs have also made unrealizable projects of particularistic self-determination their main priority, balancing on the verge of open conflict with the state authorities. While many extremist NGOs, such as the Confederation of Peoples of the Caucasus or the Tatar Public Centre have practically left the arena, some calmer and more consistent ones are still framing their activities around the main aim of achieving "statehood of their own". Thus, in December 2004, at a meeting at the State Duma, the leader of the national cultural autonomy of the Russian Germans, Ivan Keller, exposed his project of creating statehood for Russian Germans in the form of an ethno-territorial unit, although it would be very hard to draw the borders of such a unit on a map of Russia, and impossible to find people willing to live in it. Russian Germans have achieved a more than worthy self-determination in the framework of the Russian Federation, and they are well represented in all spheres of society (suffice it to name "federal-level" figures such as Alfred Kokh, German Gref, and Vladimir Bauer[10]). Once more we have to ask: if an NGO has an unrealizable aim, then what is the point of that NGO? This is a question that can be addressed to many voluntary organizations, not to mention those whose activities are unlawful and destructive to society and against whom the state must take protective measures. Claus Leggewie thinks that NGOs' troubling role is always useful to society. One should not forget, however, that bureaucracies' resources and competences are also limited, and public pressure may lead to the passing of detrimental laws or the signing of impracticable inter-state agreements, as was the case with a document stipulating the "re-creation of a Republic of Volga Germans", signed in 1991 by Helmut Kohl and Boris Yeltsin.

The next issue is NGOs' sources of funding and clients. This is a very sensitive and really complex point. It is well-known and easy to explain why most NGOs are far from being funded by the contributions of their own members. Even if the main source is voluntary contributions, usually these contributions come not from regular members of the organization or movement, but from rich patrons, as in the case of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Unlike state institutions, NGOs do not collect taxes, nor do they have resources of their own or revenue from state companies or resource rent. This will continue to be the case, and by itself it renders pointless the discussion about giving NGOs a status equal to that of states. Thus, the WWF is leading a courageous struggle for the preservation of the Amur tiger, but that population itself will hardly ever become the property of that NGO.

This means that NGOs will continue to have to secure funds from external sources, including state and semi-state institutions, and consequently they will continue to face the problem of "tune-calling" by sponsors and questions about the independence of their activities. What¹s more, some NGOs are even created "to order", in other words to carry out a certain mission which a state finds impossible or inconvenient to accomplish directly. Thus, for example, in order to assist the "full self-determination" of Yugoslavia after its first break-up, this time by splitting off Kosovo and possibly Montenegro, the Americans created an NGO that consulted the Kosovar separatists on how to create a shadow government and take things to a point where leaving the common state would be inevitable. The activities of that NGO were coordinated by a former president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and retired diplomat, Mort Abramowitz. The NGO fulfilled its mission, turning isolated groups of Albanian extremists and criminal fighters into a powerful political and armed force, and turning the Yugoslav province of Kosovo-Metohija into a de facto independent region with an extremely uncertain future.

Something similar in the NGO category was created in the US in 1999 under the name of the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya by over 100 well-known American academics, retired politicians, and former diplomats. Although the Committee officially states its aims as advancing peace and stability in the region and caring about human rights, the practical activities of the organization are aimed at opposing the restoration of control by the Russian authorities in the region and completing Chechnya's secession, which had already seemed accomplished after the Khasavyurt agreement of 1996. All information about Chechnya emanating from that organization is one-sided and even intentionally distorted, starting with the figure of a supposed 200 000 dead Chechen civilians, a demographic catastrophe, and 80 percent unemployed in Chechnya. It is deliberate in not recognizing the republic's legitimate authorities and slurs over or slights the programme of post-conflict reconstruction in the republic.

Despite the incongruity of the NGO's perception of the situation in Chechnya, it has a tremendous mobilizing power and as it were corrects the US administration's official position of support for the fight against terrorism in the Northern Caucasus. After the events in Beslan, two influential members of the Committee, Richard Pipes and Zbigniew Brzezinski, spoke out in the world's most influential newspapers to make "Russia act without delay to let its tiny colonial possession go free" ( New York Times , 10 Sep 2004). In December 2004, the head of the Committee, Glen Howard, published the following call on the NGO¹s web site: "The United States and the European Union should support a dialogue on Chechnya just as they have united to support democracy in Ukraine" (by that he meant supporting one of the candidates in the presidential elections).

The governments of the US and the EU are not the only ones who find it difficult to resist such appeals. They also provide a powerful inspiration to those who are engaged in a jihad against Russia on her own territory. If such voluntary organizations will continue to be seen as resources for democratization, good governance, and strengthening the world order, then we will be faced with the problem of neutralizing such actors in order to restore "rule-led control" in regions of open conflict, whose population falls hostage to big geopolitical games and inter-state rivalries. Such NGOs cannot possibly be viewed as agents of civil society. But how do we neutralize the aforementioned US committee? There is no other option than self-dissolution under the impact of factual and moral arguments. But self-dissolution would be tantamount to a recognition of the failure of the project of "fully self-determining" Russia by breaking off Chechnya, and that recognition will not come easily. The notional "war in Chechnya", where there have been no military operations for several years, will continue. In Iraq the same expert community is already talking about "operations of post-conflict stabilization" in a situation of continuing military operations, mass victims, and destruction.

Finally, there is the problem of imposing model NGOs upon societies which allegedly do not have any grass roots civic institutions, and where a "third sector" has to be created through special partnership projects and aid. For this aim over the past years, the West, via state organs and private donors, has provided large-scale funding and created numerous non-governmental organizations. It has to be said that these efforts have yielded obvious positive results in a number of unstable regions of Africa, Asia, and Europe. The NGOs' rich experience in conflict resolution has recently been summarized in a special handbook on transforming ethno-political conflicts published by the Berghof Research Center for Constructive Conflict Management[11] in Germany and in a book by the German conflict specialist Günther Schlee translated into Russian in the framework of the TACIS project on "Improving Inter-Ethnic Relations in the Russian Federation" [12] .

The issue, however, is not without its ambiguities. Thus the Swedish anthropologist Steven Sampson, who analyzed the activities of western NGOs in the Balkans, concluded that the massive intrusion of western non-governmental activists into the region with the aim of creating a "third sector" there has had contradictory results. Along with successful projects and some positive changes, on the whole "the most suitable term for Western intervention in the Balkans would be benevolent colonialism". [13] Local communities had possessed civil society structures even before the conflicts, but those had not been NGOs in the Western sense. The imposition of western-type NGOs through western-funded projects has resulted in the emergence of a kind of "project elites", a "comprador bourgeosie" oriented towards the West and little interested in the development of their own states. The ultimate reaction was a rejection of western aid and a stirring up of local nationalists and a weakening of the new post-Yugoslav states.

This conclusion about the cultural insensitivity of a generalized line of supporting a western-style "third sector" in societies that have long-standing, but culturally different traditions of civic coalitions, has a broad significance. There is a serious dilemma here. If the jama'at community in Dagestan, the familial or parochial or blood relation networks in Chechnya and Ingushetia, or the religious group around the mosque, are not NGOs according to the western model, should we ignore them as structures of civic society? And is it necessary to create "typical" NGOs that are registered and have written statutes, a president, vice president, and book-keeper, in order to bring democracy to a society? Steven Sampson thinks that it is, since the West has taken the role of "benevolent colonizer" upon itself and must play it to the end, just as in the times of classical colonialism it also carried a certain civilizing mission. I believe that this is an excessively rigid approach, since models and resources of social self-organization are not reduced to those that have been accumulated in the settled democracies of the western world. Although it is spreading ever more widely across the world, the culture of NGOs is far from having conquered this world.

Related articles:

Claus Leggewie
Transnational movements and the question of democracy (bg) (de) (en) (ru)
Social movements can provide an early warning system to mainstream politics. But once institutionalized, their lack of democratic mandate raises problems of legitimacy. This paradox must be negotiated if democracy is to respond to the global situation. [Russian version added] [2005-05-20]

Boris Mezhuev
Transnationalization's dead ends (en) (ru)
Is transnationalism premised on the politically correct precepts of western European liberalism? And might transnational NGOs become a way of "laundering" corporate "cultural and political capital"? [2005-06-01]

Sergey Lukashevsky
A comment on Claus Leggewie's article (en) (ru)
How would NGOs that promote democracy per se fit in to a system of democracy where coalitions representing specific publics compete for official status? [2005-06-01]


  • [1] "Bard" music or poetry in the sense referred to here is a genre of urban folk music that was extremely popular in the Soviet Union in the 1960s to 1980s and still attracts a significant audience across the Russian-speaking world. [M. G.].
  • [2] See: M. N. Guboglo and S.K. Smirnova (eds.), Fenomen Udmurtii [The Phenomenon of Udmurtia]. 10 Vols. Moscow, 2002-2003.
  • [3] Strong States, Strong Hopes: Guidelines for Post-Cold War United States Foreign Policy and the Role of Foreign Assistance, Washington: The Aspen Institute 1997.
  • [4] Michael Ignatieff, The Warrior's Honour. Ethnic War and the Modern Conscience, London, 1999, 160.
  • [5] Johan Galtung, Peace by Peaceful Means: Peace and Conflict, Development and Civilization, London 1996.
  • [6] See the listing of NGOs on the UN's NGO Global Network web site (
  • [7] See and
  • [8] See: V. A. Tishkov (ed.), Sovremennoe polozhenie I perspektivy malochislennyh narodov Severa, Sibiri i Dal'nego Vostoka. Nezavisimy ekspertny doklad [The current situation and perspectives of the small peoples of the North, Siberia, and the Far East]. Moscow 2004.
  • [9] Twenty years ago in Hawaii I met leaders of the separatist organization The Hawaiian Nation, among whom was Haunani Trusk. This organization disappeared above all because of rigid control by the US authorities.
  • [10] Kokh is a former director of the State Property Committee who was responsible for some of the most controversial privatizations in the 1990s; Gref is the current Minister of Economic Development and Trade; and Bauer is a former leader of the Christian Democratic Union, Deputy Nationalities Minister, and current president of the Russian German organisation "National Cultural Autonomy¹. [Translator¹s note]
  • [11] Alex Austin, Martina Fischer, Norbert Ropers (eds.), Transforming Ethnopolitical Conflict. The Berghof Handbook, Wiesbaden 2004.
  • [12] Günther Shlee, Upravlenie konfliktami: Teoriya I praktika [Conflict Management: Theory and Practice], Moscow 2004.
  • [13] Steven Sampson, "Weak States, Uncivil Societies and Thousands of NGOs. Western Democracy Export as Benevolent Colonialism in the Balkans" in: Sanimir Resic (ed.), Cultural Boundaries of the Balkans, Lund University Press 2002.

Published 2005-06-01

Original in Russian
Translation by Mischa Gabowitsch
First published in Neprikosnovennij Zapas 39 (1/2005) (Russian version)

Contributed by Neprikosnovennij Zapas (NZ)
© Valery Tishkov/Neprikosnovennij Zapas
© Eurozine

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Follow the critical, informed and nuanced voices that counter the dominant discourse of crisis concerning Ukraine. A media exchange project linking Ukrainian independent media with "alternative" media in Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Greece. [more]

Russia in global dialogue
In the two decades after the end of the Cold War, intellectual interaction between Russia and Europe has intensified. It has not, however, prompted a common conversation. The focal point "Russia in global dialogue" seeks to fuel debate on democracy, society and the legacy of empire. [more]

Ukraine in European dialogue
Post-revolutionary Ukrainian society displays a unique mix of hope, enthusiasm, social creativity, collective trauma of war, radicalism and disillusionment. Two years after the country's uprising, the focal point "Ukraine in European dialogue" takes stock. [more]

Culture and the commons
Across Europe, citizens are engaging in new forms of cultural cooperation while developing alternative and participatory democratic practices. The commons is where cultural and social activists meet a broader public to create new ways of living together. [more]

2016 Jean Améry Prize collection
To coincide with the awarding of the 2016 Jean Améry Prize for European essay writing, Eurozine publishes essays by authors nominated for the prize, including by a representative selection of Eurozine partner journals. [more]

The politics of privacy
The Snowden leaks and the ensuing NSA scandal made the whole world debate privacy and data protection. Now the discussion has entered a new phase - and it's all about policy. A focal point on the politics of privacy: claiming a European value. [more]

Beyond Fortress Europe
The fate of migrants attempting to enter Fortress Europe has triggered a new European debate on laws, borders and human rights. A focal point featuring reportage alongside articles on policy and memory. With contributions by Fabrizio Gatti, Seyla Benhabib and Alessandro Leogrande. [more]

Vacancies at Eurozine     click for more

Eurozine is seeking an Online Editor and Social Media Manager for its office in Vienna.

Preferred starting date: February 2017.
Applications deadline: 31 January 2017.

Conferences     click for more

Eurozine emerged from an informal network dating back to 1983. Since then, European cultural magazines have met annually in European cities to exchange ideas and experiences. Around 100 journals from almost every European country are now regularly involved in these meetings.
Mobilizing for the Commons
The 27th European Meeting of Cultural Journals
Gdańsk, 4-6 November 2016
The Eurozine conference 2016 in Gdańsk framed the general topic of solidarity with a focus on mobilizing for the commons. The event took place in the European Solidarity Centre in Gdańsk and thus linked contemporary debate to the history of a broad, non-violent, anti-communist social movement which has started in the city's shipyard in 1980. [more]

Support Eurozine     click for more

If you appreciate Eurozine's work and would like to support our contribution to the establishment of a European public sphere, see information about making a donation.

Eurozine BLOG

On the Eurozine BLOG, editors and Eurozine contributors comment on current affairs and events. What's behind the headlines in the world of European intellectual journals?
In memoriam: Ales Debeljak (1961-2016)
On 28 January 2016, Ales Debeljak died in a car crash in Slovenia. He will be much missed as an agile and compelling essayist, a formidable public speaker and a charming personality. [more]

Time to Talk     click for more

Time to Talk, a network of European Houses of Debate, has partnered up with Eurozine to launch an online platform. Here you can watch video highlights from all TTT events, anytime, anywhere.
Neda Deneva, Constantina Kouneva, Irina Nedeva and Yavor Siderov
Does migration intensify distrust in institutions?
How do migration and institutional mistrust relate to one another? As a new wave of populism feeds on and promotes fears of migration, aggrandising itself through the distrust it sows, The Red House hosts a timely debate with a view to untangling the key issues. [more]

Editor's choice     click for more

Jürgen Habermas, Michaël Foessel
Critique and communication: Philosophy's missions
Decades after first encountering Anglo-Saxon perspectives on democracy in occupied postwar Germany, Jürgen Habermas still stands by his commitment to a critical social theory that advances the cause of human emancipation. This follows a lifetime of philosophical dialogue. [more]

Literature     click for more

Karl Ove Knausgård
Out to where storytelling does not reach
To write is to write one's way through the preconceived and into the world on the other side, to see the world as children can, as fantastic or terrifying, but always rich and wide-open. Karl Ove Knausgård on creating literature. [more]

Jonathan Bousfield
Growing up in Kundera's Central Europe
Jonathan Bousfield talks to three award-winning novelists who spent their formative years in a Central Europe that Milan Kundera once described as the kidnapped West. It transpires that small nations may still be the bearers of important truths. [more]

Literary perspectives
The re-transnationalization of literary criticism
Eurozine's series of essays aims to provide an overview of diverse literary landscapes in Europe. Covered so far: Croatia, Sweden, Austria, Estonia, Ukraine, Northern Ireland, Slovenia, the Netherlands and Hungary. [more]

Debate series     click for more

Europe talks to Europe
Nationalism in Belgium might be different from nationalism in Ukraine, but if we want to understand the current European crisis and how to overcome it we need to take both into account. The debate series "Europe talks to Europe" is an attempt to turn European intellectual debate into a two-way street. [more]

Multimedia     click for more
Multimedia section including videos of past Eurozine conferences in Vilnius (2009) and Sibiu (2007). [more]

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