Environmental Ethics
and Public Policy
Ernest Partridge, Ph.D

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On the Formation and Development of Civil Society in Russia

A Statement by Russian Non-Governmental Organizations

Currently, the already laborious and slow formation of civil society in Russia has slowed down. In separate sectors it has come to a halt or even gone backwards. This is why we welcome the initiative of the Administration of the President on calling upon the Civic Forum. [Held in Moscow, November, 2001].

A system of so-called "managed democracy" is developing in Russia instead of a democratic society predicated on civil institutions. Under this system, citizens are gradually restricted from decision-making processes which may have direct impacts on their interests, and society in general is deprived of the opportunity to control governmental activities. Consequently, a situation emerges in which governments do not serve the public interest and are not controlled by the public. On the contrary, the public becomes more and more subordinate to the government.

We view the following as the main reasons for the current situation in Russia:

  • Weakness of the judiciary system with its dependence on the executive branch of the government. The judiciary system for the most part protects the interests of authorities or corporations against citizens, instead of protecting the law, human rights and liberties, public institutions and the overall interests of the nation;

  • A trend of tightening punitive and fiscal functions of the government to the detriment of its other functions, such as providing social protection and safety of the population;

  • Absence of a balanced distribution of authority and responsibilities between federal, regional, and local governments;

  • Development of criminal networks in the country (particularly, symbiotic relationships of criminal elements with law enforcement agencies and manipulation of government officials through corruption and bribery), which erode the foundations of society and state, while transforming civil rights and liberties into fictitious notions;

  • Growing limitations on public access to information, expansion of official secrecy requirements, the ongoing practice of violating fundamental civil rights and freedom, and fabrication of espionage cases;

  • Lack of fully-fledged legislation for conducting elections and the absence of procedures for its enforcement preclude genuinely free elections and referendums. Elections results are not precluded from being falsified, and it precludes pre-term expulsion of elected officials, who fall short of their constituents' expectations. Thus the constitutional right to be involved in managing affairs of the state is not guaranteed to its citizens. 

  • Mass media are exceedingly dependent on the executive branch of government, as well as on financial and industrial groups. This brings about the uniformity of presented information and fosters manipulation of public opinion. 

  • Procedures for interaction between society and state have been destroyed. Government officials select representatives of the socalled "public," with whom they conduct "ritualistic" meetings, instead of maintaining a dialogue with real people.

  • Insufficient support is provided to small and medium size companies, which must comprise the foundation of a market economy and free civil society. The government is still very actively involved in private commerce.

  • A lack of legal and economic conditions obstructs the development of non-governmental institutions and charitable organizations. Thus, the third sector has to rely on the international or corporate financial sponsorship. Authorities exert direct administrative pressure on "non-compliant" NGOs (e.g., in some cases, NGOs are not allowed to be registered). This is especially common at the regional level.

  • The government does not provide appropriate opposition to fascist and nationalistic ideologies;

  • The separation of the Church from the government is rather hazy. Religion is increasingly becoming a political force.

  • Military operations are conducted in Russia in the absence of legislation for imposing curfews and declaring a national emergency. Non-professional military forces are engaged, especially on domestic territory.

Without the development of civil society the progress of Russia along with the democratic path and its integration in the world community are impossible!

The following should be done in order to achieve the creation of civil society and the rule of law in Russia:

  • The efficiency of managing the government should be increased through the social involvement of citizens, the development of partnerships between the public and the institutions of power, and the development of democratic culture. 

  • The public should gain control over the activities of power structures. The rights of citizens to participate in managing the affairs of the state should be implemented at the constitutional level.

  • There should be a strict delineation of organizational and financial functions of the government, pertaining to the economic interests of the state and social protection of the population. Environmental monitoring and assessment should be put back in place and maintained outside of the government agencies.

  • Economic incentives and mechanisms need to be created for the development of free civil society. Social inequality should be decreased through the complete waiver of real leasing fees imposed for the use of natural resources. Economic activities should be decentralized.

  • Management of public affairs should be transferred to the local level. The list of elected officials should be expanded, whereas the number of appointed officials should be decreased.

  • Real independence of judiciary power is required. Citizens should be granted equal access to justice (through the growing number of courts and judges and through the centralized and independent funding of the courts). Military Judicial Boards should be abolished.

  • Punishment for inadvertent criminal actions and for first time crime should be mitigated, while sentences for serious and repeated crime should become more stringent. The penitentiary system should become more humane, which could be done by adhering to sanitary and epidemiological rules and norms.

  • Business activities should be organized on "declarative" rather than "permissible" bases. Federal legislation should (by way of developing a comprehensive list) identify cases in which appropriate permits are required, as well as lists of documents required to obtain such permits.

  • Citizens should get unobstructed access to information, including environmental data, as well as information about potential threats to their safety or health and about human rights and civil liberties violations. Procedures should be established for bringing government officials to justice for classifying open data as classified or copyright, as well as for persecuting citizens and organizations for collecting, analyzing and distributing such information. Classified data should be unconditionally disclosed upon the expiration of its term.

  • The right of citizens to recall elected officials who fall short of their electorate's expectations before the end of their term in office should be restored and legally secured.

  • Public debate procedures for all decisions made with regard to public health and well-being should be developed and turned into law. Such debates should occur at the stage of preparing the legislation, with results of these debates being taken into consideration when making final decisions.

  • The armed forces should expediently transfer to a contract basis ("professional armed forces"). Alternative civilian service should be introduced in the armed forces. Military personnel should receive their civil rights back in the time of peace.

  • Economic incentives and legal opportunities should be created in support of public organizations either from charities or due to public demand.

  • Religious training and rites should be taken out of government offices and organizations. There should be a ban on mandatory religious training in private schools (with the exception of schools funded by religious institutions).

  • There is a need for specific procedures for dialogue between the government and the public. Such procedures should be developed and implemented (This includes the involvement of public organizations in the development and evaluation of draft legislation and legislative acts, incorporation of public organizations representatives on the boards of ministries and agencies, and their participation in the work of government committees).

  • The armed forces should not be allowed to participate in military operations on the territory of their own country without declaring martial law.

We would like to draw the attention of the President of the Russian Federation, Federal Assembly, Government of Russia, governmental bodies of the subjects of the Russian Federation, local governments, all political and public organizations and movements, mass media, scientists, those who are involved in education and culture, and entrepreneurs to the need to form and establish the civil society, which is the main prerequisite for the creation of a free and prosperous Russia and the health and well-being of Russian citizens.

Director of the Global Wild Life Fund in Russia, I. Chestin
Chairman of the Glasnost Foundation, S._Grigoriants
Director General of Golos Association T. Troinova
Secretary General of the Civilian Control Organization (St. Petersburg),  Y. Vdovin
Director of the Greenpeace-Russia, S. Tsyplenkov
Chairman of The Movement for Nuclear Safety (Chelyabinsk),  N. Mironova 
Director of Dront Environmental Center (Nizhny  Novgorod),  A. Kayumov
Leaders of the Non-Nuclear Don Movement (Volgodonsk), I. Reznikov, V._Shalimov
Co-Chair of The Socio-Ecological Union,  S. Zabelin 
President of the Union for Chemical Safety, L. Fedorov
President of. The Glasnost Protection Foundation, A. Simonov
Director General of the Center for Wild Life Protection, A. Zimenko 
President of the Center for the Environmental Policy of Russia, A. Yablokov
Leader of the Moscow Branch of the Ecology and Human Rights Coalition, E. Cherny
Director General of Eco Juris, A. Veselov
Chief Editor of the Living Arctic Almanac (Apatity), V. E. Berlin.
Chairman of the Greenpeace Council (Sosnovy Bor), O. Bodrov
Co-Chair, Kostromsky Region Public Environmental Movement, T. I., Debretsova
Chairman of the Board of Environmental Center (Burei), A. D. Dumikyan
Director of the Environmental and Legal Center (Tomsk), K. E. Lebedev.
Leader of the Inter-Regional Human Rights Center (Novosibirsk), P. Polonotsky
Chair of Baikal Environmental Wave (Irkutsk), M. Richvanova
Manager of the Nuclear Safety and Space Activities (SEU), S. V. Krichevky
Coordinator of the Movement of the Nature Protection Brigades, E. V. Osmelkin
Chairman of Saratov Regional Public Organization Union of Bird Protection in Russia, A. N. Antonchikov
Member of the Coordinating Committee of the Green Association, D. S. Rybakov.


Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" (www.igc.org/gadfly) and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers" (www.crisispapers.org).  Dr. Partridge can be contacted at: gadfly@igc.org .