Despite All Its Efforts, Kremlin Hasn’t Been Able To Destroy Russian Civil Society – OpEd


Despite all his efforts since the start of his time in the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin has not been able to destroy Russian civil society, Grigory Okhotin, the co-founder of the human rights OVD-Info Group, says. Indeed, the Kremlin leader’s continuing efforts in that direction highlight his failures as much as his successes.

It is already obvious to the world that “the history of the Putin regime is above all the history of repressions and wars,” the activist says; and it is all too easy to fall into depression over the successes Putin has had in suppressing human rights and civil society in the course of his aggression (

But “despite everything,” Okhotin says, “the Kremlin has failed to destroy civil society, which instead has changed, adapted to the new conditions and survived. All liquidated or banned NGOs and political structures continue to operate. And after the start of the full-scale invasion, hundreds of new initiatives have appeared to actively help Ukrainian refugees.”

Moreover, “most of the media Putin has blocked continues to function. New media projects appear, including those covering the war without censorship. Even mass and forced emigration has not negatively affected civil society. On the contrary, it has strengthened it, creating new preconditions for more efficient work.”

“Hundreds of thousands of people, despite all the risk, have continued to support public structures and take part in their work as volunteers,” he says. “Protests also continue,” albeit with fewer people taking part. But dissent as such did not disappear anywhere,” despite the obvious hopes of those in power.

Russians recognize that Moscow’s aggression “can and should be resisted,” Okhotin says; but there is an increasing awareness that “the threat to peace and prosperity posed by Russia’s authoritarian regime” is not going to disappear simply by securing an end to Putin’s massive invasion of Rsusia’s neighbor.

 Oleksandr Matviichuk, in her Nobel Prize speech, made it very clear what is necessary – a recognition of the true nature of the war and the threat that the Putin regime represents. “This is not a war of two states,” she said. “This is a war of two systems, authoritarianism and democracy.” 

And Okhotin advises that Russians follow her call to “reform the international system” by providing effective guarantees for the human rights of the citizens of all countries.” Indeed, she says and Okhotin clearly agrees, “this new system must be based on human rights” rather than national power.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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