Domestic NGOs Resisting Global Neoliberalism: The Impact of the All-Russian Societies of the Disabled, the Deaf, and the Blind on Russian Government Policy

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Aleksandr Bugrovskii


This essay analyses the impact of Russian domestic actors (specifically, traditionalist NGOs) on the government’s adoption and regulation of international norms and practices regarding disability. The Russian state supports traditionalist NGOs established in Soviet times—such as the All-Russian Societies of the Disabled, the Blind, and the Deaf—rather than promoting the growth of an independent third sector based on grassroots welfare-oriented initiatives. To defend their interests and secure resources, the All-Russian Societies actively participate in the development of disability policy in Russia and advocate for adoption of practices based on international norms on disability. The essay raises the question of how traditionalist NGOs, exemplified by the All-Russian Societies, position themselves regarding the government’s adoption of international norms and practices on disability and how they generally react to the state’s regulation of disability. To answer this question, four phases of interactions between traditionalist NGOs and the Russian government were identified on the basis of the activities of the All-Russian societies in the field of disability regulation. The essay draws on content analysis of Russian legislative acts on social protections for people with disabilities; documents, websites, and social media of the All-Russian Societies and mass media sources from 1995 until 2021; and 13 semistructured interviews of All-Russian Societies’ representatives and experts on the Russian third sector.

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Russia, Welfare, NGOs, Social Protection, Disability

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