The rise of illiberal civil society in the former Soviet Union?


This publication examines the growing influence of illiberal, anti-Western and socially conservative civil society groups, popular movements and political forces in five post-Soviet states: Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and Moldova. It finds that illiberal social attitudes remain prevalent across the region, particularly in relation to LGBTI rights, and they are increasingly used as the focus of political and public mobilisation within these societies, particularly against EU-backed equalities legislation. While there have been attempts to create illiberal civil society groups that mirror liberal NGOs or think-tanks, they remain significantly less influential than the organisations linked to the dominant religions in these countries such as the Orthodox Church, or political factions with influence over state resources. However, it is clear, particularly in Ukraine and Georgia, that there has been a significant rise in far-right and nationalist street movements, as well as among smaller but active homophobic gangs. These ‘uncivil rights movements’ still lack broad public support but their political energy and rate of growth are influencing the wider politics of the region. The publication examines the role of both Russia and US evangelicals in influencing the ‘traditional values’ agenda across the region, identifying cases where they are believed to directly support groups but arguing that, while important, the Russian dimension should not obscure the primary role of local religious organisations and local political forces in driving the illiberal agenda in these countries. Authors contributing essays to this collection include: Mihaela Ajder; Eka Chitanava and Katie Sartania (Tolerance and Diversity Institute- Georgia); Nata Dzvelishvili (Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics); Adam Hug (Foreign Policy Centre); Volodymyr Ishchenko (Kiev Polytechnic Institute-Ukraine); Dr Eric Mcglinchey (George Mason University); Anna Pambukchyan (Union of Informed Citizens- Armenia); Dumitru Sliusarenco and Ion Foltea (PromoLex-Moldova); Ryskeldi Satke; Dr Kristina Stoeckl (University of Innsbruck) and Mariam Ubari (Foreign Policy Centre). The publication was kindly supported by the Open Society Foundations.

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