Building Democracy in Contemporary Russia: Western Support for Grassroots Organizations

In This Review

Building Democracy in Contemporary Russia: Western Support for Grassroots Organizations

By Sarah L. Henderson
Cornell University Press, 2003
224 pp. $32.50
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Since 1992, the U.S. government and U.S. foundations have spent tens of millions of dollars promoting nongovernmental organizations in Russia, in hopes of jump-starting a viable civil society. But has it worked? Henderson answers yes and no. It is clear that Western largesse has financed, equipped, and trained a sizable number of ngos working on environmental, human rights, and women's issues. Whether the activity of these groups has been optimal, or whether they will be able to sustain themselves once outside funding stops, is less clear. Since "democracy building" is a contemporary growth industry around the world, studies of it are, too. Henderson contributes a unique angle by comparing the performance of foreign-funded NGOs (focusing on those devoted to women's issues) with those that survive on their own. She finds that the former frequently take on the organizational characteristics of their benefactors, leaving them less adaptable to the local milieu and inclined to perform more for their donors than for their civic clients.