Resisting democracy promotion in autocracies: the case of foreign agent law in Russia



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Tartu Ülikool


Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are important actors on the international arena and their role in global governance cannot be downplayed. This thesis investigates the concept of democracy promotion and how authoritarian regimes might resist it, specifically by applying pressure to NGOs funded from abroad. I use a case study of a law on foreign agents in Russia in order to understand which tools can an authoritarian regime apply to foreign-funded NGOs and how effective it can be in this goal. To investigate that, I use in-depth interviews with employees of the organizations declared foreign agents in Russia to analyze their experiences and make conclusions about the role of foreign funding in their respective organizations, and the impact of the law on them. I conclude, that foreign funding plays a crucial role in support of the functioning of civil society in Russia, and even in the context of repressions, people find a way to work their way around them. At the same time, the law on foreign agents has become a major restriction for the functioning of civil society in general and for the foreign-funded NGOs in particular, which in turn became a major obstacle for democracy promotion.