MARY MCAULEY has been engaged with the Russian human rights community for the past 20 years as a grant maker, consultant and analyst. She is the author of several books on Russian politics, including Russia’s Politics of Uncertainty and Soviet Politics 1917-1991, and, more recently, of Children in Custody: Anglo-Russian Perspectives. She taught politics at the universities of Oxford and Essex, before becoming the head of the Ford Foundation’s office in Moscow, with particular responsibility for human rights and legal reform.
Today Russia and human rights are both high on the international agenda. Since Putin returned to the presidency in 2012, domestic developments (from Pussy Riot to the release of Khodorkovsky) and Russia’s global role (especially in relation to Ukraine) have captured worldwide attention. It is therefore an appropriate moment to see how human rights activism functions inside Russia. Since 1991, when the Russian Federation became an independent state, hundreds of organizations have sprung up across the country, championing different causes, with varying strategies, and successes. The response of the authorities has varied from being supportive, or indifferent, to openly hostile. Public support has been lukewarm. Mary McAuley here analyses the development of human rights activism in Russia – from the emergence of the new organizations in 1991 to the recent political attacks on the community, and its response.