Civil society development in Russia : political actors and power in EU-Russia relations
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This thesis examines non-state actors’ role in International Relations. To accomplish this, the study has two objectives. The first objective is theoretical: to explain that different dimensions of power must be included in studies on non-state actors. The second objective is empirical: to show that non-state actors working on Russian civil society must relate to different dimensions of power. The empirical data is based upon participation and semi-structured interviews in the general assembly of the non-state initiative EU-Russia Civil Society Forum. I have also interviewed a representative from the European Economic and Social Committee. Additionally to the empirical data, have I reviewed literature on power, EU-Russia relations and civil society. This thesis argues that non-state actors must relate to power when working on civil society development in Russia. The members of the Forum must relate both to Russian constrains on civil society, and the political crisis between EU and Russia in the aftermath of the annexation of Crimea. This influences the Forum in three ways. Firstly, it creates a division among the members between pragmatists and principled views. Secondly, this division is reflected in how the actors themselves act and relate to power. While principled work to get international support to criticize the Russian authorities for the repressive laws on civil society, the pragmatists favor a more subtle form of power aiming to change the anti-Western discourse inside Russia today. Thirdly, in light of the political crisis between EU and Russia the Forum has received increased attention from the EU. In that respect the members in the Forum are becoming increasingly political, which again challenges their work in Russia. The Forum faces several obstacles in regards to the current crisis between EU and Russia, nevertheless it still provides a common space where civil society actors can meet and interact. This common space is how the Forum supports civil society activity in Russia despite the ongoing repression. The future will tell if this common space will continue to exist in the shadow of geopolitical crisis between the neighboring countries. The only point that is clear is that non-state actors also in the future must continue to relate to several dimensions of power.