Is Russia's Civil Rights Movement Here?

American Enterprise Institute (AEI) Russia expert, Leon Aron, recently traveled through Russia interviewing leaders of grass-roots movements. In a just released Russian Outlook, Aron describes the transformation underway in Russia.

"To see the rallies that grew out of anger over rigged legislative elections in December as primarily a political wave is to miss a more fundamental leaven at work in Russian society: a moral awakening akin to the civil rights movement in America."

Amongst his key points:

  • Grass-roots leaders are convinced that lasting Russian liberalization will come not from violent revolution or a great rupture imposed from above but from a mature civil society with the courage to control the executive. Thus, their work is not geared toward political change, but inner moral transformation, self-organization, and self-reliance.
  • Because hopelessness and passivity have shackled Russian society, a radical shift in attitudes is required.
  • We may be present at the birth of something new in Russian political tradition, at least since its evolution was interrupted by the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. It is hard not to hear echoes of the civil rights movement in the United States.


Leon Aron is the director of Russian studies at the American Enterprise Institute. He can be reached at laron@aei.org or through his assistant daniel.vajdic@aei.org.

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About the Author

 

Leon
Aron
  • Leon Aron is Resident Scholar and Director of Russian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. He is the author of three books and over 300 articles and essays. Since 1999, he has written Russian Outlook, a quarterly essay on economic, political, social and cultural aspects of Russia’s post-Soviet transition, published by the Institute. He is the author of the first full-scale scholarly biography of Boris Yeltsin, Yeltsin: A Revolutionary Life (St. Martin’s Press, 2000); Russia’s Revolution: Essays 1989-2006 (AEI Press, 2007); and, most recently, Roads to the Temple: Memory, Truth, Ideas and Ideals in the Making of the Russian Revolution, 1987-1991 (Yale University Press, 2012).


    Dr. Aron earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University, has taught a graduate seminar at Georgetown University, and was awarded the Peace Fellowship at the U.S. Institute of Peace. He has co-edited and contributed the opening chapter to The Emergence of Russian Foreign Policy, published by the U.S. Institute of Peace in 1994 and contributed an opening chapter to The New Russian Foreign Policy (Council on Foreign Relations, 1998).


    Dr. Aron has contributed numerous essays and articles to newspapers andmagazines, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, theWall Street Journal Foreign Policy, The NewRepublic, Weekly Standard, Commentary, New York Times Book Review, the TimesLiterary Supplement. A frequent guest of television and radio talkshows, he has commented on Russian affairs for, among others, 60 Minutes,The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, Charlie Rose, CNN International,C-Span, and National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” and “Talk of theNation.”


    From 1990 to 2004, he was a permanent discussant at the Voice of America’s radio and television show Gliadya iz Ameriki (“Looking from America”), which was broadcast to Russia every week.


    Follow Leon Aron on Twitter.

  • Phone: 202-862-5898
    Email: laron@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Katherine Earle
    Phone: 202-862-5872
    Email: katherine.earle@aei.org

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