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 [email protected] or through his assistant [email protected]

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