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Thursday 27 October 2022, 10.00-11.30
Score, Stockholm University, Frescativägen 14 A

The concepts of democracy and human rights in transnationally funded projects: Evidence from civil society organizations in Russia

This paper attempts to analyze how transnational donors may promote democracy and human rights by funding civil society in countries with an autocratic past, and why such work may eventually fail. We do this by looking at the travel of the ideas of democracy and human rights from Sweden to Russia through transnational funding during a period of relatively democratic stability in Russia (1991-2004). The paper centers on tracing funding applications and reports to a Swedish donor promoting projects of democracy and human rights in Russia during the studied period, as well as contextualizing these projects by looking at the Swedish and Russian contexts in general, and the agenda of the Swedish funder in particular. By analyzing these projects as cases of high-stakes translations, we find that none of them actually become embedded in Russian society, and that many of them only engage with Russian society on a superficial level, hence at least partially explaining their limited impact on transforming Russia into a liberal democracy.