May 30, 5:00 p.m. (26-4 Shabolovka, room 4322). NES CSDSI & HSE ICSID Research Seminar & HSE Seminar on political economy: Lauren A. McCarthy (University of Massachusetts Amherst), “Managed Civil Society and the Realities of Police Oversight in Russia” (co-authored with Katherine Stolerman and Anton Tikhomirov). Registration (please, till 10 a.m. May 30).
In recognition both of the importance, and also the changing nature of civil society in Russia under President Vladimir Putin, this paper seeks to shed light on the workings of consultative bodies attached to government agencies, called obshchestvennyi soveti (OS), or public councils. In particular, we examine the councils attached to the police (MVD). A 2011 law required that such councils, which were previously present in some regions and cities, be established in all regions across the Russian Federation. It empowered them to gather and present information on the work of the police, make recommendations, advise on laws and regulations, ensure citizens are informed of police programs, and provide general oversight for police activities. This paper explores what kinds of citizens make up these bodies, and what activities the councils actually participate in. To this end, we analyze membership lists, coding for gender, occupation, and other relevant characteristics that indicate which sectors of society are represented. We also study organizational documents such as work plans, meeting reports, and news stories, as well as information like term length, commissions, and working groups from council websites in three federal districts (Northwest, Central and Volga) covering approximately 50% of Russia’s population. We find that contrary to existing literature’s claims that these bodies are simply window dressing, regional OS’s are often made up of highly qualified and educated citizens from legitimate civil society organizations, as well as from academia, business, media, and some former law enforcement agencies. Furthermore, while, as expected, OS’s do focus on promoting a positive image of the police and avoid politically charged work, they also are actively engaged in their regions sponsoring programs aimed at road safety, reducing crime and corruption, countering terrorism, engaging with local youth, and overseeing police personnel and police activity.