Organizational Reactions of Russian NGOs to 2012 Legislative Changes

  • Andrei Semenov Perm State University
  • Vsevolod Bederson Perm State University
Keywords: civil society, NGOs, third sector, organizational theory, organizational adaptation, Russia


In this article, we examine organizational reactions in the Russian third sector to adoption of the so-called “Foreign Agents” law in July 2012. Within the framework of organizational and resource dependence theories, we analyze state “licensing” policy in relation to civil society organizations and the tightening of regulation in the sector. We propose a typology of NGOs based on resource flows and rules of access, enabling a comparison of the organizational reactions of Russian NGOs to the new regulations. The study is grounded empirically in interviews with 19 representatives of NGOs in nine regions, along with data from internal documents, official statistics, and media reports. Our main argument is informed by the open systems theory of organizations, positing that growing state intervention in the third sector increasingly impacts NGOs’ organizational features, regardless of type. The imposition of a listing of organizations “with foreign agent functions” has affected relations between the state, business, and the third sector, limiting access to resources for the latter. Measures like presidential grants and subsidies to compensate for resource shortfalls tend to be conditional, for example, on political loyalty. More generally, these environmental changes have hindered the capacity of third sector organizations to sustain professionalization. However, Russian NGOs have demonstrated considerable resilience in adapting to these changes through diffusion of organizational forms to minimize the costs of new legislation.

Author Biographies

Andrei Semenov, Perm State University

Candidate of Science in Politics, Director, Center for Comparative History and Politics
Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Perm State University
Address: 15 Bukireva str., Perm 614990, Russian Federation

Vsevolod Bederson, Perm State University
Candidate of Science in Politics
Junior Fellow, Institute of Philosophy and Law of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Lecturer, Department of Political Science, Perm State University
Address: 16 Sophia Kovalevskaya str., Yekaterinburg, 620990, Russian Federation
How to Cite
SemenovA., & BedersonV. (2017). Organizational Reactions of Russian NGOs to 2012 Legislative Changes. Journal of Economic Sociology, 18(2), 11-40.