Where does Russia's welfare state end? The role of non-governmental actors in disability provision
Centre for Russian and East European Studies University of Birmingham Birmingham, United Kingdom
This paper looks at the activity of non-profit organisations for disabled people in Russia. Given that welfare services in Russia do little to promote the citizenship rights and social inclusion of people with disabilities, it is relevant to raise the question of which non-state sources of support exist. Across the world, civil society organisations have often led the struggle for the equality and rights of disabled people. In addition to this advocacy role, they are increasingly involved in welfare provision through grants and tenders. My discussion draws on eleven months of qualitative fieldwork - including interviews and visits to NGOs - in Kazan and other cities in the Volga-Ural area.
I start with a short discussion of the theoretical and policy context of third-sector activity in Russia. I then map the range of disability organisations in Russia, talking about the work of "official" disabled people's organisations, local associations and small self-help groups. I use research observations and the comments of research participants to examine the usefulness of these different bodies and their varying approaches to disability. I go onto challenge the notion of a clear distinction between the state and third sector in Russia. Regulative and funding provisions ensure that the authorities are closely involved in the activities of the disability movement in Russia, implying that the "social state" extends far beyond the provision of welfare services.