Rethinking Russia International Conference: A Unique Chance for Expert Dialogue

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Rethinking Russia International Conference took place in Moscow on March 14, 2016. The event was organized by Rethinking Russia International Analytical Centre and ISEPR Foundation.  The conference gathered prominent Russian and foreign delegates. It allowed not only to maintain but also to significantly intensify expert dialogue on acute global problems, contemporary Russia, its relations with foreign partners, and the country’s perception abroad both in professional circles and among general public. We are happy to present to you a collection of speeches delivered by the participants of the event.

Today’s world – and this situation has persisted for quite a long time – is witnessing the dissemination of controversial, inadequate and unverified information about Russia. Our conference aims to provide input into reconsidering our country, above all, abroad.

Current myths and stereotypes about Russia allow little scope for interpreting the country’s internal processes, its foreign policy, as well as motives and interests. The misunderstanding can be traced back to different international sources, namely politicians, pundits, university circles, etc. It results in impairing the quality of our foreign partners’ policies towards Russia. Under these circumstances, expert dialogues, aimed at improving the state of affairs, are acquiring renewed importance.

This is the task that was set before Russian and foreign and foreign delegates of the conference. They made an attempt to reexamine the country and even set a new framework for understanding Russia’s various spheres of life and its citizens.

During the event a wide range of projects, including reports, books and other pieces of analysis jointly provided by our partners, guests and the Rethinking Russia think tank, was unveiled.

CoverFirst of all, Ivan Blot’s book Putin’s Russia was presented at the conference. In December 2015 it was presented to the French public and went on sale in early 2016. At present the book tops the rating of a most popular Web-service in France. The second edition for France has already been published, as it took less than a month to sell out the first one in France. The success of the book is that it offered a new perspective on Russia, as opposed to the coverage by leading Western media, like CNN, BBC or French and German outlets. Ivan Blot presents his analysis of Russia’s politics, economy, culture and other realms, and his vision can truly be considered as renewed and modern. The Russian edition of the book was prepared by our think tank with the support of ISEPR Foundation and the Knizhniy Mir publishing house.

Secondly, a report prepared by Russia’s group of reputable and authoritative political scientists was presented. It provides a comparative perspective on the state of the country’s political system ahead of the 2011 and 2016 State Duma campaigns. Its purpose is to understand the developments in the pre-election period and opportunities which different actors can seize during the campaign, as well transformations through which the Russian electoral system has undergone during the recent years. This analysis will stir up our foreign guests’ interest and will enable them to learn more about Russia’s electoral processes.

Thirdly, we presented a joint project realized by WCIOM public opinion research centre, ISEPR Foundation, Rethinking Russia think tank, and the Platform Centre for Social Design. It’s titled Surprising Russia and will become an annual publication. This is a comprehensive and fundamental volume with interesting sociological facts and figures, information on our citizens’ sentiments, values and attitudes towards different processes and phenomena. Most conclusions will surprise both the Russian and foreign audience.

This project is an additional step towards rethinking Russia. The West often fails to adequately track Russians’ opinions on domestic and global issues, and such books will allow foreigners to grasp our realities and mindsets for common betterment.

The second part of the conference was be devoted to the state of the electoral system. Among other matters, we focused on direct democracy mechanisms due to their relevance and profound significance, particularly against the background of the 2014 Crimean agenda.

The conference allowed to see and understand current Russian developments. Furthermore, all these processes can arouse keen interest and be of use to our foreign colleagues. Some have got used to lecturing us about democracy, giving recommendations and teaching lessons. Yet Russia has its own quite successful democratic way – albeit unusual or extraordinary – involving the domain of direct democracy.

The Rethinking Russia International Conference is part of our think tank’s continuing work aimed at reexamining Russia and renewing perceptions about the country abroad. In this volume we publish texts of our delegates’ speeches.

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