By Jennifer Scott
Russia has experienced shifts and changes historically when it comes to philanthropy. Russia‘s growth in charity over the past 3 years has been one of the highest growing countries in the world (schmida). Russia adopted English views of philanthropy historically but the transition to socialism and changes Russia adopted over time has created a distinct and continuously changing view of philanthropy.
During the 11th to 17th in Russia’s main form of dealing with the dispossessed was in the concept of almsgiving. Russian donors followed the teachings of St. John Chrysostom who deliberated that wealth should be shared to positively impact the less fortunate for religions sake. Chrysostom preached that “wealth to be used for the purpose of almsgiving to be delivered from the wrath of God (Ulianova).” Russians were to give and help for the purpose to save themselves under the eyes of religion.
Russia during the 17th century possessed a large number of poor and disadvantaged creating an establishment of who was worthy of alms, this became “disabled soldiers, the physically disabled, illegitimate babies and children (Ulianova).”Russia followed the charity trends that were currently undergoing in England and proved successful adding institutions such as insane asylums, orphanages, boarding schools and workhouses in addition to the almshouses that were established for the needy. During the 17th and 18th centuries institutions could not keep or create fast enough to support the needy and many disadvantaged people were turned to monasteries until the end of the 18th century and early 19th century when institutions could catch up with the need in the vast Russia. The ideas and institutions mainly stayed in place with individual charity during the 19th and 20th centuries until the Bolshevik Revolution.
The Bolshevik Revolution and the emergence of socialism and rule by communist parties shifted the paradigm of philanthropy from individual charity to state run care for people in need. During “the 70 years of the soviet system society became accustomed to a state that took all the work of caring for the less fortunate upon itself and there was no reason for ordinary to get involved (telegraph uk).” It wasn’t until the collapse of the Soviet Union that domestic giving would really come back into focus.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia needed to find its foothold in dealing with the disadvantaged. Foundations were creating in the early 1990’s by wealthy families and massive companies. “Middle class giving was incredibly low as it has been virtually non-existent 5 years previously (Alexeeva). The charity that did exist was from “large corporations that were mainly linked to specific towns or areas that surrounded the corporation (Smetanina)” which created a less accessible charitable sector.
“Growth in philanthropy in Russia in 2007-2008 was among the highest in the world (Smetanina).” There are four distinctions in Russian philanthropy that sets its charity apart from other nations. Firstly, almost all donations are kept in Russia. “Russian philanthropists are mainly concerned with solving domestic problems (Livshin).” Secondly, very few philanthropists use non profit groups to distribute their charity due to “the lack of transparency and openness of charities lead to give directly to people or state run institutions (Mersiyanova, 72).” Thirdly, and partially part of the previous point 90 percent of donations go to state run bodies like orphanages. Lastly,” secular rather than religious causes obtain the overwhelming percentage of donations (Livshin).”
Since 2004 the middle class philanthropy has grown substantially “virtually from zero dollars to millions of roubles in 2007 (Gambrell)” and “philanthropic activity has been growing at the rate of the pace of the economy (charity aid foundation)”. One of the biggest impediments to the development of non-profit private aid is Corporate donors are still the highest in the area of philanthropy donating from 70 to 75% of all donations which still attaches charity to regional and specific areas. Russia is still growing and altering in the charity domain, however “experts see the financial crisis will not affect the rapid growth of charity in Russia (Smetanina).”
Alexeeva, O. (2008, September). Russia: historic growth in private giving. Philanthropy: uk Newsletter. Retrieved September 27, 2010 from EBSCOhost database.
Livshin, A. (2006, May). Civil society and philanthropy under Putin. The International Journal Of Not-For-Profit Law. Retrieved September 27, 2010 from EBSCOhost database.
Mersiyanova, I. (2006, June 22). Community foundations in Russia: Phase of institutional development. Center For The Study Of Civil Society and The Non-Profit Sector. Retrieved September 27, 2010 from http:/www.grans.hse.ru
Schmida, S. (2002, Autumn). Emergence of philanthropy in Russia and the other new independent states. SEAL: Social Economy And Law Journal. Retrieved September 27, 2010 from http:/www.efc.be/cgi-bin/articlepublisher.pl?filename=SS-SE-10-02-1.html
Smetanina, S. (2009, April 21). Russia’s vulnerable need sweet charity from philanthropy. Telegraph UK. Retrieved September 28, 2010 from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsered/russianow/5194571/russias-vulnerable-need.html.
Ulianova, G. (2001). Philanthropy in imperial Russia from the 18th to the early 20th century. Russian Academy of Sciences: Institute of Russian History. Retrieved September 26, 2010 from EBSCOhost database.