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The Finnish-Russian Civic Forum strives to promote cooperation between the peoples of Finland and Russia by supporting civic initiatives for democracy, human rights, and freedom of speech.

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Home-buyers: Do not invest in Russia!

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Home-buyers from Russia’s northern capital, St Petersburg, have organised a demonstration in connection with the second EU-Russia Innovation Forum in the Finnish border city of Lappeenranta on 25 May 2011. The demonstrators are holding a meeting outside Lappeenranta city hall, urging foreign investors to avoid investments in Russia.

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Russia’s Half-Capitalist System

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Russia is a regime where rules are there to be broken, explains Kirill Rogov, Senior Research Fellow at the Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy in Moscow. If you want to understand how the current political and social order operates in Russia, you first must understand the two important and complementary beliefs upon which it is founded.

The first is society’s recognition of widespread corruption at all levels of state and economic life, and a similar recognition of the extreme inadequacy of existing institutions (in the first instance judicial institutions). This particular belief is held by people of varying political affiliations and social status — shared equally by shop attendants, members of the opposition, low-ranking officials and political functionaries.

The second belief is just as widespread. It holds that for various reasons any change to the existing order is out of the question. In other words, when recognition of the sorry state of affairs of legal regulation does not lead to a corresponding demand for real improvement in law. In economics, this situation even has a name — “the institutional trap”.

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FINROSFORUM 2010 | Modernisation: From Words to Deeds

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The fourth annual conference of the Finnish-Russian Civic Forum, FINROSFORUM 2010, brings together a host of experts on human rights, politics, and the economy from Russia and elsewhere. The conference will be held in the Conference and Cultural Centre Sofia in Helsinki on 21-22 July 2010. The conference venue is located on the picturesque cape of Kallahdenniemi in Helsinki’s eastern district of Vuosaari.

The first day of the conference will focus on Russia’s need to modernise its political and economic system. Taking part in the discussion will be Boris Nemtsov, Russia’s former Deputy Prime Minister, Ilya Ponomaryov, member of Russia’s State Duma, Andrey Piontkovsky, Russian scientist and political analyst, Bill Browder, founder and CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, and many others. The full list of speakers is available on our website.

The second day of the conference will be devoted to a discussion about the need to create new forms of civil society cooperation between the EU and Russia. A project to establish an EU-Russia Civil Society Forum [pdf] will be presented at the forum. Leading actors in Russia’s human rights movement and civic society have been invited to take part in the discussion. Fraser Cameron, Director of the EU-Russia Centre, and Heidi Hautala, Chair of the Finnish-Russian Civic Forum, will present the project.

The conference is open to the public and participation in the event is free of charge. Registration for the conference is open at http://finrosforum.fi/pages/registration.

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“Russia will never catch up”

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“We will never catch up,” writes Alexey Melnikov, member of the bureau of Russia’s liberal opposition party, Yabloko, in Gazeta.ru. “Twenty years of unsuccessful reforms, propaganda lies, theft, corruption, and brain drain have deprived Russia of the possibility to develop and compete with other nations. Our lot is to rot away, selling the only thing that anybody still buys from us: oil and gas,” Mr Melnikov laments.

Lengthy visits of Russian officials to the United States usually contribute to if not sensible decisions, then at least to some clarity in the minds of our rulers. The visits serve to remove any thought of Russian economic power and the workability of our crony capitalism, and help understand how backward Russia really is.

I wonder, did Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sense anything of the sort on his latest visit to the US? Be it as it may, what ever went through the president’s mind and what ever measures he intends to take, is of no consequence. Change will not happen in Russia.

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Where Is Russia?

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“We are not a member of the EU, but we are a European country,” said Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in an interview with Western journalists on the eve of the G-20 summit and a key meeting with President Barack Obama in Toronto. His words are worth thinking about.

The Russia we know today has been looking for its place in the world ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union 20 years ago. Stripped of the shell of Soviet empire, the country’s identity has been in flux. The search is at once geopolitical, philosophical and profoundly psychological.

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Political Constraints of Russia’s Development

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The Finnish Institute of International Affairs has published a working paper by Russia expert Katri Pynnöniemi on the political constraints on Russia’s economic development. The paper looks at the current discussion about modernization in Russia, which has stemmed from the weaknesses of the country’s economy, laid bare by the global economic crisis.

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Helping Russia Modernize

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The global financial crisis has hit Russia hard. The country’s gross domestic product declined almost 9 percent in 2009, and income from energy sales have dropped sharply. Inflation and unemployment are both rising, and the number of anti-government protests is increasing across the country. Against this background, Medvedev has sought to highlight the need for a thorough political and economic modernization of Russia. He has described Russia as “a primitive and chronically corrupt economy based on raw materials” and fixated on the old habit of relying on the state to solve its problems.

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