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Russia Considers Altrusim

Published: June 21, 2013 (Issue # 1764)



  • Supporting charity in Russia is often known to be an empty gesture, with most distrustful of the way funds are distributed.
    Photo: Nadezhda Belyaeva / SPT

As Russia is starting to see people of different social classes engage seriously in activities aimed at addressing some of Russias most pressing problems, Russian philanthropy is now finding itself at a turning point, according to participants of a roundtable held Thursday as part of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. The topic of the roundtable was Cultivating the Next Generation of Global Philanthropists.

What we have witnessed is nothing short of a revolution, and I am not exaggerating at all, said Alexei Kudrin, the Dean of the Department of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the St. Petersburg State University. Kudrin was also Russias former finance minister. I left civil service more than 1 1/2 years ago, and over that period I have been deeply involved in fundraising initiatives both in the regions and in the capital cities. Our funds have almost doubled, and I am genuinely impressed with the enthusiasm of donors.

The issue of philanthropy in Russia is not new to the forum. However, the main difference between Thursdays roundtable and previous discussions is that the focus of the debate has now shifted to sharing the various aspects of entrepreneurs dissatisfaction with state policies in the field of philanthropy mainly concerning the governments failure to create what potential donors would find an acceptable climate for making donations.

Yes, one specific feature of philanthropy in Russia is that not many Russian business people agree that generosity can truly feel good; Rather, many potential philanthropists see their donations as a form of investment they want to use it to promote their businesses or their own image, Kudrin said. Indeed, as with every investment, they want it to pay off. In some cases we see that businesses tend to more keenly invest in improving the infrastructure around their factories, for example, thus benefitting primarily their own employees who live in the area.

While in 2012, Russian entrepreneurs on the panel had been adamant that the government needs to offer incentives for charitable giving a natural reaction perhaps, given that they didnt go into business out of wanting to do good the hot topic this year was the creation of a working scheme that would allow the middle class to be involved in philanthropy.

Russia has recently seen some impressive cases of volunteer activities, including, for example, initiatives in the regions to help the victims of the flood in Krymsk in the summer of 2012, Kudrin said. However, very few schemes exist in Russia that make it easy for ordinary Russians who want to engage in philanthropy, to do so.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 28


Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.



Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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