Accepted Paper:

Celebrating diversity and promoting tolerance in Russia: foreign aid, racial harmony, and efforts to build a new international postsocialism  


Melissa Caldwell (University of California, Santa Cruz)

Paper short abstract:

Whereas Soviet projects promoted pan-socialist multiculturalism and tolerance, Russia now receives foreign aid to teach Russians about tolerance/diversity. This paper examines these shifting foreign aid relations and how Russia’s socialist alliances continue and are reworked in the post-Soviet era.

Paper long abstract:

Soviet efforts to build international socialism recognized and celebrated cultural, ethnic, and racial diversity across the socialist world. Through development projects at home and abroad, Soviet leaders and citizens cooperated with their counterparts in Asia, Africa, and Latin America to promote ideals of egalitarianism, tolerance, solidarity, and cooperation. In the post-Soviet period, however, ideals of tolerance and diversity have been overshadowed by accounts of harassment and physical violence against individuals who are "different," most notably persons of color. In Russia, these actions are most visibly directed against Central Asian, African, and Asian migrants, many of whom come from countries that were Russia's socialist allies. Victims and human rights activists interpret these acts as consequences of Russia's capitalist transition and have called for Russia to recommit to the ideals of "tolerance." This "recommitment" to tolerance attracts foreign aid and foreign aid workers who monitor race relations and "educate" Russian citizens in new projects of tolerance and racial harmony. These foreign aid workers include citizens from western countries and from countries that previously received foreign aid from Russia, effectively reconfiguring historical relationships of assistance between donor and recipient nations. This paper examines this shift in foreign aid dedicated to diversity and tolerance programs and how Russia has become simultaneously a provider and receiver of such assistance. A particular focus will be how this simultaneous position illuminates how Russia's Soviet-era socialist alliances both continue and are being reworked in the post-Soviet era, thereby revealing possibilities for a new international (post)socialism.

Panel P082
The changing landscape of the global political economy and foreign aid: has the Cold War ended? (Anthropology of International Governance Network)