“In line with the Council of Europe’s position, we at the European Wergeland Centre believe it is important to strengthen the democratic forces in the Russian diaspora – including educators and civil society organizations. They can play a crucial role in promoting human rights values as well as act as a counterweight for diaspora groups influenced by the Kremlin authoritarian regime” says Ana Perona-Fjeldstad, EWC Executive Director.
Since Russia attacked Ukraine in February, many Russians who oppose the regime and openly speak out against the war, have fled abroad. Among them civil society activists, human rights defenders, and independent journalists, but also teachers and other educators. Their position is shared by others who left the country before the war and together they make up the democratic diaspora.
Various international institutions point out the importance of supporting the democratic Russian civil society in exile. Importantly, the Council of Europe High-level Reflection Group recognizes that “democracy actors remain the only channel for reaching out to the people of both Russia and Belarus” . The group recommends exploring all possible means for co-operation with the democratic Russian and Belarusian civil society. This is also the position of Norway, reflected in the proposed state budget, which also prioritizes strengthening civil society in Russia, including support to free media and human rights defenders within the country and in exile.
Education has the power to shape up the foundational values and the future of a society. EWC will work with representatives of Russian civil society in exile, to strengthen their potential to promote democracy through education. Our upcoming seminar “Education in Putin’s Russia” is part of this initiative
In the words of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights:
“Working together, expressing support and building bridges for a better future is of crucial importance for a Europe free of war and violence.”