The purpose of this thesis is to investigate the regional democracy enhancing role that Norway takes on in its High North policy, and its traceable influences in North-West Russia. It is important for a successful development of the democracy aspect in this policy to learn more about the impact that so-called democracy promotion has on civil society. Norwegian policy to Russia through the Barents Cooperation and the new High North Strategy is central when aiming to clarify the financial and political background on which Norwegian democracy assistance to Russia is based.
The general theoretical subjects of importance are the significance of civil society for democratic development, and the role of civil society organisations (CSOs) in this process. In the Russian context, it is found that civil society does not seem in condition to influence the state in such a way as to contribute to the consolidation of democracy. In addition to the frail start provided by Soviet legacy, civil society is considered to be weak mainly because of a general passivity in the population, a lack of network mentality among the CSOs themselves, and a strong presidential power that seems to be set on controlling CSOs through state institutions and laws. Another challenge for civil society actors is that a Russian understanding of democracy is advocated by Russian authorities, while most foreign funding of Russian CSOs is based on a “Western” understanding of democracy.
The impact of foreign involvement in Russian democratic development through civil society funding is discussed in light of former research made on foreign funding of Russian NGOs. Three hypothesis derived from prior findings are then discussed in a qualitative analysis based mainly on interviews and questionnaires with Russian and Norwegian civil society actors and other actors representing authorities and grant givers. The conclusions will finally result in some answers to the main research question of how Norway promotes democracy in North-West Russia – and a couple of recommendations for the path ahead.