Ideological or Pragmatic? A Data-Driven Analysis of the Russian Presidential Grant Fund

Research on Russian civil society focuses largely on the repressive legislative side of state policies, to the virtual exclusion of the rise of domestic funding, be it individual, corporate, or public. This article instead contributes to the discussion of state funding for the third sector by looking at the Russian Presidential Grant Fund, a state institution that has disbursed RUB18 billion (approx. $275 million at the August 11, 2019, exchange rate) to the third sector since 2016, making it one of the most influential sources of financial support to Russian civil society. A data-driven analysis of the Fund reveals that, although it prioritizes certain types of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) over others, there is a discernible attempt to address some of the most pressing social ills in Russia today. Whereas some grant directions, such as the “preservation of historical memory” and “development of public diplomacy and support of compatriots,” further long-held, Kremlin-sponsored ideological projects, the biggest categories supported by the Fund focus on more classical philanthropic issues, confirming the state’s growing delegation of the provision of public services to the third sector.