Much has been said in these pages about activities carried out in Russia by charitable organizations. Most of these, for various reasons - mainly greater experience and financial resources and an infrastructure that is already in place - have either been run by Westerners or at least use a great deal of Western know-how and direction.
In large part, this has been because of the lack of developed civil society during the Soviet period - when it was seen as largely superfluous, given the omnipresence of the state and the cradle-to-grave social security net - coupled with the chaotic situation that has prevailed in Russia for the last decade or so.
However, this state of affairs has in some instances led to a paternalistic attitude on the part of Western organizations that see it as their role to dictate to Russians and tell them what is best for them. This is just as pernicious in this real as it has been in other segments of Russian life in the post-communist era, when clueless foreigners like Anders Aslund were able to pass themselves practically as possessing near-superhuman knowledge of economics, for instance.
This sort of arrangement is, in the long run, damaging to Russia. This is why we are glad when we see organizations that attempt to work with Russians who are trying to organize themselves using their own resources and under their own direction. We are especially satisfied on those occasions when we come across a domestic organization, individual or informal group of individuals who are trying to do something to better the country without recourse to Western expertise or resources.
The health of a society can be measured in part by the extent to which its members organize themselves in order to take care of the things that matter to them, to work toward their vision of the way things should be. We only hope, and have faith, that Russia is moving along this track.