– This is not the first time you have come to Kyrgyzstan for training activities, but the general public still knows little about the goals and objectives of the Gorchakov Foundation. What are they?
Victoria Karslieva: The Gorchakov Foundation was created by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation by order of the President of Russia in 2010. It was initially conceived as a structure that would hold grant competitions and provide financial support to non-governmental organizations. However, the organization developed and we began to organize our own events, with the help of which we for the first time showed potential participants in grant competitions how to implement international projects with high quality and at a high level. Later this direction was separated in the work of the foundation.
Today, for example, we conduct educational courses for scientific and expert communities: journalists, political scientists and non-governmental organizations dealing with current international relations and security issues. Our target audience is young people.
If we talk about the subsidies provided, then the uniqueness of the Gorchakov Foundation is that we financially help projects not only of NGOs in Russia, but also abroad.
– If we talk about the post-Soviet space, what countries are we talking about?
Victoria Karslieva: Countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus, Belarus and Moldova. In principle, we can talk about comprehensive work throughout the post-Soviet space.
-How do they feel about what you do?
Victoria Karslieva: Quite positive. The authorities understand that NGOs are an effective tool to implement, first of all, their initiatives and ideas.
– The Gorchakov Foundation provides grants. Does this mean it makes money?
Victoria Karslieva: Yes, but we don’t just do this: we announce a tender, transfer money and then meet with NGOs to discuss the financial report. We have very serious expert advice and support for each project. We provide significant support to all of our beneficiaries. In fact, the fund’s employees are integrated into the activities of the partner non-governmental organizations. I would even call it turnkey help.
– What projects are you talking about?
Victoria Karslieva: As a rule, these are scientific and educational initiatives: media schools, conferences on various topics. Each year, the Foundation’s Board of Trustees, headed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, approves priority areas and the Foundation works on them. The geography is large, almost the entire world.
Our beneficiary is, as a rule, a non-profit organization that is engaged in educational and research activities and conducts various public events, master classes and advanced training courses. Its target audience is journalists, political scientists and experts in the field of international relations.
– How does the Gorchakov Foundation work directly in Kyrgyzstan?
Victoria Karslieva: We have been working in the republic for many years. They are well represented within the framework of subsidy activities, we have many of our own projects. Kyrgyz organizations regularly apply for funding and many of them win. For example, this year we supported the project on Eurasian debates. It was an initiative dedicated to students, teaching them the rules for building a debate, the priorities of Eurasian cooperation, its pros and cons. And, most importantly, how to speak correctly in public, present yourself and your strengths.
We also had a long program, which consisted of several round tables. For example, together with the public foundation “Oy-Pikir”, we organized and held a large-scale debate on security issues, discussed the role of culture in preserving the integrity of people, as well as what should be done to protect society. of certain negative tendencies. It was a serious debate, in which deputies of the State Duma of Russia and the Parliament of Kyrgyzstan, as well as members of the Republic’s Security Council, participated online.
Last year, students and young teachers gathered to study the processes taking place in the Central Asian region. They talked about different things: the impact of the environmental situation, the energy crisis. Specialists from the countries of Central Asia and Russia attended the program.
– Can they be called representatives of Russia’s “soft power”?
Victoria Karslieva: I would call it “rather” public diplomacy or humanitarian cooperation. Our goal is to build a scientific and professional expert community around Russian science and experience in international relations. The Gorchakov Foundation tries to unite specialists from different countries to exchange opinions and create communication platforms where they can talk and discuss.
– Is there a difference between working with Russian and Kyrgyz NGOs?
Victoria Karslieva: Other mechanisms are used in cooperation with non-governmental organizations in Kyrgyzstan.
In the republic, “essentially” there are NGOs and grant-giving organizations that somehow meet and cooperate. In Russia, the work is structured as follows: there are key donors who specialize in certain issues and relevant NGOs approach them. In Russia it is extremely difficult to get a grant for something in which the granting foundation does not participate.
– Do you think NGOs can participate in political processes and should reveal their funding sources?
Victoria Karslieva: I think they can. NGOs shape public opinion and this is a powerful tool. Through them the State can promote its projects. Because non-governmental organizations do a lot of research and can really assess what society’s attitude is towards a particular issue. And when this relationship is clarified, a decision is made about what to do next.
In my opinion, NGOs should disclose their funding sources, especially when it comes to external sponsorship. This is such a serious tool to influence public opinion within the country that the State must know where non-governmental organizations get their money from and how they spend it. Therefore, it seems to me that this is an absolutely normal practice: to show the nature of the origin of NGO finances. Our fund is open in this regard.