The Raisa Maximovna Club
"The Raisa Maximovna Club " is an on-going project of the Gorbachev Foundation
The Raisa Maximovna Club was set up by Raisa Maximovna Gorbacheva as a venue to debate socially important issues and provide representation for and practical support to those projects that contribute to the development of civil society in Russia and intend to actively involve women in this process. The Raisa Maximovna Club holds discussions and scientific-practice conferences and carries out research projects and charity campaigns.
The Club was among the first to initiate public discussions of many burning problems of contemporary Russia, such as child homelessness, the growth of violence in society and in family, gender inequality and obstacles to women’s participation in public politics, the crisis of the education system, issues of charitable activities and of social journalism.
The Raisa Maximovna Club means high professional level of experts and participants in discussions. The Club's events are attended by scholars, politicians, public leaders, journalists and representatives of non-governmental organizations.
The History of the Club
Raisa Maximovna Gorbachev regularly received suggestions from Russian women to set up a Club as a place for informal meetings and open discussions. They asked for support to their effort to participate in building civil society and democracy in Russia. The Raisa Maximovna Club was created in March 1997. Raisa Maximovna Gorbachev became its President and Irina Virganskaya, the Gorbachevs’ daughter, became Vice-President.
On October 30, 1997, the first conference organized by the Club was held, themed “Today's Russia: a Woman's View.” Speaking at the Conference, Raisa Maximovna said that the Club’s discussions were open to anyone who are interested in advancing the role of women in public life and willing to make woman’s voice heard at last in the Russian society and her view of the most important social issues understood and accepted.
The Raisa Maximovna Club immediately attracted attention. The discussions at the conference were attended by both men and women: cultural and religious leaders, activists from over forty women's organizations, scholars and journalists.
The theme “Children in Today’s Russia” immediately became one of the central topics in the range of topics that were put in the center of the Club’s attention. On February 18, 1998, the Round Table on the topic “Our Children: the Vision of the Future and Patterns of Upbringing” was held. The questions that were discussed at it still remain to be highly important in the Russian society: What are we doing for the future of our children? What are our greatest fears in upbringing our children? Will we see the emergence of a “lost generation”? What do we expect from our children and what patterns of happiness and success do we offer them?award presentation ceremony of the winner projects was held in the Moscow office of the newspaper Obshchaya Gazeta. Participants in the conference discussed several projects proposed by non-governmental organizations (educational organizations, service clubs, etc.). Projects of three organizations were chosen on a competitive basis. The money received from Russian and foreign donors was remitted to the accounts of the winners. On March 31, 1998,
To follow up on the discussion launched at the Round Table the Club organized a conference devoted to one of the most acute problems of contemporary Russia – child homelessness. The conference “Abandoned Children: Tomorrow Will Be Too Late” was held on June 4, 1998. The Club organized it together with the Youth for the Culture of Peace and Democracy (a UNESCO Institute) and the Novaya Gazeta newspaper. Scholars, teachers, activists from Russian and international non-governmental organizations and the Russian State Duma Deputies in their presentations addressed the issues the importance of which was just becoming to be realized in the society: “Homeless Russia”: What do we know about it? Can we bring back the street children? There should be no “alien” children: Does Russia have a chance? The Raisa Maximovna Club was one of the first to publicly speak about the catastrophic dimensions of the problem of homeless children in Russia. A Joint Statement was made, addressed to the President of Russia, the executive and legislative branches of government and the media.
The theme “Civic and Political Responsibility of Women in Today's Russia” became a regular topic of discussions and research projects since the very start of the Club’s activities. In 1998 – 1999, a Round Table and an International Conference were devoted to it.
The Round Table “Contemporary Structure of Governance in the Context of Gender Relations sent a clear message: no democratization of Russia was possible without women's active involvement in political developments. (”Club’s stance, December 11, 1998) :
The international conference “Women and Mass Media” (February 22, 1999) was held by the Club together with the Women’s East-West Innovation Fund, East-West Electronic Documentation Center, and Italian association Women in Development. Findings of the survey “Women in Mass Media” conducted on the initiative of the Club were presented at the conference. The survey materials later formed the basis of the book “Woman in Mass Media” (authors: Olga Zdravomyslova and Natalia Kigai).
At the conference, prominent journalists, researchers and politicians discussed the key role played by mass media in advancing the “women’s theme” and solving the “women’s issue.” Opening the discussion, Raisa Gorbachev said: “It would be difficult to change the situation, to turn the tide and make the influence of women real without an alliance of women’s organizations and the media, the press. We need a serious discussion of a woman’s situation, her status in the society, her problems and difficulties, and of the emergence of new trends and values in the lives of Russian women. But how after all do we make it happen? The fact is that today, with some minor exceptions, the press is not independent, while at the same time what and how it reports, describes, examines and interprets is extremely significant for the public conscience, public opinion and behavioral patterns. The hope can be that we are saying this without meaning to uphold the interests of a certain nation, clan or a group of people. This affects us all, our entire homeland. Hope can also be that journalists perform their human, professional, moral duty.”
The conference “Women and Mass Media” was the last event held by the Club in which Raisa Gorbachev participated. She died on September 20, 1999.
Organization of the international workshop conference “A Person and Family: Overcoming Violence” was discussed in the Club with participation of Raisa Maximovna. She strongly supported the theme proposed for the discussion: intolerability of violence and the need to eliminate its roots in the family and in relationships between parents and children. The Conference was dedicated to the memory of Raisa Maximovna and held on May 28 – 29, 2000. The Open Society Institute, the Russian Cultural Fund, and the Society of Family Counselors and Family Psychotherapists took part in organizing it. Speakers at plenary sessions included prominent experts and authoritative scholars from Russia, Germany, Great Britain and Sweden. Within the framework of the conference, they also held master classes for family psychologists who came from Russian provinces. Prominent psychologist Alice Miller (Switzerland) sent in the paper “Political Consequences of Mistreating Children,” written specifically for the Club’s conference. This report (translated into Russian by Natalia Kigai) and other presentations by participants of the conference were reprinted by several Russian media outlets and posted on Web sites. The conference proceedings formed the basis of the book of collected articles “Ordinary Evil”, published by the Club in 2003.
Activities of the Raisa Maximovna Club since 2001
Two themes continue to remain the focus point in the Club’s activities: “Civic and Political Responsibility of a Woman in Russia and the World” and “Children,Family and Youth in Contemporary Society”.
The Club actively joined the discussion of the education reform since the very start of its development. In December 2000, the Round Table “The Future of School - School of the Future” was held. Experts who spoke at it reviewed the crisis trends in the education system and the approaches toward reforming it. On February 22, 2001, these issues were further discussed at a larger conference organized by the Raisa Maximovna Club “School Reform: Pros and Cons”. Many analytical judgments and critical assessments that later would be frequently cited at public discussions and would influence the implementation of the reform were for the first time voiced at this conference.
The Club has become a forum to regularly discuss achievements and problems of the new research area in the Russian social science, gender studies. In December 2000, the seminar “Gender Studies in Russia: The Situation and Prospects” was organized together with the Russian-Canadian program “University of Calgary – Gorbachev Foundation (UCGF)”. It gathered both well-known and beginning researchers. Proceedings of the seminar were published by the Gorbachev Foundation in 2001.
On June 13, 2001 the Club together with the non-governmental organization Women's Information Network held, the Round Table “Woman and Elections” aimed to further discuss the topic of women’s participation in politics. Its participants, who at different times ran in elections at different levels, discussed both visible and hidden barriers that women who ventured to go into Russian politics had to overcome. Brochure “Woman and Elections” was published, based on the proceedings of the Round Table. The discussion that was started at the Round Table led to organizing the conference “Woman and Elections” (held on January 11, 2002), which was devoted to the 70th anniversary of the birth of Raisa Gorbachev. Speakers at the conference included women activists from many regions of Russia; it was attended by Mikhail Gorbachev. The conference still stands out as one of the most prominent public discussions of participation of Russian women in politics.
On December 9-10, 2002, at the Gorbachev Foundation, the Club and the Women's Information Network held the conference “Contemporary Women’s Movement of Russia Facing New Challenges”. It was attended by activists of women’s movement coming from 20 regions of Russia. The conference discussed the need for a new strategy of women’s organizations, consolidation of women’s movement and its participation in the 2003 parliamentary elections. The conference was broadcast live on the Internet.
Five years after the first discussion was held at the Club of the problem of child homelessness in Russia, it was decided to review preliminary results of the discussion that took place in 1998 and analyze the current situation at the conference “Abandoned Children: Are We Late?” (held on December 20, 2002).
The Club’s meeting forum became one of the first to start public discussion of the theme of violence against women in Russian families. A wide range of experts was invited to participate in the discussion, including social scientists, psychologists, and staff of crisis centers. The Club was also among the initiators of a representative survey and the organizer – together with the Moscow State University Women’s Council – of the conference “The Society and Domestic Violence” (held on May 16, 2003). The survey findings were presented and discussed at the conference.
Presentation of the findings of the poll “Problems of Orphan Children in the Russian Public Opinion” was held at the Club on January 30, 2004.
In August 2002, the international research project was launched, named “Woman of the Third Millennium: Civic and Political Responsibility of Russian Women”. The key partners in the Project included the Raisa Maximovna Club and the McGill University (Montreal, Canada). The Project was carried out within the framework of the Russian-Canadian program “University of Calgary – Gorbachev Foundation (UCGF)”. Also involved in the Project were researchers from Scotland and South Africa. The Project’s target group comprised young professionally oriented women aged between 25 and 35. The main goal of the project was to identify the barriers to participation of young professionally oriented women in public life and to see how the knowledge and understanding of such barriers can help overcome them.
The project’s authors Olga Zdravomyslova, Natalia Kigai and Claudia Mitchell, proceeded from the recognition of the importance of both female and male perspectives on the problems to be faced by women of the third millennium. Therefore, not only women but also men were among the participants of the workshops. The Project was concluded with an international conference, which was held on March 30-31, 2004.
Three books were published as outcomes of the project:
“Woman of the Third Millennium: Civic and Political Responsibility” (Ed. by O.Zdravomyslova);
“Gender Education: Questions and Texts for Discussions” (Compiled and edited by O.Zdravomyslova and N.Kigai);
O.Zdravomyslova, N.Kigai. “Perception of Gender is Linked to the Identification of Self: Judgments, Assessments and Opinions of Russian Women and Men”
The Round Table “Education: Common Good or a Privilege for the Selected?” (held on November 30, 2004), organized jointly with the Collective Action Institute, continued the discussion of the education reform.
The Round Table “Orphan Children: Success in Individual Life” (organized together with the Russian Academy of Education) was held on December 1, 2004.
The Round Table “Gender Issues in the Russian Media: 1985-2005” (held on June 25, 2005) was held within the framework of the conference “Perestroika 20 Years Later: Glasnost and the Development of Journalism” . Article by N.A. Azhgihhina “Paradoxes of Freedom: Gender Stereotypes and Gender Censorship in Contemporary Media” was published based on the proceedings of the Round Table in the book of collected articles “Glasnost and Journalism” (The Gorbachev Foundation, Moscow State University, 2006).
The growth in professional competence of career women and the strengthening of their positions in business and administration became the central topic of the conference “Evolution of Women’s Leadership: Russia, 1985-2005” (held on September 29, 2005). The Conference was devoted to the 20th anniversary of Perestroika.
The conference convened on October 16 – 17, 2006 by the Club together with the Program for Exchanges and Consultations in the Field of Management (GAEP Project, Canada) discussed Canadian experience of gender initiatives’ implementation and its applicability in Russia.
Russian – Finnish Dialogue held on March 1, 2007 was devoted to a key issue of the contemporary world connected with the growth of women’s influence.
On September 24, 2009 the Club held international conference “The Challenges and Values of the Contemporary World: a Dialogue Between Women” to commemorate the tenth anniversary of R.M. Gorbacheva’s death.
Books published, based on proceedings of the conferences and projects conducted by
the Raisa Maximovna Club:
1. Chelovek i semia: Preodoleniye nasiliya: Nauchno-prakticheskaya konferentsiya (A Person and Family: Overcoming Violence: Workshop Conference), Moscow, the Gorbachev Foundation, 2000, 71 pages.
2. Gendernye issledovaniya v Rossii: sostoyaniye i perspektivy (Gender Studies in Russia: Situation and Prospects) / Ed. by O.M. Zdravomyslova, UCGF, Moscow, the Gorbachev Foundation, 2001, 51 pages.
3. Zhenshchina i vybory: Materialy kruglogo stola (Woman and Elections: Proceedings of the Round Table), Moscow, Eslan, 2001, 111 pages.
4. O.M. Zdravomyslova, N.I. Kigai. Zhenskaya tema v sredstvakh massovoi informatsiyi (Women’s Theme in the Mass Media), Moscow, Association of Women Journalists, 2002, 152 pages.
5. Obyknovennoye zlo: Issledovaniya nasiliya v semie (Ordinary Evil: Studies of Violence in the Family) / Compiled and edited by O.M. Zdravomyslova, Moscow, Editorial URSS, 2003, 200 pages.
6. Zhenshchina tretiego tysyacheletiya: grazhdanskaya i politicheskaya otvetstvennost (Woman of the Third Millennium: Civic and Political Responsibility) (Ed. by O.M. Zdravomyslova), Moscow, the Gorbachev Foundation, 2005, 160 pages.
7. Gendernoye Prosveshcheniye: Voprosy i teksty dlya diskussiy (Gender Education: Questions and Texts for Discussions) (Compiled and edited by O.M. Zdravomyslova and N.I. Kigai), Moscow, the Gorbachev Foundation, Institute for Socio-Economic Studies of Population, Russian Academy of Sciences, 2005, 302 pages.
8. O.M. Zdravomyslova, N.I. Kigai. Predstavleniye o gendere svyazano s osoznaniyem lichnosti. Moscow, the Gorbachev Foundation, Institute for Socio-Economic Studies of Population, Russian Academy of Sciences, 2005, 121 pages.