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While the Soviet Union was a significant donor of international development aid, since the 1990s, a generation of Russians has experienced the subject position of ‘recipient’ in the global political economy. However, following its G8 presidency in 2006, Russia officially signalled its intention to (re-)emerge as an aid donor. Should the Russian government's efforts to join the global community of donors be understood as a defence mechanism against what Mauss called the ‘wounding’ experience of being treated as a perpetual recipient? International development aid is seen here as a cultural phenomenon whose underlying assumptions are both challenged and affirmed by the arrival of ‘emerging donors’ such as Russia.