Looking ‘The Gift’ in the mouth: Russia as donor (Respond to this article at http://www.therai.org.uk/at/debate)


  • Patty A. Gray

    1. Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at the National University of Ireland Maynooth. Her current research comprises Russia's emergence as a donor and the work of Irish charities in Eastern Europe. Her email is patty.gray@nuim.ie.
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  • Research underlying this article was funded by the Irish Research Council for Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS) and was greatly facilitated by research coordinator Tatiana Vagramenko and research assistants Dmitry Arzyutov, Anna Cherepanova, Anastasia Gulyavena and Katya Kapustina. I have benefited from comments from Julie Hemment, Steven Sampson, Elizabeth Dunn, Bengt Karlsson and Chandana Mathur, and am grateful to three anonymous readers who gave encouraging feedback and offered helpful suggestions. I accept full responsibility for any errors of fact or judgement that remain in the text.


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.