In Eurasia, a region of politically diverse states with widely differing levels of democratic development, the Open Society Foundations seek to promote citizen engagement in everyday issues such as local government and education.
Offices and Foundations
The Dnipro office is a satellite of the International Renaissance Foundation.
The Odesa office is a satellite of the International Renaissance Foundation.
The Kharkiv office is a satellite of the International Renaissance Foundation.
The Lviv office is a satellite of the International Renaissance Foundation.
By the Numbers
Expenditures by Year
From Kyiv to Bishkek, most of our Eurasia national foundations trace their roots back to the 1990s and the effort to build new, accountable systems of government and public service after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It has not been an easy journey, in a region where many states have faced—or are still facing—armed conflict and political instability.
Resurgent authoritarianism led to the closure of our offices in Uzbekistan in 2004 and in Azerbaijan in 2010. But other countries have prospered—even where local political freedoms are constrained or threatened.
Highlights of Our Work in Eurasia
Coordinated by our Eurasia Program, our work in the region focuses on democratic participation as well as governmental, educational, and justice system reforms.
In the Eurasia region, our national foundations have actively supported independent civil society groups to reinforce government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. That has included supporting public information and awareness raising campaigns in Georgia, funding the purchase of protective equipment for medical staff in Moldova, and paying for emergency food supplies for others at risk in Armenia. As elsewhere around the globe, our efforts have focused on those who are particularly exposed to risks, including prisoners, people who are older, and refugees.
Access to digital information, and related questions of digital privacy, remain a major policy issue for governments and citizens across the region. Our local foundations have supported several national governments with the introduction of digital television transmission standards, and with extending internet access since the 1990s. More recently, our foundations in Armenia and Georgia backed the development of online platforms for tracking freedom of information requests filed with local officials. In Kazakhstan, our foundation has supported the development of a Kazakh language version of Wikipedia.
The Open Society Foundations have provided hundreds of scholarships to enable students from Central Asia to study at universities in Europe and the United States. Together with our foundation in Kyrgyzstan, we helped establish the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek. Our Ukraine foundation helped universities establish an independent external testing system for admissions—aimed at combating the paying of bribes for student placement—that now operates across the country.
Our Educational Support Program supports efforts to improve the education and protection for children with disabilities in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. This includes advocating for the provision of early occupational therapy for children with autism, making it easier for them to participate in mainstream classes.
In Ukraine, our foundation and its grantees were active supporters of the creation of the National Anticorruption Bureau in 2014, and helped lawmakers develop new anticorruption laws that required public officials to declare their assets. In Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, the local foundations continue to support the participation of local NGOs in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, a partnership between government, industry, and civil society to promote public accountability in the energy and mining sectors. The initiative is supported by our Economic Justice Program.
The Open Society Foundations have been involved in efforts to strengthen the protections offered by the law to citizens across the region. This has included helping Moldova and Ukraine develop their first legal aid systems for both civil and criminal law, and supporting efforts to combat the all-too-common use of torture and abuse by police forces in the former Soviet Central Asian republics.
Across the region, the Open Society Foundations have funded the training of young journalists, with a focus both on technical skills and on the ethics of independent reporting.
Civil Society in War Time
Q&A: Standing Up for Ukraine
Viorel Ursu, division director with Open Society’s Europe and Eurasia program, shares reflections on Russia’s assault on Ukraine, the Foundations’ legacy there—and what civil society must do in the nation’s hour of need.
Violence Against Women
Q&A: Femicide in Kyrgyzstan
Gender-based violence is widespread and underreported in Kyrgyzstan. A talk with the investigative journalists who are shining a light on femicide, empowering women, and increasing the pressure for change.
A More Open Future
Q&A: In Kyrgyzstan, a Small Investment Can Make a Big Difference
Using accessible and innovative approaches such as music, dancing, street theater, and more, rights advocates in Kyrgyzstan are doing the grassroots-level work that is essential for a healthy civil society.