In recent years there has been much talk about Russian interference in the democratic institutions of other countries which has led to an erosion of trust in the fundamental pillars on which a free society relies: government, the media and elections. In this context, the the Legatum Institute's work on calling out Russia has become an important marker in the battle against disinformation. 

Our first foray into understanding and measuring Russia’s political and civil society can be traced back to 2007, with the launch of the Legatum Prosperity Index™ — the Institute’s signature publication. Based on data from the World Bank, IMF, World Health Organization, Gallup World Poll, and other respected global data sources, the Index ranks close to 150 countries on numerous factors including the degree to which they are democratic, free and tolerant.  

Over the past 11 years, Russia has consistently ranked low in the overall Prosperity Index rankings. In the 2017 edition of the Index, Russia ranked 101st out of 149 countries. This overall rank is the result of many factors but it is worth noting that Russia has received consistent low rankings in the categories of Governance and Personal Freedom. 

In the past decade, out of a total of 149 countries, Russia has never ranked inside the top 50 countries overall and in the past seven years, Russia has not ranked in the top 100 for Governance or Personal Freedom.

In the most recent edition of the Prosperity Index, Russia’s ranking for Personal Freedom was 143 out of 149 countries (seventh from bottom in the world). Within the Personal Freedom category, Russia ranks 127th for 'civil liberties' and scores poorly on other measures such as freedom of assembly and association.

In the Governance category, Russia also scores poorly across all indicators. For example, it ranks 116th in the world on the ‘perception of corruption’ measure. It ranks 113th in the world for ‘political rights’ due to the concentration of power in the President and the lack of a genuine political opposition. It also scores poorly in this category as a result of limited government transparency, pervasive corruption, and a lack of judicial independence. 

The Prosperity Index aims to shine a light on global progress towards prosperity by demonstrating which countries are succeeding (and which are failing) across different areas of development. The Index is recognised as an authoritative bench-marking tool and is used by governments, academics, and policy makers around the world. In this context, through the Prosperity Index, the Legatum Institute has been a loud and consistent voice calling for better governance in Russia and greater freedoms for Russian citizens. 

In June 2011, the Institute hired Pulitzer Prize winning author and renowned critic of Russia, Anne Applebaum, as its Director of Political Studies to curate and lead a programme of research looking at governance and political freedom. Over several years, this role evolved to focus on democracy and, in particular, on those countries that are in a process of transition towards democracy. This work resulted in the creation of a new programme entitled ‘Transitions Forum’ for which Applebaum was the Director. The Transitions Forum ran at the Institute for several years providing research on radical political and economic change through case studies, lectures and workshops, offering lessons learned for current and future transitions across the globe. 

Prior to joining the Institute, Ms Applebaum established a distinguished career in journalism having been a member of the Washington Post editorial board and having written for and edited several high profile British publications including the Spectator magazine and the London Evening Standard. From 1988-1991 Applebaum covered the collapse of communism as the Warsaw correspondent of the Economist magazine and the Independent newspaper. In 2003, she won the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction for her authoritative book, Gulag: A History, which chronicled the history of the Soviet concentration camps. 

Anyone who knows Anne and followed her work at the Institute will know that she is a noted Russia critic. This is evident in the numerous reports the Legatum Institute has published over the course of many years, a comprehensive list of which is attached to this document. 

In January 2015, the Institute hired Peter Pomerantsev, another noted Russia critic as a Senior Fellow to support the work of the Transitions Forum. Having worked in Russian-based media organisations for several years, Pomerantsev has had first-hand experience of the Russian propaganda machine. Pomerantsev’s article in The Atlantic entitled ‘Russia and the Menace of Unreality’ helps to shed light on the reality of the Russian state’s propaganda efforts and its relentless disinformation campaign.  

Further notable work by Pomerantsev includes his book on Russian propaganda, ‘Nothing is True and Everything is Possible’. This book won the 2016 Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize and received nominations for the Samuel Johnson, Guardian First Book, Pushkin House and Gordon Burns Prizes. The Institute proudly supported Peter and his book,celebrating his work with events and other materials which are still available on our website (including a podcast and video of the book launch event and a conversation with Ferdinand Mount and Anne Applebaum hosted at the Institute’s offices).  

In addition to hiring people like Applebaum and Pomerantsev, the long list of Russia-related publications available on the Institute’s website provide a clear picture of our views about the country, its leadership, and its role in the world. A list of these publications is provided as an annex to this document and the entire back catalogue is available on the Institute’s website. The Transitions Forum page is here.

Alongside Applebaum and Pomerantsev, the Legatum Institute has held numerous public events which welcomed guests such as Zhanna Nemtsova, human rights activist and daughter of slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, Leonid Mikhailovich Volkov, a current member of the unregistered Russian opposition party, and Anton Shekhovtsov a Ukrainian writer, and political activist known for his writings on the European radical right and in particular its alleged connections to Russia. 

As a result of this work, the Institute has been attacked, its telephones systems hacked and crashed during anti-propaganda seminars, its meetings infiltrated by Russia Today and other supporters of Mr. Putin and its reputation maligned on the internet. 

Despite the negative consequences, the Legatum Institute is incredibly proud of work undertaken by Anne Applebaum, Peter Pomerantsev, and the Transitions Forum team during their time at the Institute (in 2016, Applebaum transitioned her programme into the London School of Economics, where it continues to thrive today under the name, ARENA). Their research and work is now at ARENA, an initiative of the London School of Economics’ Institute of Global Affairs.

Today, the Legatum Institute focuses on its core mission, to help move people from poverty to prosperity. Our research programmes include work on Global People Movements, which is working with local and international partners, to develop data driven solutions to what is fast becoming the greatest humanitarian challenge of our generation.


A selection of publications, events, and commentary by the Legatum Institute Foundation that relate to Russia: