Founded by a small band of volunteers in 1989, Memorial grew rapidly in the warmth that followed the Cold War and the emergence of an independent Russia in 1991, when the new government welcomed American help.
But the climate is now less friendly. Some of Memorial’s members have died in their line of work.
Tatiana Kasatkina, Memorial’s executive director, said it is clear that the government expelled USAID because it does not like the organizations that are funded.
“Of course the state doesn’t like us,” she said. “Unfortunately, they don’t understand that we work for the state, but a democratic state.”
The grant recipients are looking for new sources of funding, and U.S. officials have been trying to find different vehicles to support them.
“Many people have asked me whether USAID departure will mean an end to our support for these important initiatives. It will not,” U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul wrote in his blog Monday.
Some of the organizations are defiant, while others worry they will have to stop their work.
President Vladimir Putin has singled out Golos, which has received USAID grants for 10 years, for particular displeasure because of its election oversight activities. It plans to monitor local and regional elections on Oct. 14, documenting violations on a map, training observers and offering legal help. Whether it will find money to keep working is unclear.
The U.S. State Department disclosed Sept. 18 that Russia had ordered USAID out by Monday after accusations by Russian officials that the United States was meddling in its internal affairs.
USAID has spent about $2.6 billion here, and this year’s budget was about $50 million, with $29 million of that directed toward projects promoting democracy and civil society and $18 million targeted toward people, mostly in health programs, officials said.
Natalia V. Vartapetova, who said she still feels regret over how she and her baby daughter were treated when she gave birth nearly 30 years ago, directs the Institute for Family Health, which has helped reduce the infant mortality rate in Russia by replacing Soviet-era medical practices with world-approved standards.
Vartapetova winces when she remembers how her newborn was immediately taken from her and kept in a nursery under the supervision of masked nurses wearing tall, cheflike caps. Breast-feeding was delayed. Night feedings were not permitted; a person was meant to sleep at night. Not only were fathers not permitted in the delivery room, but relatives were forbidden visits for a week. They would stand outside, waving to a distant figure in a window.