This paper argues that there was an uninstitutionalized civil society in post-Soviet Russia from 1994 to 1999 according to the criteria of the institutionalization of civil society. The development of Russian civil society was shaped by the broader set of political opportunities and constraints unique to the national context in which this society was embedded. Despite large increases in the number of such organizations in post-Soviet Russia, civil society has in other respects been weak. There have been low levels of organizational membership and participation, and the associations and groups constituting civil society have had only a marginal influence on policymaking. There have been three major constraints (external, internal, and the public's attitudes) on the development of civil society. The paper concludes that the conditions for building the cohesive and connective infrastructure of a civil society and making it work can be constructed on three interrelated foundations: a supporting and self-limiting state, the assistance of international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and foreign aid donors, and the efforts of autonomous civic initiatives.