The article analyses in particular the democracy promotion efforts of major European intergovernmental organizations – the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Council of Europe and the European Union – as well as NGOs working in Russia. The article demonstrates that European intergovernmental organizations gave political and economic considerations priority over more consistent and principled policy towards Russia in the 1990s and early 2000s. This instrumentalism partly explains Russia’s current aggressive attitude towards international democracy promotion.