When Vladimir Putin signed a law passed by the Russian Duma – “parliament” – forbidding adoption of Russian orphans by American citizens, he not only sent messages to groups around the world, he hurt Russian orphans.
A message was sent to Washington DC that fighting Russian organized crime and corruption comes with asymetrical consequences.
A message was sent around the world that engaging in defending human rights in Russia is not allowed, especially if you are not from Russia (being from Russia was always considered to be a life-threatening condition).
A message was sent to those who fought the old Soviet regime, received American citizenship, and are now engaged once again in protesting the latest Russian dictatorship.
And a message was sent to the Russian electorate, stating that the Government (or as it is historically known in Russia – “Power”), remains staunchly anti-American. After all, wagging finger at the West has been a popular way all over the world, to redirect frustration one’s own populus has with its government, and Russians are very frustrated with their government.
But what this law really does, is punish the one group that has the least organized protection in Russia – its orphans.
It may seem surprising at first that there have been protests against this legislation in Russia – why would Russians care about the rights of Americans to adopt Russian children? They don’t, really. But the reality is that leaving Russia has always been compared to winning a lottery, almost regardless of the destination point. Imagine for a second, living in a country where a person who left and lives abroad, is considered to have achieved something in life, a success story. In that mindset, for an orphan child to be able to leave Russia to go not just to any country, but to AMERICA, is as much a blessing as being an orphan in Russia, is a curse.
This should make it easier to understand why this law - and which has already become known as the “anti-orphan law” - is opposed by many in Russia. In fact, in just a matter of days, Russia’s popular Novaya Gazeta (New Paper), collected over 100,000 digital signatures for a petition, calling for new elections, and for the dismissal of the current parliament.
The passion with which Russians are angry and not just with the anti-orphan law, but with their own lawmakers (whom they have traditionally regarded, and seemingly accepted, as non-entities), for signing off quickly and quietly on this attack on children, is new and underlines the protests seen in Russia throughout 2012. Yes, the Russians of the early 21st century have embraced the plight of orphans, but it is certainly worth noting that this frustration seems to trump even the fear Russians have of their own government.
Is it the rise of the middle class? Is it about the children? Is it about the length of time since the last murderous government repression, or is it about the betrayal many Russians feel towards the “democratic” reforms of the last quarter century? Only time can tell, but in a way, I see a parallel between the Newtown tragedy and the Russian anti-orphan law in that it is the attack on children that appears as likely as anything, to awake a sleeping giant.
The message I want to pass to all those yearning to bring an orphan Russian child into your American home is this: the Russian people are on your side, even if their government isn’t, because the people understand that Russia is not a country. It’s a punishment.
Originally published at www.YuriRashkin.com