Some family friends a few years back adopted a young boy from Russia when he was very young. His name is Ian and he’s now nine years old, and a very sweet, happy boy living in my hometown. While his adoption was a success story, the recent adoption ban on Russian children by Americans has been a continuous controversy and has increased strains between Russia and the United States.
The death of the Russian-born three-year-old Max Shatto – who died in January in Texas, where his adoptive parents live – was the impetus for the ban. A march of over 12,000 Russians through the street of Moscow occurred in response to the death being ruled as accidental by the state of Texas. To quote the article I read regarding this event, “Carrying signs with slogans including “Children are our future” and “America – hands off our children”, activists mixed bitter criticism of the United States with calls for improvements in Russia’s own care system.”
According to the article, there are approximately 650,000 orphans in Russia, with 110,000 of them living in state-owned institutions. Americans have adopted more than 60,000 Russian orphans since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, but since the ban on adoptions by Americans on January 1, 2013, only a few dozen previously approved adoptions will be fulfilled. After reading this, I wondered why the ban was implemented. To an outsider, the action seems sudden and aggressive. Through further research however, I learned to what extent relations between the United States and Russia were strained. With the uprisings in Libya and Syria, and subsequently Putin’s accusations of United States meddling, as well as Putin’s own treatment of his opponents since his return to the Russia presidency last May, there are certainly many other factors that can be contributed to the tension between the two nations. To be quite honest, before taking this class, not only did I know next to nothing about Russia and its politics, I also didn’t care. I knew of relations between the Soviet Union and the United States but after the fall of the Soviet Union, I was naïve in thinking that relations between our countries were stable. There is a lot of history between Russia and the United States, and can’t be completely and instantly eradicated with the fall of a government. This article about the adoption ban clearly epitomizes that idea.
The article notes that “Russia added the adoption ban on to legislation it passed in December in response to the United States Magnitsky Act, which bars Russians linked to the 2009 death of an anti-corruption lawyer and other alleged rights abuses from entering the United States.” Initially, many Russians protested this ban, and called Putin a “child-killer”. Putin argued that the ban would increase national pride, and believed that Russia should take care of its own children. However, there is a reason for so many adoptions of Russia children; the Russia orphanage system is corrupt. There have been countless cases of neglect and abuse reported, and who knows the actual number of crimes committed within the system that have been covered up?
After reading this article, I honestly wasn’t quite sure what to think. I honestly was mildly angered by the actions of the Russian government, because to me it seemed like they were taking orphans and making them political pawns. Yes, it is extremely sad to hear of the death of a young adopted child, but taking that event and turning it into a political move doesn’t seem right to me. The child could have been of any nationality and it still would have been upsetting. The Russian government seemed to take this event and use it to give their actions legitimacy. However, thinking of the event in that context reminded me that our own president is attempting to do the very same thing. With the Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting, President Obama is arguably politicizing that event in an attempt to advocate the need for gun control in the United States. Thinking of this event in that context isn’t necessarily a bad thing in mind, because it’s being implemented to hopefully improve our society.
In a way, that’s what the Russian government is doing as well. By banning adoptions between the United States and Russia, the government is striving to improve their own society’s orphanage system. I would like to see the adoption ban lifted, but if this action does indeed ultimately lead to improvements within the Russian orphanage system, then that’s arguably the most important thing.