Russia has a sad history of human rights abuses, spanning issues from the 2013 law banning “propaganda of nontraditional relationships” to the imprisonment of Pussy Riot in 2012 for an act of free speech. After researching Pussy Riot, I am aware that they performed in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, and chose the location in part because of their outrage in the church leaders’ support of Putin in his election. Members of Pussy Riot were arrested for “hooliganism” as well as for acts of religious hatred. Would their 2-year imprisonment have been enforced as harshly in the Soviet Union, when the government was more anti-religious? How does the political atmosphere affect the state of human rights?
How is Putin able to commit these abuses of human rights and still maintain his high popularity ratings? Does opposition by groups, such as Amnesty International, make any impact in Russia? How does the majority of the Russian population, particularly in cities like Moscow, view the arrests and disappearances of human rights activists?
In the preparation for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, more than 2,000 families were apparently forced to resettle to make room for Olympic venues, and were not given fair compensation. Fair compensations was also reportedly not given to workers who built Olympic venues. In light of these human rights abuses, does it not send a poor message that Western countries which claim to uphold and defend human rights, such as the United States, still attended and competed in the Olympic Games? What can the United States do differently to preserve a firm stance against human rights abuses?
From the radiation of its food to the radiation of its rivers, Russia has built itself into a competitive nuclear power through a tumultuous history of trial and error. Much of the initial funding for Soviet nuclear energy came in an effort to match the United States’ atomic project. But, after developing “the bomb”, nuclear resources in the USSR were applied to a number of areas. These often gave poor results. From such failures, modern Russia has striven to provide a nuclear industry that is safe, clean, and sustainable. In fact, the head of Rosatom’s used fuel management has set a goal of 100% efficiency in the company’s fuel cycle; where all spent fuel is reprocessed into the system — no waste. To understand these, at first, outlandish expectations, we should consider the damages and adaptations that the industry has incurred since its inception in the 1940s.
In the earliest days of the Soviet nuclear industry, one of the most practiced efforts was the irradiation of food. This gave food stuffs a much longer shelf life and they exhibited fewer incidents of contamination due to bacteria or spoiling. But, this also exposed many citizens to harmful levels of radiation after sustained consumption.
In an effort to appease the growing “green movements” in the Soviet Union, Stalin once pursued an aggressive hydro-electric policy. To map the currents in possible rivers, the Soviets had opted to use radioactive isotopes instead of foreign nutrients. These isotopes gave far more accurate readings than the nutrients which would dissolve more quickly in the water. Unfortunately, these tests also irradiated the sites on which they were conducted.
This past summer, President Vladimir V. Putin passed a law that banned “propaganda on nontraditional sexual relationships” officially meant to protect children but known to be an anti-LGBT law. The New York Times asked Russians to send in their stories of being LGBT in Russia and several of those stories were published yesterday. The New York Times received over 400 stories from Russians and Russian-Americans and published 9 accounts from LGBT Russians of different ages, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Many of the accounts said that the psychological affects on their lives the law has caused has led many to strongly consider leaving the country. Many of the younger Russians spoke of the importance of the Internet in finding other LGBT individuals in Russia and feeling less isolated.
A few of the accounts spoke of coming out to friends and family and the mixed reactions; some positive and supportive, others homophobic. One account from a gay man in a relationship spoke of a false marriage with a lesbian friend in order to hide their true relationships with other people of the same sex. One woman said she and her partner had decided to wait to have children given the political climate. One account spoke of St. Petersburg becoming less tolerant.
Given all this negative press about the new law and the upcoming Sochi Olympics, is it likely more LGBT Russians will have no alternative but to leave their country if the political climate doesn’t improve? What can the US and other countries do to show their support of LGBT individuals around the world?
In case you’re a bit under informed, the state of Georgia has not held Presidential elections in a second attempt to secede from the Union. I’m talking about the small nation-state of Georgia, which held presidential elections on the 27th of October. Georgia is located on the southwest border of Russia in the caucasus region and its relations with Russia have been strained, at best.
In August of 2008 the two countries, along with the separatist provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, fought in a 5-day war that ended up being a huge embarrassment for Saakashvili, the Georgian president at the time. Although the events leading up to the war are somewhat complicated, what was obvious was Russia’s intention of ending Saakashvili’s rule and installing a new president. They were unsuccessful in 2008, but on November 13th they will achieve just that: Saakashvili will step down and make room for Georgia’s new president, Georgy Margvelashvili of the Georgian Dream Party.