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Russia’s “Bill of Health” and the Sochi Olympic Smokescreen

Submitted by on February 13, 2014 – 5:56 pm 39 Comments |  
Much of the mainstream Russian media, as well as many Russian and Western bloggers, contend that the coverage of the Sochi Olympics outside of Russia has focused too much on attendant political issues: corruption, the cost of the Games, the Circassian issue, and so on. Such voices call on us to set aside political debates and to enjoy the sport spectacle that the Olympics is supposed to be. As discussed in the previous GeoCurrents post, however, Olympic Games are rarely if ever completely immune to politics, and the Sochi Olympics is no exception. In many ways, Russia’s decision to host a Winter Olympics in Sochi, the only subtropical resort in a country two thirds of whose territory is covered by the permafrost, is a political one.* Only politics can explain the choice of a city where the infrastructure for winter sports was inadequate and extremely difficult to create, where the environmental impacts would be huge, and where the post-Olympic use of the facilities would be minimal, as discussed in Yulia Latynina’s article (in Russian) in the online Ezhednjevnyj Zhurnal. According to Latynina, “The northern country Russia hosts a Winter Olympics in subtropics because Putin likes Sochi” (translation mine). But I think more was involved than Putin’s personal preference: Sochi Olympics is a political statement about Russia’s role in the Caucasus, as discussed in an earlier GeoCurrents post and in article by Elizabeth Dunn that appeared in Savage Minds.

If one is a true Russian patriot, we believe, one should support genuine social and economic development in the country, not national prestige symbols. Putin’s supporters, however, seem to want to sweep the country’s problems and the potential geopolitical implications of the Olympics under the carpet and present the Games merely as a celebration of “mens sana in corpore sano”, a festival of beauty and health. As beauty is a subjective notion, the rest of this post will focus on the health of the Russian nation, asking whether an Olympic celebration of “beauty and health” is actually appropriate.

Olympics_MarsRoverOlympics_estimates_costsMuch has been written about the outrageous cost of the Sochi Olympics, $51 billion, which is roughly 20 times the cost of sending a rover to Mars. These costs are much higher than the originally projected estimates; much has been said about the “wastage” due to corruption, racketeering schemes, and so on. But I agree with Latynina that the main problem is not how much money was spent or how badly misspent it was, but that Russia has other areas where investments would pay off much better for the Russians themselves in the long run. Latynina writes (translation mine):

“Russia, with its “killed” infrastructure, destitute schools and broke hospitals, invests money into the pointless and ostentatious “big sport”. The government forces big business to build sports infrastructure, but does not encourage it to sponsor science and education. It is hard to imagine, in my view, a more destructive behavior.”

map_higher_education_spendingMuch can be said about the condition of Russia’s roads; the state of its hospitals, schools, and research institutions; the low level of its investment into the education system (illustrated on the cartogram on the left); and the poverty of its rural areas just outside Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Let’s focus, however, on Russia’s “bill of health” and let the figures speak for themselves.

To begin, life expectancy figures in Russia are dismal. According to the 2013 data from World Health Organization, Russia ranks 124th out of 193 countries in overall life expectancy, with an average age of death of 70 years. According to a Newsweek/The Daily Beast survey of 165 countries, Russia is a mediocre place for women: while women are highly educated, their participation in politics and the economy is very limited and women’s health figures are poor. Similarly, the survey from Save the Children charity, which examined maternal health, children’s well-being, and women’s educational, economic, and political status, placed Russia into the 2nd tier and judged the situation for mothers as worsening. But it is even worse being a man in Russia: male life expectancy is merely 64 years, the same as in Cambodia and Ghana. An average Russian man’s life is 12 years shorter than that of his statistical female compatriot, the biggest gap of any country. (The life expectancy for the residents of the capital Moscow is somewhat better, as discussed in an earlier GeoCurrents post.)

Russians joke that “those who don’t smoke and don’t drink will die healthy”, a proverb typically used to justify smoking and drinking. But there is a grain of truth to the joke: statistically, Russians smoke and drink heavily and many die of “preventable environmental causes” rather than from “old age diseases”, as we shall see in detail below.**

smoking_rate_map_GCmale_deathsAs discussed in an earlier GeoCurrents post, Russia has one of the world’s highest smoking rates. Smoking is also one of the major contributing factors behind the country’s dismally low male life expectancy, as Russia suffers from high tobacco-related male mortality (see the second map on the left).














The situation with alcohol consumption is hardly much better, with figures in the highest category, as can be seen from the GeoCurrents map on the left. While residents of several Western European countries—particularly, Ireland and France—also consume significant amounts of alcohol, there is a sharp contrast between Western and Eastern European countries (the latter includes Russia) in the rates of alcohol-attributable deaths. While it is true that the highest rates of alcohol-related deaths are found in countries that heavily consume distilled spirits (as is true in Russia, whose drink of choice is vodka), the type of drink alone does not explain the lethality of alcohol consumption. According to the WHO report, it is not only what and how much people drink, but also how they drink that matters, as reflected in the organization’s “Patterns of Drinking Score (PDS). The PDS is “based on an array of drinking attributes, which are weighted differentially in order to provide the PDS on a scale from 1 to 5”; the attributes include the usual quantity of alcohol consumed per occasion; festive drinking; proportion of drinking events, when drinkers get drunk; proportion of drinkers, who drink daily or nearly daily; drinking with meals and drinking in public places. Russia’s PDS is among the highest in the world, similar to the figures for Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Mexico. As can be seen from a comparison of the last set of maps on the left, gender differences in Russian drinking patterns are sharp as well: men are much more likely to participate in “heavy episodic drinking” (i.e. binge drinking) than women. That too is a significant contributing factor for the short male life expectancy in Russia.


Besides deaths attributable to heavy smoking and drinking, many other major causes of mortality in Russia are indicative of unhealthy lifestyle choices. Russia ranks 5th in suicide deaths, with only Guyana, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, and Swaziland having more “successful” suicides per capita. Also among the leading causes of death in Russia are stroke and coronary heart disease (CHD). Russia’s rate of deaths from stroke (195.8 per 100,000) is the 4th highest in the world, trailing only the Marshall Islands, Azerbaijan, and Kyrgyzstan, and is nearly 8 times higher than in the United States and nearly 10 times higher than in Israel. As for CHD, it kills even more Russians—296.7 per 100,000—placing the country at the 9th ranking, behind Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan. Both stroke and CHD are heavily attributable to environmental causes and poor lifestyle choices.



Russia also ranks 19th on deaths from fires, with a rate of 6 deaths per 100,000 population, comparable to that of Malawi and Iraq. The figure of 45 deaths per 100,000 from injuries (other than those caused by violence, road accidents, falls, and fires)—comparable to that Swaziland—places Russia 5th in this ranking. Even more astonishing is its #1 ranking on deaths caused by poisonings, with a rate nearly four times that of the United States.









In contrast, Russia’s rates of death from incurable diseases most commonly diagnosed in older patients, like Alzheimer’s (dementia) or Parkinson’s, are quite low. The Alzheimer’s (dementia) death rate is only 1.6 per 100,000, compared to 34.9 in Finland, 25.1 in Iceland, and 24.8 in the U.S. The Parkinson’s death rate in Russia is 0.4 per 100,000, ten times less than in Iceland or Finland.***



These issues of health and lifestyle choices in Russia remain largely unaddressed in the public arena. As a result, some critics contend that the Sochi Olympics serve to distract the public from the real problems, not unlike the gladiator games at Rome’s Coliseum or the races in the nearby Circus Maximus (which could accommodate up to a quarter of Rome’s population at the time; nowadays TV broadcasts help reach an even greater audience at once). A similar point was made by Russian opposition writer and satirists Viktor Shenderovich, who wrote that the Sochi Olympics is one event in a “ceaseless … chain of patriotic festivals, accompanying Putin’s rule, which has little legitimacy—from the Eurovision though sport victories to the … 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia” (translation mine). The desire of the Russian public itself to be distracted by a joyful festival, no matter what lies behind it, is also aptly described by another opposition writer Lev Rubinstein:

“Let us alone with your Gulag! Enough already about the poor and the homeless! We are sick of your beaten and injured [activists]! ‘nough said about your … sick children, about the Homeric scope of thievery, about despotism and oppression, about all that! We know! But enough! We cannot do anything about it. That’s why we want a festival! We want the Olympic torch and rings…” (translation mine)

Rubinstein, not surprisingly, has been accused of lacking patriotism, while the article by Shenderovich triggered an even harsher reaction from both Russian government-sponsored media and some Western pundits (chiefly for his “in passing” comparison between the Sochi Olympics to the 1936 Games in Berlin, which provoked some to label him a “fascist”).**** Other journalists and activists protesting the non-recognition of the Circassian genocide, the environmental impact of the Olympics, or other Sochi-related issues have been prohibited from going to Sochi, arrested, or even jailed. Yet another journalist, American David Satter—who was hounded by the KGB during the Cold War—was declared persona non grata in Russia without any official reason, the first such act since the end of the Soviet Union. Satter himself called this “an admission that the system under President Vladimir Putin cannot tolerate free speech, even in the case of foreign correspondents”. The crackdown on the Russian opposition media also led to the taking off the air of TV Rain (in Russian Дождь), Russia’s only independent, privately owned television channel, whose audience consists chiefly of educated, liberal-minded Russians who have become disenchanted with mainstream television.

WebThe curtailment of the freedom of the press in Russia is reflected in the Index published annually by Journalists Without Borders. As discussed in two earlier GeoCurrents posts (here and here), Russia’s standing on this index in the past few years—particularly since Putin’s return to the presidency in 2012—has been characterized as being in a “difficult situation”. In the 2013 Index, Russia occupied the 148th position, which it retains in the recently published 2014 Index). It thus finds itself in the same category as Afghanistan (128th) and Burma (Myanmar) (151st). But Burma’s and Afghanistan’s ranking has improved, while Russia sank in the Index between 2012 and 2013. The authors of the Index cite Russia’s continuing failure to punish or even charge those who have murdered or attacked journalists. For example, the October 2006 murder of Anna Politkovskaya—a staunch critic of Putin and his war in Chechnya—remains unsolved; some analysts claim that FSB (Federal Security Service) was responsible for her assassination.

Given these facts, I must agree with Satter’s assessment that “Russians need access to truthful information—which, given the censorship of Russian media, foreign sources are best able to provide”. But given the failure of the mainstream media to provide comprehensive information on such issues as the plight of the Circassians, we feel an even greater need to do so at GeoCurrents.




* The world’s “pole of cold” is also located in Russia, close to Verkhoyansk in Siberia, where the average January high temperature is -44.9 F (-42.7 C).

**Unless otherwise indicated, the data on causes of death below comes from the website, based on “the most recent data from these primary sources: WHO, World Bank, UNESCO, CIA and individual country databases for global health and causes of death”, supplemented by the “CDC, NIH and individual state and county databases for verification and supplementation for USA data”.

*** The rate of death from Parkinson’s is the highest in Kiribati, 13.8 per 100,000. In the United States, the corresponding figure is 3.4.

**** Unlike Shenderovich, who compared the 2014 Sochi Olympics to the 1936 Games in Berlin, but made no direct parallel between Putin and Hitler, Elizabeth Dunn, writing in Savage Minds, said: “Like Hitler at the 1936 Olympic games, Putin hopes to use the Olympic moment to showcase his grip on power.”


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  • Jessica

    Be careful about the rate of Alzheimers. You have to live long enough to get it and to have good diagnoses. It very possible that the rate is low 1) because life expectancy is so low and 2) because it isn’t diagnosed.

    Also it is truly Alzheimer’s or it is just senile dementia? I think different societies might make different diagnoses for the same symptoms and some might not consider senile dementia worth reporting.

    Parkinson’s is also progressive and so may also be under-reported.

    Thanks for your numbers though.

    • Asya Pereltsvaig

      Jessica, thanks for your comment. If you read the post carefully, you’ll see that the relevant numbers are not the incidence of the disease but for deaths. Whether these are underreported or not, it is hardly the case that deaths from dementia (whether Alzheimer’s or not, both are counted together here) or Parkinson’s are “misclassified” as deaths from poisoning, fire, or suicide. As for your point about Alzheimer’s not necessarily being diagnosed, fair enough: you’ll have a higher rate of deaths from it in a place where people live longer AND medicine is good enough to diagnose it, and a lower rate in a place where either people die younger OR medicine isn’t good enough to make a proper diagnosis. Either way it doesn’t sound good to me.

  • Alexander

    Asya, there are true facts and figures in this post, but some of the data has outdated and some of the sources are doubtful. I won`t impugn the figures and the statistics you gave here, because personally, I never trust statistics, (I know how they do it). What I won`t debate about is the cost Olympics – yes, the billions of rubles are swallowed by the corruption, they must have been spent on something else, like healthcare or education, or culture (whatever might help the development of Russia or its society). I will not debate because I know how they did the similar projects here in Vladivostok. The huge money were spend to build a bridge to nowhere (I mean Russki Island), and some of the infrastructure is still undone, althought the APEC summit took place in September of 2012.

    Concerning the opposition activists you mentioned, why do you choose the most radical critics of Putin`s regimeÉ Honestly, I’m not sure about mental health of Shenderovich, not even from the standpoint of what he says, but what he does (I mean his weird behaviour). An absolute freak.

    You know, actually I don’t like Putin, I`m not his supporter. There are not many Russians who actually do support his politics (at least in my social circle). However, look at the opposition leaders (so called opposition). There are not a single person who Russians might trust. Because of that, they prefer Putin, not someone else. Ziyganov, Zhirinovsky and Co. are puppets. No one trusts them. Navalny wasn`t a candidate in the latest president elections, and he`s the same crook and theft as Putin`s croneys-oligarchs. Do you know what average Russian says and thinks about Putin? “Yeah, we don`t like him, but старая лошадь борозды не портит”. Don`t know how to translate it correctly. Something like “The old horse doesn`t spoil the furrow”. That`s their logic. Do you know what did Navalny say about the explosions which shocked Volgograd in December (he wrote it in his Twitter)? You can read it here (russian text):

    At last, TV Rain. I think (this is my personal point of view), that this was some kind of provocation. The administration of the channel has deliberately provoked the officials, and the dumb officials has overreacted (they were happy to do that though). I heard that the real motives of the provocation are the financial issues of the channel, masterfully covered by the political reasons of the ill-fated quiz.

    • Asya Pereltsvaig

      1) “some of the data has outdated and some of the sources are doubtful” — can you be more specific? which data do you find problematic and do you have better data to substitute?

      2) “why do you choose the most radical critics of Putin`s regime” — I don’t choose my quotes by who said them and how they are positioned in relation to Putin, but by the content of the quotes themselves. I.e. it’s not WHO says but WHAT they say. If what I think is the right thing to say comes from people who are the most radical critics of Putin’s regime (assuming for the moment that you are right in this assessment), it only reflects my opinion of the Putin’s regime.

      3) “I’m not sure about mental health of Shenderovich” — you have a psychiatric background? In any case, I find this “выпад” quite sickening: the same strategy of calling someone whose opinion you don’t like “crazy” (mentally ill, etc. etc.) was used in the USSR against the dissidents. I can highly recommend David Satter’s documentary on this (and more!) called “The Age of Delirium”. Oh wait, Griboedov wrote about the same thing in the early 1800s (I am sure you know what play I am referring to).

      4) You say you are not Putin’s supporter, but what you say (not just here but in your other comments) is exactly what Putin’s supporters say. Just one more example: you depict everyone who is opposed to Putin as an “absolute freak”, “crook and theft” etc.—naturally that makes Putin look better. But what is you look at it not from the point of view of personalities but of values? What is better for Russia and the Russians? Putin? Really?

      5) I would need to know more about the goings on with TV Rain, but quite often is the political issues that are masked by financial ones, not the other way around.

      • Alexander

        Asya, I missed you during my weekend days and I’d like to return to our discussion. :)

        1) Well, I find wikipedia statistics on alcohol consumtuions more up-to-date. However, you are completely right about smoking rate and related diseases. I personally hate smokers, be they damned. The bad thing is that there are lots of smoking teenagers and young people. It’s some kind of fashion for them, sadly. Surely, we should take more steps to change this situation. The main reason I believe is that the cost of cigarettes is ridiculous here. As for alcohol, things have dramatically changed after some laws which limited time of alcohol sales and the cost of alcohol has also increased. The most drinking part of our society are so called lumpens, they barely buy alcohol in stores.

        2) You’ve also given slightly incorrect data on suicides. According to World Health Organization Russia holds 13 place, that’s better than Japan and South Korea. However, that’s not allright, I agree.

        Honestly, I didn’t check all the data, (like heart diseases and so on) so I trust your data.

        Yeah, now about Shenderovich. Of course I’m not a psychiatrist. I didn’t want to say that I dislike him and that’s what I say that he is crazy. But Asya, why do you think that I disrespect people by their political (opposition)views? I care less about politics when it comes to someone’s personality. If I say Navalny is a thief and a crook, I base my opinion on the data that I’ve checked and that I trust. He is really a thief and a crook, and like most of the bureaucrats in Russia must be put in jail. However I respect Boris Akunin, Dmitri Bykov (real talents), Irina Prokhorova, and other well-known people despite they have opposition views. I said I was not a Putin’s supporter. I’m neutral towards politicians. I’ve got friends with rather radical position towards our authorities. But I care about my country. I prefer to be optimistic, I think that things are rather positive than negative. That there’s a lot of things in my country that has improved since the time I remember. Some people prefer to see bad things, I don’t like the bad things, I believe that my country is the best in the world and I want to do it even better. Is that bad? Don’t people in America believe that their country is number one? However, let’s turn to Shenderovich. If you are truly interested, look up the word combination in Russian “шендерович матрац” on Google. There is lots of interesting stuff out there (although you might not like it). Again, I don’t care about his political views; I just can’t trust what he says and cannot take it seriously. He’d rather keep on doing “The Dolls” somewhere else; he was really more interesting doing that project.

        3) As I already said, I’m rather optimistic about my country. I believe it has a future, despite some people are constantly trying to bury my country alive. We’ve passed through the most difficult times in our history and it’s time to heal. I realize that you as Russia’s ex-resident, might have some bad memories, I also have. I remember hungry 1990-s when there weren’t even jobs. I realize that you’ve got some position and you feel comfortable about it. But try to slightly change your point of view, and probably something will change in your mind. Perhaps Russia isn’t such a lousy place to live in? Yeah, perhaps it’s more comfortable in North America or Western Europe, they do have a better interface. But I’m sure, that Russia is rather alive than dead. :)

        • Asya Pereltsvaig

          I was wondering if you gave up on our discussion…

          1) The map on alcohol consumption is based on wikipedia data. Though it was probably checked against the original source of the data as there are sometimes typos made by whoever writes in the Wiki.

          2) The suicide data you cite is probably for all suicides, whereas I was talking specifically about death from suicides. Such data where collected by international organizations is typically most reliable—it’s hard to avoid recording deaths, unlike other things like work migrants who often remain “under the radar”.

          Lastly, you are mistaken in thinking that I hate Russia because of some bad memories. Neither the hating part nor the because part is true. I am worried about where Russia goes based on what is happening in it now. In some ways, I think the situation is worse than it was in the 1980s—people may have new fridges and cars, but they don’t have freedom and don’t even realize it. I am talking about the majority… And it’s not a matter of optimism or pessimism—but of realism!

          • Alexander

            Asya, what’s freedom from your standpoint? How do you understand freedom? Freedom of what or who? Don’t you find that “freedom” is a pretty arguable notion? As a Russian citizen I have enough freedom. I can go every place I want, I can freely immigrate from Russia, I can read and write whatever I want to, I can say whatever I think about Putin or whoever else to anyone else. Most of people don’t need more freedom. Yeah, perhaps Y.Latynina and Co. need more freedom to fight the “bloody regime”. But the regime isn’t interested in fighting against itself. But even despite this, she works in Russia and writes whatever she wants to and she’s criticizing Putin and others all the time.

            What I’m really concerned about is the annoying bureaucracy, stupidity of authorities and the corruption. I really have no idea what to do about it. Even in the 1990-s when there has been more freedom, these things have been even worse than now. What I also care about is our economy. Honestly, I’ve no idea where we go. You said that you are worried about where Russia goes. I am also worried about it. May I ask you a few questions? I really respect your opinion and it would be interesting to know your forecast for Russia, what do you think we might expect in the future (let’s say until 2030)? Do you have anything to predict? And another question, what language do you speak at home, with your family? It would be really interesting to know what language speak the linguist who knows Russian, English, Hebrew and French (I’m also learning French).

            I’d like to share an interesting podcast with you by the way. If you have a free time, you might watch it or listen it on:

            I found that discussion very interesting :))

          • Asya Pereltsvaig

            1) Freedom: too big of a question for a brief comment. But to give you a short(ish) answer: Russians don’t really have freedom or civil rights. You can’t kiss another man in public (ie gays cannot be what they biologically are). You can’t sing a song that Putin won’t like (Pussy Riot). You can’t write the truth (Politkovskaya). I can go on but you get the drift.

            2) I am a scholar not a fortune teller, so I won’t make predictions about 2030. But I can see where the steps Russia is taking today may lead. For predictions (of sorts) you can also see “Whither Siberia” posts under Siberia focused series (see banner at the top of the page).

            3) What language we speak at home? It depends. A mixture of Russian and English for the most part.

          • Alexander

            Asya, there’s less than one percent of gay people in population. They are not prohibited to kiss each other in public, the police will not arrest them for that. However in doing so they can attract unnecessary attention of the public and it may cause some bad luck for them. In this case the police will even protect them as they did a lot of times during gay protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg when an angry crowd tried to beat them.
            I believe that your note about Pussy Riot is correct. It’s a shame for our country. They shouldn’t have been jailed. A couple of weeks of correcional works in the church would be more effective. It’s not good to make political victims out of political clowns. A truly dumb decision to put them in jail.
            Thanks for the links, it’ll be interesting to read something about the region of my interest. I wrote a diploma and a dissertation about the transport system in the Russian Far East and Siberia (mostly railways).

          • Asya Pereltsvaig

            From what I’ve heard from actual gay people from Russia, one can get arrested for less. How many people are gay doesn’t matter. Even if it’s just one, his/her rights should be equally protected. That’s the whole point. Until Russia(ns) get this, it’ll be a quasi-fascist country.

            Glad we are in agreement about Pussy Riots. I am not saying that they did the right thing, but putting people in prison for this is ridiculous. There are too many political prisoners in Russia, and that Putin freed some of them just before the olympics means he recognizes the wrongness of it too.

            I have written a few posts about forestry and ethnic groups in the Far East. I am sure you’ll find much to read and to comment on.

          • Alexander

            To tell you the truth, I don’t know exactly whether one is going to be arrested for acting like gay, but for me it seems to be a ridiculous situation. Like a policeman comes up to a couple of men and says “you are suspected to be gays, you are arrested”. Or something like “you kissed each other, hands up”. It’s hard to imagine, as well as it’s hard to me to reason and argue on this topic. I don’t know the examples; I’ve never seen something like that. What I do know is that there are gay clubs here in Vladivostok and they exist a pretty long time. Honestly, I’d prefer to see gay people here instead of that so called “gopniks” (an analogue of British “chavs”). At least they are harmless. Most of people don’t even care about it. As you know there are even artists and others famous people who are openly gays.


          • Asya Pereltsvaig

            As far as I understand the legal aspects of it, any “gay
            behavior in public can be construed as “gay propaganda”, with consequences to follow. How a law is applied is another matter—too many laws in Russia are surcumvented more often than not. But that’s not the point. The laws are the legal standard that the country is judged by. No matter what this or that celebrity is doing.

          • Alexander

            You forgot to mention that your hometown (St. Petersburg) is the only region where this law actually exists. In the other 82 territorial subjects of Russian Federation there’s no such legislation.

          • Asya Pereltsvaig

            I assure you that my being born in that city has nothing to do with the current legislation—you are giving me far too much power.

          • Alexander

            Yep, however this doesn’t change the situation. All the hysteria of the western media is about a law in the only one city, but they present it like the same law is in act on the whole Russia’s territory.

          • Asya Pereltsvaig

            Yes, misrepresentation is wrong, but what difference does it really make? Are people in other parts of Russia more “gay-friendly”? Not so, judging by your earlier comments…

          • D. Schwartz

            Actually the entire nation seems to be in the area of effect for this law since it was passed by the Duma, and not limited to one location.

            Nowhere have I found this limited to a specific region and the regional laws seems to be many more areas than St. Petersburg.

          • Asya Pereltsvaig

            Hmmm, I’ve seen Saint Petersburg mentioned in connection with this law before, but yeah it seems to have passed the Duma and signed by Putin so I don’t see why it should be restricted to SP. Perhaps Alexander can find us a link to the actual text of the law (in Russian is okay) online?

          • Alexander

            Asya, the link in Russian:


            I guess that’s what we are talking about.

          • Asya Pereltsvaig

            Yes that’s the earlier local law. But what about this one (from Russian Wikipedia
            “11 июня 2013 года Государственная Дума в целях «защиты детей от
            информации, пропагандирующей отрицание традиционных семейных ценностей» в окончательном чтении приняла закон, дополняющий КоАП РФ
            статьёй 6.21, устанавливающую ответственность за «пропаганду
            нетрадиционных сексуальных отношений» среди несовершеннолетних. Закон
            вступил в силу 30 июня 2013 года после подписания его президентом России
            Владимиром Путиным.

            “Федеральный закон Российской Федерации от 30 июня 2013 г. № 135-ФЗ «О внесении изменений в статью 5 Федерального закона „О защите детей от информации, причиняющей вред их здоровью и развитию“ и отдельные законодательные акты Российской Федерации в целях защиты детей от информации, пропагандирующей отрицание традиционных семейных ценностей»”

            This is a different, national law, no?

          • Alexander

            All right, I must recognize that I was wrong. I really thought that the law was in act within one region. I apologize for misleading you. This is a discovery to me.
            Here’s the text:


          • Asya Pereltsvaig

            Thanks for the link!

          • Alexander

            You are welcome! I wanted to ask you, are you going to write something on what’s going on in Ukraine?

          • Asya Pereltsvaig
          • Alexander

            Hmm, it seems you’ve written a lot on the topic. It’s interesting where Ukraine is going to be after that all. I can witness US officials and western media pundits all chastising Ukrainian authorities for cracking down on violent protesters. But I wonder what would they do if very same demonstration would be unleashed in Washington and London. I think if protestors in America threw fire bombs at government buildings, and shot at the police, they would be mowed down with machine gun fire – no questions asked. Then the entire lot would be swept up by Homeland Security, designated as domestic terrorists, and jailed without charge.

            Okay, may I ask, what’s your personal attitude to the protestors and the whole movement in Ukraine?

          • Asya Pereltsvaig

            Thanks for asking for my opinion. As I said before, I am not in the business of making predictions for the future, but describing the history of the past and the geography of the present (and the linguistics of both).

            Re: the crackdown on the protestors, I don’t think the government in Washington or London would let legimate protests get that violent in the first place.

            As for my personal opinion, as much as I don’t like the ultra-nationalist side of the movement, I think the pro-EU movement is on the right track here. Russia twisting Ukraine’s arm in terms of gas sales is not right. But given who the current president of Ukraine is, it’s not surprising that he chose the course that he did.

          • Alexander

            Thanks for your opinion. It’s really interesting to know it. I also think that Russia should let them go in the EU. However things seem to turn to be ugly. Now it’s not only about the EU, but the red thread dividing the very Ukrainian nation in the middle. Many people afraid that a civil war may happen there.

          • Asya Pereltsvaig

            Ukraine has been a country divided in two for a long time…

          • Asya Pereltsvaig

            The law doesn’t specify exactly what such “gay propaganda” may be though…

          • Alexander
          • Alexander

            Didn’t manage to find a text in English, sorry.

          • Asya Pereltsvaig

            Thanks for looking. Russian is fine, for now.

          • Alexander

            Do you have another links on Duma passing? Perhaps some newspaers articles? Wikipedia sometimes is inaccurate and (or) not neutral. According to my sources St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly is the only body that passed the law and St.Petersburg governor signed it. You can prove otherwise if I am mistaken.

          • Asya Pereltsvaig
          • D. Schwartz

            Well the linked english sources in this section of Wikipedia, which is where one goes to ascertain the veracity of a passage, are from the Wall Street Journal, the BBC, and the Guardian. Also there were several in Russian as well. It seems from this and what Asya found this is a national policy. A damn shame sadly.

          • Alexander

            Yep, you turned to be right. But these are different laws. I attached a link to Asya’s comment below on both of them.

  • Asya Pereltsvaig

    Speaking of Russian hospitals, here are some visuals for our non-Russian readers—these pictures speak for themselves:

  • Gearalt Ua Fathaigh

    I don’t know if this fits here; but here’s a link which tries to explain the rise of homophobic legislation in Russia – – interesting take.

    • Asya Pereltsvaig

      Thank you for the addition, Gearalt! Very interesting take indeed! I personally think it’s right on the money—and some other comments here suggest as much.