A valuable lesson from my days toiling away in the imperial capital was how little Americans know about what is going on in the rest of the world. Back in the heady days of hegemony, the default American setting was ethnocentric. Wherever we went, there was CNN Headline News, American entertainment, tourist menus, guides and cordial concierges ensuring that our language deficit was not an impediment to spending money.
Joe Biden, the guy presently playing president, said America is an “indispensable nation”. Strictly speaking, we haven’t been a nation since the Civil War. We’re not indispensable either, but believing so is indispensable to imperial hubris. I digress.
Year of the Family
On 22 November, American media ran the usual fare that passes for news: the wars du jour, the JFK murder 60th anniversary, and travellers headed home for Thanksgiving.
Across the globe, something momentous was underway. Western media mostly missed it. The event? Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree declaring 2024 the “Year of the Family“.
In order to promote state policy to protect the family and preserve traditional family values, the President has resolved to declare 2024 the Year of the Family in the Russian Federation.
The Year of the Family initiative was kicked off in early November via a motion by Russian Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko. The mission: “promote state policy in the field of family protection and the preservation of traditional family values.”
The official organising committee will be in place on 27 December, headed by Tatyana Golikova, Deputy Prime Minister for Social Policy, Labour, Health and Pension Provision.
Consider: motion made in early November, decree issued 22 November, implementing committee up and running 27 December. By government standards, that’s moving like greased lightnin’. Guess they remember the glacial pace of things under Communism.
Now, I’m an America first guy, but when countries with fewer resources get things done faster and better, there’s no shame in following their example.
The custom of dedicating each year to a national cause was inaugurated in 2007 to focus attention on Russian priorities. This is part and parcel of President Putin’s nationalistic approach, designed to conflate patriotism with problem-solving. To a surprising degree, it works. However, President Putin deserves only partial credit. US/NATO sanctions have done more to rally Russians behind him than any big bucks PR campaign or “Ukraine liberation” ever could.
Much has been happening in Russia of late that would be of keen interest to Americans. By US standards, Russia is “right-wing”, aka woefully unwoke. Western elites regard Russia (per the late Senator John McCain) as “a gas station masquerading as a country”. Not so.
But we do have domestic culture wars in common, though the folks ruling the roost in Moscow have quite a different take on things than their Washington counterparts.
In 2013, Russia’s law “For the Purpose of Protecting Children from Information Advocating a Denial of Traditional Family Values” was enacted. Commonly known as the gay propaganda law, it prohibited the dissemination of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships” and materials that could encourage minors to “form non-traditional sexual predispositions”.
In mid-November, the Russian Ministry of Justice filed suit averring that the LGBT movement fomented religious and social strife. On 30 November, the Russian Supreme Court agreed, ruling that the movement was an “extremist organisation”, placing it legally on a par with terrorist groups. The ruling bans public displays and activities supporting LGBT lifestyles.
Right to life
On 3 November, President Putin addressed abortion: “Of course, the problem of abortion is so acute. The question is: what to do about it?”
He cited prospective measures that would “ban the sale of drugs that terminate pregnancy, or improve the socio-economic situation in the country, increase the level of well-being, real wages, social services, [and] assistance to young families in purchasing housing.”
The Russian Orthodox Church is lobbying for more restrictive abortion laws and proposing a package of reforms, including:
- Requiring the husband’s “informed consent” for married women to have an abortion; requiring parental approval for underage girls
- Mandatory pre-abortion counselling, including an ultrasound scan
- Extension of the “contemplation period” from 48 hours to one week
- Banning abortion after 8 weeks of pregnancy (current law is 12 weeks)
- Allow rape victims 12 weeks to request abortion (current law is 22 weeks)
- Prohibiting private clinics from performing abortions
In 2000, there were 2.13 million abortions in Russia. That has decreased to 506,000 in 2022. With a shrinking population, it is likely that further restrictions are in the cards. While that could bump up birth rates a bit, any significant reversal of falling fertility depends on – drumroll – priorities.
The first Year of the Family was in 2008, when the government reformed policies on the foreign adoption of Russian orphans. In 2012, Russia banned adoptions by Americans and is considering extending that to countries permitting “gender change”. In 2013, Russia outlawed adoptions by same-sex couples.
Following the dissolution of the USSR in late 1991, Russia’s birthrate collapsed to levels not seen since World War II, when an estimated 27 million Soviet citizens perished. The economy spiralled into depression while crime and a host of social pathologies spread like wildfire. Russia’s estimated fertility rate has since rebounded to between 1.4 and 1.6, but there is no decidedly upward trend.
In a late November address to the World Russian People’s Council, President Putin said:
We will not overcome the daunting demographic challenges facing us solely with money, social benefits, allowances, privileges, or dedicated programmes. True, the amount of the budget’s demographic spending is extremely important, but that is not all there is to it. A person’s points of reference in life matter more. Love, trust, and a solid moral foundation are what the family and the birth of a child are built on. We must never forget this.
Thankfully, many of our ethnic groups have preserved the tradition of having strong multigenerational families with four, five, or even more children. Let us remember that Russian families, many of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers had seven, eight, or even more children.
Let us preserve and revive these excellent traditions. Large families must become the norm, a way of life for all Russia’s peoples. The family is not just the foundation of the state and society; it is a spiritual phenomenon, a source of morality.
Like him or not, give credit where it’s due: President Putin is trying.
Latest legislative initiative
In response to widespread concerns about Russia’s demographic crisis, last week legislators from the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) proposed legislation entitled “On State Benefits for Citizens with Children” that would provide for the award 200,000 rubles (US$2100) per child to women who give birth before age 25.
The average age of a mother at first birth is inching towards 30. On introducing the legislation, LDPR deputies cut to the chase, saying, “Almost 40 percent of Russian women refuse to have children due to unsatisfactory financial situation and living conditions.” All women under age 25, regardless of financial situation, would be eligible for the benefit.
Why write about Russia? Look no further than our Mercator masthead: Mercator is your first stop for news and analysis that places the dignity of the human person at the centre of everything.
There are so many people in Russia, and everywhere else, for that matter, who agree. They are pro-family and our comrades-in-arms on the issues that count.
Today, we’re on the precipice of world war. Russia and America should strive for better understanding and expend more effort trying to get along than on antagonising one another. Direct people-to-people cooperation working for traditional family values can make friends and mitigate the geopolitical tangles contrived by avaricious elites. World peace depends on it.
Merry Christmas, Mercator fans!
Louis T. March has a background in government, business, and philanthropy. A former talk show host, author, and public speaker, he is a dedicated student of history and genealogy. Louis lives with his family in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
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