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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Thoughts on Russia Day (Мысли в День России)


"Two Romes have fallen (Rome, Constantinople). The third stands. And there will be no fourth."
-Grand Duke Vasili III, speaking of Moscow, Russia's capital and largest city

This statement was made in 1510-and the patriotism of Vasili III, has endured through centuries of hardship and turbulence.

Today, June 12, is Russia Day. On this day in 1990, the Russian Federation declared its sovereignty from the Soviet Union, an independence day of sorts.

The holiday, however, is one that is still met with ambivalence in Russia. Many Russians look at the declaration of sovereignty from the USSR as a negative event. After communism fell, Russia was pushed into a time of turbulence, poverty, crime, and an ineffective and corrupt government under President Boris Yeltsin. The country is still trying to build its way out of the problems it encountered in the early 1990s.

I was born in Moscow and came to the United States at the age of 1, so I identify as an American. The United States of America is my country. However, I have always been aware and proud of my Russian roots. Russia is a beautiful country, with rich culture, gorgeous natural preserves, proud traditions, and a history of brilliant minds. St. Petersburg and Moscow are unparalleled in their beauty as cities. The Russian people are hardy, intelligent, tenacious, and very patriotic.

But I admit I’m also a bit ambivalent toward this holiday, though not for the same reasons.

Russia is not free. President Vladimir Putin is an authoritarian leader. He refused to nullify the fraudulent December 2011 legislative elections, and has actively cracked down on those who speak out against him and his political party. He has encouraged tired anti-American sentiment warmed up from the days of communism in his policies and rhetoric. If Putin's recent anti-adoption policies were in place in early 1994, I wouldn't be writing this today. The Kremlin actively supports the malicious government of Bashar Al-Assad in Syria as he slaughters his own people. The Russian Orthodox Church is overstepping its boundaries as its influence grows by encouraging extremely prejudiced treatment of LGBT Russians. (A bill that forbids informing children about homosexuality and stigmatizes gay Russians just passed the Duma yesterday, 436-0) Russia's opposition parties-with the exception of the small but well-principled Яблоко (Yablaka/United Democrats) party- are a sham and do very little to oppose Putin. The principle reason to celebrate this holiday-freedom from an oppressive regime-is undermined by the injustices of the current Russian Government.

The opportunity Russia had to become a fluid, free, and economically strong representative democracy after communism fell was wasted in the 1990s and 2000s. but luckily, that opportunity is not yet gone. Protests have been stewing since the illegitimate legislative elections in 2011 and the imprisonment of feminist punk band Pussy Riot gained worldwide attention. An emerging middle class of Russians are sick of Putin, and with education, will hopefully rise to oppose him in higher numbers. The people will speak and a new revolution for democracy will come someday, hopefully sooner than later.

Марш против Путина! За Русский народ! За родина! За свобода и новый день! Слава России!
March against Putin! For the Russian people! For the Motherland! For freedom and a new day! Glory to Russia!

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