Russian President signs anti-adoption bill into law

Now that Russian President Vladimir Putin has penned the anti-adoption bill into law to prevent Americans from adopting Russian children, Mr. Putin then signed an Executive Order called “On Measures Concerning the Implementation of Government Policy on Orphaned Children and those without Parental Care.”

The loss of American families to adopt Russian orphans will leave a gaping hole in the Russian orphanage system and the new Executive Order aims to improve government policy on orphaned children. In the order, President Putin ordered Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s Russian Government to adopt a number of policy positions on the legal, organizational, psychological and pedagogical support for Russian citizens intending to adopt or care for such children; simplification of adoption procedures; and improved health care for affected children.

The Government has also been instructed to submit to the State Duma draft federal laws that provide for tax credits to parents of adopted children and expanding the social security benefits of disabled children. Instructions also provide for increasing other payments and cash rewards, as well as the salaries of employees of educational, medical and social organizations working with orphaned children.



Today begins New Year parties at Russian and Ukrianian schools

For children today is a very important day. It is 27 December, Thursday and in many schools across Russia and Ukraine children will be enjoying their New Year party. This is a big day. No, a very big day for the child and for Moms and Dads.

Every December the child’s school puts on a New Year party. It is one of the highlights of the school year. Most Moms will have begged off work so that she can take a camera and make videos and / or photos of the event. Grandfather Frost and the Snow Maiden will have mysteriously ridden his Troika, a sled with three beautiful horses, to the school to sing songs and pass out candy. For the little ones it is magical and even the teens have fun at their parties.

Border white swirl

Border white swirl

Border white swirl

Border white swirl

There will be dancing. Singing. Refreshments. Laughter. This is big stuff for the kids. Mendeleyev niece Irishka and nephew Nikolai are up and ready this morning and even as they’re hit the teen years, they’re decked out to the nines as the expression goes. School will be on holiday until 9 January.

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(Note: schools at which the academic year is divided into three terms celebrated their last day last Thursday, 20 December.)

Cannabis in Russian agricultural history

Sometimes you can learn some of the most interesting things from readers. Thanks to Mendeleyev Journal subscriber Raisa Tarasova, herself an interesting blogger, for alerting readers to the fact that cannabis was woven into the fabric of the famous Fountain of International Friendship at the All Russia Exhibition Centre (VDNKh) in Moscow.

First built in the 1930s and later reborn in the 1950s, the park encompasses an exhibition area over 2,375,000 square metres to various agriculture, science, industry, cultural and historical exhibitions. You can imagine our surprise when Ms. Tarasova pointed out that cannabis is part of the large and popular Fountain of Friendship exhibit. Since the park’s original purpose was to promote Russian agriculture it makes perfect sense.

Take a look for yourself.

(photo: Alex Zeneko)
(photo: Alex Zeneko)

Take a closer look as there it is between sheaves of wheat and grain:

(photo: Natalia Gerasimova)
(photo: Natalia Gerasimova)

Raisa says that, “Historically, in Russia cannabis was one of the most cultivated cereal grains, its fiber was used for hemp and textile manufacturing; status of cannabis was as high as of wheat and sunflower. In fact, you can see cannabis leaves right between wheat sheaves on the fountain of the International Friendship in Moscow.”

Thanks to Ms. Tarasova our next visit to the All-Russia Exhibit will be even more insightful in understanding the fountain’s history.

Federation Council approves Russian adoption ban

Each 1 January Grandfather Frost and his granddaughter the Snow Maiden visit Russia’s parliament. Shown here last year is Grandfather Frost and the Snow Maiden greeting the Federation Council, the upper chamber of the Federation. Perhaps this coming 1 January they will present each Senator with a bag of coal?

Russia's Federal Council visited by Grandfather Frost and the Snow Maiden. (Фото: Дмитрий Духанин / Коммерсантъ)
Russia’s Federal Council visited by Grandfather Frost and the Snow Maiden. (Фото: Дмитрий Духанин / Коммерсантъ)

Russia’s Parliament, the Duma and Federation Council has approved a ban on US citizens adopting Russian orphans labeled as the Dima Yakovlev bill. The upper chamber of parliament, the Federation Council, voted unanimously on the controversial ban and now Russian President Vladimir Putin will either sign the bill or set it aside. While some say that he and his majority party are simply grandstanding and that Mr. Putin will not sign the bill, in his annual call-in show last week he announced that he supported the bill and said that he would sign it into law if it passed. His signature would mean that the law goes into effect on 1 January 2013.

The Federation Council has 178 members, two for each region across Russia. Half the membership is appointed by the President and the Council serves as the upper body of Parliament (Duma). Although it does not have the power to reject legislation outright without sending a bill back to the lower House for reconsideration, legislation does require passage of the upper Assembly before it can be submitted to the President. The Federation Council may override a presidential veto with a 3/4 majority vote.

Twenty Federation Council seem to have boycotted the vote in protest by calling in sick:

1. Larisa Ponomareva (from Chukotka)
2. Boris Isaakovich (Penza region)
3. Vitaly Bogdanov (from Kursk region)
4. Vladimir B. Rushailo (from the Arkhangelsk region)
5. Gennadiy Gorbunov (from the Astrakhan region)
6. Vyacheslav Fetisov (from Primorsky Krai)
7. Mezhevich Valentin Efimovich (from the Irkutsk region)
8. Sinyagin Alexander Mikhailovich (from the Vladimir region)
9. Kozharova Hatuevich Albert (from Kabardino-Balkaria)
10. Polankoev Ahmet Magomedovich (Republic of Ingushetia)
11. Trees Vyacheslav (from Karachay-Cherkess Republic)
12. Vitaly Ignatenko (from Krasnodar Territory)
13. Dobrynin Tsiolkovsky (from the Arkhangelsk region)
14. Vyacheslav Novikov (from Krasnoyarsk Territory)
15. Victor S. stringers (from Novosibirsk region)
16. Vadim Albertovich tulips (from St. Petersburg)
17. Suleiman Kerimov Abusaidovich (from the Republic of Dagestan)
18. Ivanov, Aleksandr (Karachevo-Cherkesskaya)
At the time of publication we believe the other two members to be Senators Malkin and Petrov.

The Council’s highest ranking member, Speaker Valentina Matviyenko, had originally said that she would not vote for the legislation but apparently changed her mind when it came time to vote.

Protesters outside the Federation Council Chambers were met by police. (Фото: Василий Шапошников / Коммерсантъ)
Protesters outside the Federation Council Chambers were met by police. (Фото: Василий Шапошников / Коммерсантъ)

Polls inside the country show that most Russians disapprove of the bill.

Russian’s children’s Ombudsman Pavel Astakhov released a statement saying that the near immediate adoption of 46 Russian children already approved and scheduled will be put on hold pending the President’s signature.

Russian cooking: simply the best

Thankfully, Russia has retained the culture of actually preparing and cooking food. This is quite the opposite from many Western homes where most used kitchen appliances are a can opener, microwave, and list of take-out phone numbers attached to the refrigerator door. Now this is not going to be a negative diatribe on Western culture, rather a peek into how families manage food in the Eastern half of the world.

Most Russian and Ukrainian cooks work hard at a job all day, shop on the way home and then prepare meals from start to finish. No wonder a “Russian table” is so tasty! The only can opener needed in many a Russian kitchen is for opening a can of olives for garnish.

The Journal staff has been watching YouTube videos which is becoming a favourite type of video education & entertainment and recently we came across several videos worth sharing with readers of the Mendeleyev Journal.

The first video features a unique twist, taking good ole “Mac and Cheese” to an entirely new level. We plan on trying this one soon–if nothing else it should be fun to make and as you know, presentation of a dish contributes to it’s appeal. This one adds ground beef, pork or turkey and even if you don’t speak a word of Russian, you’ll know exactly how to make this dish in the short 5 minutes and 3 seconds to view.

Next, we”ll show two different videos for Borsch. Without a doubt Borsch is the national soup of the Slavs and the staff of the Mendeleyev Journal takes great delight in testing various Borsch recipes. How many ways can you prepare a delicious beetroot soup? Lots!

This next lady reminds me of my mother-in-law. Her delightful vocal inflections, mannerisms, comfort level and confidence in the kitchen are very much like Mother Lyudmila. Even if you don’t understand Russian you’ll certainly understand every step of this Ukrainian styled Borsch.

Now, go to the kitchen and make something delicious, from scratch.

Russian politics moves to the absurd

Russian politics isn’t for the faint at heart, and sometimes not for the intelligent either as you will see.

You probably have read here and other places about the Duma vote to stop adoption of Russian orphans by American families. As detailed today in the Moscow Times: It is also well-known that the chances a child will die after being adopted by a family in Russia are almost 40 times higher than if adopted by a family in the West. In just a few days, more than 100,000 people signed a petition asking the Duma to vote against the ban.

There was even opposition to the ban among some United Russia deputies, and the Kremlin was compelled to take unprecedented tough measures to tame their unruly deputies to vote for the ban. The deputies were given an ultimatum: Vote for the law or be ousted from the faction and lose your parliamentary seat. Deputy Alexander Sidyakin abstained, and he was asked to write a note explaining that the electronic voting system at his seat “broke.” Sidyakin refused and is now awaiting the party’s decision on whether his seat will be taken away.

That wasn’t the only dramatic moment in the debates. Vyacheslav Osipov, another United Russia deputy, had chest pains and didn’t attend the voting. But he left his electronic voting card with another party member. His colleague voted for him, and Osipov’s vote for the ban was duly registered. The twist was that by the time deputies cast their votes, Osipov had already died of a heart attack.

Perhap you recall that the Soviet government forbid foreign adoptions. They were first allowed during the warming of relations with the U.S. during the last years of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev‘s rule. It looks like Putin’s time machine, set in motion at the start of his third term, is returning the country to that era.

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Also reported in today’s Moscow Times, State Duma Deputy Oleg Mikheyev from the Just Russia party came up with an original idea to lift the spirits of people depressed by all of the bad news they face every day from the country’s leading media outlets. Last week, he presented a new bill that would force Russia’s main media to limit their amount of “negative information” to 30 percent, while boosting the amount of “positive information” to 70 percent. Journalists found in violation of these rules could face prison sentences of two to six years.

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Back in September Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that tax advantages and state subsidies have not been enough to revive the Russian film industry. He asked his government to find other ways to revive film and movie production in Russia. In lieu of good ideas, one Russian lawmaker has proposed penalties for Russian theatres that show foreign films. Offering his proposal as an amendment to Tax Code Article 149, United Russia Deputy Sergei Zheleznyak’s idea is to force Russian theatres into a quota of Russian versus foreign film showings. It should be noted that there is a reason why theatres show so many foreign movies–it is what Russian consumers want to watch these days.

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That new “anti-adoption” bill which just passed the Russian Duma isn’t just about stranding Russian orphans, it is also hitting hard at non-Russian NGO’s. Now the human rights watchdog groups Amnesty International, the Moscow Helsinki Group, and Memorial are under fire, too.