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By John Helmer, Moscow

Pavel (Pavlik) Morozov, aged 14, was murdered on September 3, 1932, along with his 9-year old brother, Fyodor. They were stabbed to death. Four people were convicted of the crimes – their grandfather Sergei and cousin Danila did the stabbing; uncle Arseny plotted the crime beforehand; grandmother Kseniya covered it up afterwards. The four were executed on April 7, 1933. Retrospectively, the forensic evidence in the case was too weak to substantiate premeditated murder, but of hatred, manslaughter, and criminal concealment there is no doubt the four accused were guilty.

Of the importance of what Pavlik Morozov’s death stood for at the time and for the all-Russia, all-Soviet generation to follow there is also no doubt. He was, as his British biographer has documented, the Soviet revolution’s boy martyr. That’s because Pavlik Morozov was reported to have been killed because he had informed on his father, Trofim, chairman of his village soviet, as well as on others in the village, whom he accused of hoarding grain from the harvest, hiding a gun and a horse harness, plotting against the new collective property rules. When his murderers were brought to trial, the charge against them wasn’t conventional homicide, but anti-state terrorism. Thus, Pavlik’s death came to symbolize far more than could possibly have been true.

Just so the Russian children who have been murdered by Americans since 1991, when adoptions by foreigners were first permitted. The violence led to the enactment late last December of a law banning Americans from adopting Russian children. It’s known as the Dima Yakovlev law, after the 3-year old Russian who died in 2008 after his foster father left him in a closed car during heat-wave conditions. At his trial in a Virginia state court the father was acquitted of negligent homicide. The Yakovlev case has come to symbolize in Russian public discourse American violence against Russians. In fact, just one article of the new law – article 4, the shortest of the operational articles in the text – deals with the problem of child adoptions by Americans. The targets, along with the political ideology, of the law are much broader. As in the Pavlik Morozov case, for the time being it’s the ideology, not the facts, which count.

The paradox of this type of child violence is that it has become a preoccupation of the national media, and a political priority, nearly nine years after foreign adoptions had begun to decline, American adoptions quite sharply. The dynamics of the Russian baby business explain the trends, according to most Russian expert sources. But something else explains the public perception, or misperception of the violence. That’s because the statistics gathered by private and public Russian agencies responsible for child welfare suggest that Russian violence against Russian children in institutional or adoptive care is vastly greater than the American cases. The national indignation about this is much quieter.

Since 1993 the Russian statistics on adoptions indicate that domestic adoptions have totalled almost 196,000. Adoptions by foreigners over the same period come to 95,261; that’s about one in five. By the close of 2011, domestic adoptions had fallen to about half of what they had been at the start of the period. Foreign adoptions were also falling from their peak in 2004, but by a smaller magnitude. As of 2011, foreign adoptions comprised just under 32% of the aggregate. According to Pavel Astakhov, appointed Children’s Rights Commissioner for the President of the Russian Federation in 2009, by the start of 2012 the number of Russian orphans counted in institutional care was 665,987. For reports of what Astakhov’s office does, click here. Privatization of orphans isn’t proving to be a growth business.


Key: Blue = adoptions by foreigners; Pink = adoptions by Russian citizens
Source: http://www.usynovite.ru/statistics/

As the chart also shows, the lines cross between 2004 and 2005. The reason for that isn’t as well documented in the research or in government and media reports. It’s clear nonetheless. As the Russian standard of living collapsed during the 1990s, the volume of Russian adoptions fell, and foreign adoptions grew. But over the past five years or so, two things have happened – Russian family income has recovered, and with it the capacity of Russian families to acquire children by adoption.

At the same time the price for foreign adoptions has sky-rocketed. Much of the latter price is bribery and corruption of the regional and federal bureaucrats involved in supervising the permit process. But price inflation for foreigners to adopt Russian children has apparently accelerated much faster than the price of comparable children in China, Poland or Moldova.

In the early 1990s Americans have reported paying between $2,000 and $3,000 to adopt a Russian child. This had grown to $10,000 by 2000. Today, some sources report the going rate is around $30,000 per head. But since many of the adoptees have been classified in Russian institutions as invalid, retarded, or disabled – prolonged institutionalization in a Russian orphanage tends to aggravate, if not cause many indicators of cognitive disability or psychopathology — the price of a certified healthy child can be as high as $150,000.

By the time therefore that Russian legislators got around to introducing a ban on American adoptions last year, they were late. The lower-cost Russian children most at risk of lower-income family violence abroad were dwindling. Shut out were the relatively wealthier, psychologically more stable Americans least likely to commit crimes of violence against their children.


Year adoptions by Russian citizens adoption by foreigners of them from the U.S.
2011 7416 3400 956
2010 7802 3355 1016
2009 8937 3815 1432
2008 9048 4125 1773
2007 9530 4536 2012
2006 7742 6689 3468
2005 7526 6904 3966
2004 7013 9419 62% (5840)

Source: http://www.usynovite.ru/statistics/

Shut in at the same time is an apparently growing number of Russian orphans subject to a combination of state budget and family income pressures. In December 2011, according to then President Dmitry Medvedev, “there is nothing wrong with foreign adoptions of our children… the fact that foreign citizens do it does not tarnish them in any way, and on the contrary shows their desire to help these children.” Two weeks later, Astakhov announced during a nationwide broadcast by then Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that he is an “absolute opponent of international adoption”, and that foreign adoptions should be banned – all, not only American. The Dima Yakovlev law bans only American adoptions. Late last month, Astakhov repeated his advocacy of a total ban on foreign adoptions.

Following the enactment of the law, Medvedev announced: “We have quite a prosperous society, we already have enough wealthy people. They are able to give, and to shelter and care for our children. This”, added Medvedev regarding Article 4, “ is the meaning of the decisions taken.”

Statistics of reported violence against children are notoriously unreliable within countries, and comparisons between country data are even more suspect. Since the commencement of Russian adoptions by foreigners, about 20 criminal deaths have been recorded from the US. From Italy, France and Spain – the next most common destinations for Russian adoptees – there is no evidence, at least not in the Russian media. For a summary of the US cases since 1996, read this.

But according to child welfare reports in Russia itself, American violence against Russian children comes to a fraction of Russian violence against Russian children. Russian statistics of violence against children in institutional or foster care are rough estimates; there are no official data. Still, according to this source it is far more dangerous for a Russian child to be in domestic care than abroad.

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