Who Supports Russia's Ban on American Adoptions?

At first glance, public opposition to a new law banning Americans from adopting Russian orphans has united RuNet as few things have in the past. Among those speaking up against the the Dima Yakovlev Law [ru] (passed in retaliation for the US Magnitsky Act and named for a Russian boy who died due to his adoptive American father's negligence) is Russia's Minister of Education, Dmitry Livanov. Livanov recently tweeted [ru] that law can adversely affect orphans which are unable to find families in Russia. His unlikely bedfellow is the anonymous prostitute behind the popular blog prostitutka-ket [ru], who wrote a lengthy post [ru] discussing the negative policy implications of the ban.

Or take Maksim Kononenko (recently interviewed by RuNet Echo), who, although a stalwart pro-Kremlin partisan, has engaged in an online campaign to stop the law from passing, and reacted strongly when it did pass, writing on the website [ru] where he usually publishes humorous Putin anecdotes:

- Ебаные же вы бляди… – удивленно пробормотал Владимир Владимирович(TM), глядя трансляцию Государственной Думы.

- You f*cking f*cks… – muttered a surprised Vladimir Vladimirovich(TM), while watching the State Duma broadcast.

Kononenko later removed the story, a screenshot of which remains here [ru].

An entrance to an orphanage. Penza, Russia. April 26, 2010. © maticulous.

The seemingly ubiquitous opposition to the law, however, tells only part of the story. The real Putin has come out in its support, and is likely to sign it. In and of itself this comes as no surprise, but his position is fully in alignment with the views of the RuNet majority, as reported [ru] by a perturbed Tonya Samsonova:

Запрет на усыновление российских сирот гражданами США поддерживают 52% пользователей российского интернета […] Компания Tiburon Research провела опрос на выборке, репрезентирующей интернет-пользователей РФ в возрасте 18–55 лет.

The ban for adoption of Russian orphans by US citizens is supported by 52% of Russian internet users […] Tiburon Research has conducted a survey on a sample representing the population of Russian internet-users aged 18-55.

The 52% is split between 26% who “strongly support” the law and 26% which are “leaning towards support.” Half of those surveyed say that they do not understand the motivation for international adoptions, and 60% think that such adoptions endanger children. Who are these people, and what are they saying?

One “strong supporter” of the law appears to be Other Russia leader Eduard Limonov, who blogged [ru]:

дОлжно запретить, или лучше поставить слово “не позволять”, всем иностранным гражданам вывозить из страны русских детей. ВСЕМ, а не только американским. У нас катастрофически до сих пор уменьшается население. Так какого же…………….., мы отдаем наших детей во всякие сраные государства ? Чёрт знает кому ? Наших беленьких и голубоглазеньких… […] Не отдавать детей за границу. Вот моё предложение. Вообще. Никому.

We should ban, or better use the world “disallow,” all foreign citizens to take Russian children out of the country. ALL, not just Americans. We are still dealing with a catastrophically shrinking population. So why the ………… do we give our children away to all sorts of crappy states? God knows to whom? Our blonde and blue-eyed babies… […] We should't let children go abroad. That's my suggestion. At all. To anyone.

Limonov's post, which has garnered over a thousand comments, should probably be taken with a grain of salt given his penchant for contrarian statements.

A similar post [ru] by little-known journalist Denis Tukmakov has proven even more incendiary, with over 3,000 comments. In his defense of the law, Tukmakov channels Apocalypse Now‘s Colonel Kurtz, and, it must be said, his logic would do the Colonel justice:

Мы прекрасно понимаем, что русский ребенок, выросший в американской семье, став взрослым, перестанет быть русским. Он будет уже американцем до мозга костей. […] В дилемме “или неизлечимый русский сирота продолжит жить и вырастет американцем, или он умрет ребенком” – что мы выберем? […] если мы выбираем их “жизнь чужими людьми”, то мы, как нация, на этом кончаемся. […] Если же мы выберем их смерть – это, при всей своей утробной чудовищности, после которой тяжко жить, только и способно сделать нас свободным народом.

We understand full well, that a Russian child, having grown up in an American family, will stop being Russian as an adult. He will be American to the core. […] Faced with the dilemma “either an incurable Russian orphan will stay alive and grow up an American, or he will die as a child” – what will we choose? […] if we choose “their life as strangers”, then we, as a nation, are finished. […] If we choose their death – this, for all of its monstrosity, after which it is difficult to live, and only this can make us a free people.

Other bloggers have expressed their support for the law in less certain terms. Boris Yakemenko, who has in the past curated pro-Kremlin youth movements along with his brother Vassily, asks [ru]:

Неужели на США сошелся свет клином? Неужели усыновление российских детей американцами решало все проблемы усыновления? Ведь есть многие другие страны. Возможно, было бы намного лучше, если бы ребенок вырос на французской, британской или немецкой культуре и традициях, нежели на американских.

Is the USA the end-all and be-all? Did the adoption of Russian children by Americans solve all the problems of adoption? There are other countries. Maybe it would have been a lot better if a child grew up in French, British, or German culture and traditions, instead of American ones.

Even though she is generally against the law, psychologist Lyudmila Petranovskaya, who specializes in orphans, questioned [ru] the efficacy of international adoption in the light of Russia's endemic corruption:

одни дети спасаются, другие правдами и неправдами  задерживаются в Системе, чтобы был выбор “товара” для тех усыновителей, которые вовсе не за инвалидом приехали. В свое время Алексей Рудов делал такие диаграммы по регионам, на которых было очень видно, что где больше ИУ, там больше детей в детдомах.

some children are saved, other are kept in the System by hook or by crook, so that those adoptive parents that didn't come for an invalid have more “goods” to choose from. At some point Alexey Rudov made diagrams by region, and you could plainly see that where there is more international adoption, there are more children in orphanages.

Finally, Olga Sagareva, Rogozin's former press-secretary currently residing in the USA, weighed in on Facebook [ru] (the post, since removed, can be found here [ru]) with a number of reasons the new law isn't so bad. Like Limonov, Sagareva talks about Russia's demographic crisis. Like Tukmakov, she notes that only struggling states make international adoptions available. She also cites aggressive behavior of many transplanted Russian orphans, and finally makes the following point:

Каждый потенциальный усыновитель, который не поедет теперь в Россию из США, все равно усыновит ребенка. Африканского, китайского, румынского, украинца. Он усыновит другого ребенка, которому также нудны родители и в стране которого вполне возможно сиротские условия хуже чем у нас. Да, дорогие либералы, в мире МНОГО стран где сиротские условия хуже чем в России. Если вас волнуют гуманитарные ценности мира и будущее всех сирот, почему вам так важно чтобы эти американцы усыновили именно российских детей? Что, на остальных детей вам плевать? Вы, что ли, шовинисты?

Every potential adoptive parent that now won't got to Russia from the USA, will still adopt a child. An African, Chinese, Romanian, Ukrainian child. He will adopt another child, who also needs parents and in whose country conditions of orphans are possibly worse than in ours. Yes, my dear liberals, the world has MANY countries where the conditions of orphans are worse than in Russia. If you are concerned with humanitarian values and the future of all orphans, why is it so important to you that these Americans adopt specifically Russian children? What, you don't give a damn about other children? Are you chauvinists?

Most Russian orphans will probably remain unconvinced by the argument. But is seems that they, as always, have little choice in the matter.


  • Mark

    Limonov’s post should be taken with a grain of salt because it continues to propagate the falsehood that Russia’s population is catastrophically shrinking, and it is not. This is the first year in a long time for natural growth due to births outnumbering deaths, but the Russian population has continued to grow fairly steadily for the last few years due to immigration.

    Only 962 Russian children were adopted to the USA in 2011 – a loss of 962 people is not statistically significant and Limonov would know it if he did a little research instead of running his beak to hear the noise it makes.


    Set against that were 2,587 children adopted from China, and 640 from Ukraine, which has only a third Russia’s population and whose population has been steadily shrinking, losing 7% in the last 50 years.


    The ban should remain in force not because Russia cannot afford to lose less than 1000 children per year to good homes in the USA. It should remain in force because the American media relentlessly politicizes everything that has even a peripheral relationship to Russia – including adoption, which is regularly cast as saintly Americans swooping in on wings of angels to rescue dirty, skinny Russian urchins from conditions of bestial savagery, and to go on trying to teach them decent moral values despite their myriad problems resulting from their previous Russian upbringing. Here is a typical example.


    Even something so straightforward as adoption, usually by people who genuinely are decent and kind, is used to spit on the country they came from and create an impression of barbaric backwardness compared with the fresh-scrubbed democracy and freedom of their new home.

    It might interest those squeaking with outrage to know that there is no shortage of Russian applicants to adopt, but that they are routinely told to wait another year because foreign adoptions have priority.


  • […] died.  Those stories have some resonance – more than half of Russians support the Yakovlev bill, according to a poll cited by Global Voices, although GV also notes some fervent opposition, […]

  • […] December 26th, 2012 the Federation Council, Russia's upper house of Parliament, upheld a controversial new law [GV] banning adoptions of Russian children by Americans. In the biting cold of Russian winter […]

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