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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

75% of Russians Clueless on Freedom, Just Happy for an Excuse to do Nothing and get Wasted

The St. Petersburg Times reports that more than three-quarters of Russians have no idea why they are celebrating on their national holiday to commemorate emergence from the Soviet slave empire:

As the country celebrated Russia Day on Monday with its citizens enjoying an extra day-off, only 23 percent of the people were able to correctly identify the holiday, according to a poll organized by the Moscow-based Yury Levada Analytical Center this week.

Fifteen percent of respondents said they had no idea what the holiday is all about, while the vast majority of those polled by the Levada Center experts, called the June 12 holiday “Independence Day.” Only every fourth participant of the poll knew accurate information about the background of the holiday.

The holiday, widely known as Russia Day, has been celebrated annually since June 12, 1990, when Russia adopted a sovereignty declaration seeking more independence from the collapsing U.S.S.R. Its official title is the Day of the Passage of the Declaration of State Sovereignty of Russia.

On June 12, 1991, Boris Yeltsin was elected as president of the Russian Federation, and later that year the Soviet Union ceased to exist.

“Because we have made that choice, we now live and work in a democratic state, in a liberated society, where an individual and their free spirit are of the highest value,” President Vladimir Putin was reported by Interfax news agency as saying on Thursday at a reception to mark Russia Day.

The origin of the holiday lies in a 2 1/2-page declaration by the first Congress of People’s Deputies of the Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic that spells out the democratic goals of Russia within the framework of the Soviet Union.

Called the Declaration of State Sovereignty, it was adopted on June 12, 1990, by a vote of 907 for, 13 against.
The 1990 document formed an important ground for the country’s post-Soviet development, though many of the goals set out in the declaration have yet to be achieved.

The declaration states that the country’s goal is to ensure “the inalienable right of every individual to a worthy life.” It also declares the intention of creating a democratic, law-based government based on the rule of law.

In St. Petersburg on Monday a group of over 150 protesters from left-wing opposition movements gathered on St. Isaac’s Square to speak up against corruption, arbitrary rule imposed by civil servants and human rights violations during the army drafts. The protesters countered Putin’s positive speech with local stories of being mistreated and abused by state officials at various levels.

According to the Levada Center, 62 percent of Russians regard the Russia Day as nothing more than an extra day-off, and ignore its ideological background. Only 12 percent of the poll’s participants feel that independence has helped positive developments in the country’s economy. Twenty percent of respondents said “independence” (from the Soviet Union) has won Russia recognition as an internationally influential state.

The same poll shows that 22 percent of Russians are proud to hold a Russian passport and live in the country, the figure having doubled since 2003 when the agency asked the same question in a similar poll.
Among the other points covered, the 1990 declaration recognizes the norms of international law concerning human rights and provides guarantees of political, economic, ethnic and cultural rights for all nationalities in the Russian Federation.

It affirms the public’s ownership and right to exploit and dispose of the country’s natural wealth. The declaration affirms political pluralism and guarantees the equal rights of individuals, political parties, social organizations, mass movements and religious bodies to participate in political and social life.
The declaration also affirms the separation of political power among the legislative, executive and judicial branches as the basic principle of the Russian government.

Two myths conveniently blown to bits at one stroke: First that the Russian population is highly erudite and informed, and second that the Russian population favors democracy and freedom.

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