International adoption

   While collective responsibility for the raising of children (including those who have lost their parents due to war or disease) is common among some of Russia’s ethnic minorities, historically speaking, the tradition of adopting orphans is culturally absent among ethnic Russians. During the Soviet period, unwanted births were rather rare, as free abortions were provided through the health care system and typically used as an ersatz form of birth control. With the crushing financial and social burdens that accompanied shock therapy under the Yeltsin administration and the dismantling of socialized health care, many single women and some married couples opted to give their infants and children over to state care during the 1990s and beyond.
   The current preference for small families in Russia, combined with traditional social stigmas associated with adoption, has resulted in little demand for domestic adoptions, thus filling Russia’s orphanages with parentless children. Lacking well-paid staff and even basic facilities, these orphanages quickly became unlivable, creating a generation of forgotten children who suffered from physical and mental neglect. Like several other post-Soviet countries (including Kazakhstan and Ukraine), the Russian Federation turned to international adoption to mitigate this problem. By 2000, the number of international adoptions of Russian orphans by United States citizens alone was averaging in excess of 4,000 per year; this figure represented approximately half of all annual international adoptions from Russia, with citizens of the European Union (EU) and Israel making up the remainder.
   In recent years, the number has decreased by more than half, partly as a result of state-backed efforts to increase domestic adoption, but also because of improvements in Russia’s health care and social support systems. Political pressure also contributed to the decline. The death of an adoptee in 2005, and several other documented cases of physical abuse of children adopted from Russia by American families, led Russian politicians to condemn the practice, particularly by Americans. New rules instituted in 2007, after a severalmonths-long moratorium on international adoptions, have made it increasingly difficult for foreigners to adopt. The most high-profile adoption occurred in 2004, when Gerhard Schröder and his wife adopted a three-year-old Russian girl from a children’s home in St. Petersburg. There was speculation in the international media that Schröder chose the site of the adoption in an attempt to curry favor with Vladimir Putin, a native of the northern capital city; the couple later adopted a boy from the same orphanage.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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