Russia's resolve: the family comes first

A valuable lesson from my days toiling away in the imperial capital was how little Americans know about what is going on in the rest of the world. Back in the heady days of hegemony, the default American setting was ethnocentric. Wherever we went, there was CNN Headline News, American entertainment, tourist menus, guides and cordial concierges ensuring that our language deficit was not an impediment to spending money. 

Joe Biden, the guy presently playing president, said America is an “indispensable nation”. Strictly speaking, we haven’t been a nation since the Civil War. We’re not indispensable either, but believing so is indispensable to imperial hubris. I digress.

Year of the Family

On 22 November, American media ran the usual fare that passes for news: the wars du jour, the JFK murder 60th anniversary, and travellers headed home for Thanksgiving.

Across the globe, something momentous was underway. Western media mostly missed it. The event? Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree declaring 2024 the "Year of the Family".

In order to promote state policy to protect the family and preserve traditional family values, the President has resolved to declare 2024 the Year of the Family in the Russian Federation. 

The Year of the Family initiative was kicked off in early November via a motion by Russian Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko. The mission: “promote state policy in the field of family protection and the preservation of traditional family values.”

The official organising committee will be in place on 27 December, headed by Tatyana Golikova, Deputy Prime Minister for Social Policy, Labour, Health and Pension Provision.

Consider: motion made in early November, decree issued 22 November, implementing committee up and running 27 December. By government standards, that’s moving like greased lightnin’. Guess they remember the glacial pace of things under Communism.

Now, I’m an America first guy, but when countries with fewer resources get things done faster and better, there’s no shame in following their example.

Socially conservative

The custom of dedicating each year to a national cause was inaugurated in 2007 to focus attention on Russian priorities. This is part and parcel of President Putin’s nationalistic approach, designed to conflate patriotism with problem-solving. To a surprising degree, it works. However, President Putin deserves only partial credit. US/NATO sanctions have done more to rally Russians behind him than any big bucks PR campaign or “Ukraine liberation” ever could.   

Much has been happening in Russia of late that would be of keen interest to Americans. By US standards, Russia is “right-wing”, aka woefully unwoke. Western elites regard Russia (per the late Senator John McCain) as “a gas station masquerading as a country”. Not so.

But we do have domestic culture wars in common, though the folks ruling the roost in Moscow have quite a different take on things than their Washington counterparts.

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In 2013, Russia’s law "For the Purpose of Protecting Children from Information Advocating a Denial of Traditional Family Values" was enacted.  Commonly known as the gay propaganda law, it prohibited the dissemination of "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships” and materials that could encourage minors to “form non-traditional sexual predispositions”.

In mid-November, the Russian Ministry of Justice filed suit averring that the LGBT movement fomented religious and social strife. On 30 November, the Russian Supreme Court agreed, ruling that the movement was an “extremist organisation”, placing it legally on a par with terrorist groups. The ruling bans public displays and activities supporting LGBT lifestyles. 

Right to life

On 3 November, President Putin addressed abortion: “Of course, the problem of abortion is so acute. The question is: what to do about it?”

He cited prospective measures that would “ban the sale of drugs that terminate pregnancy, or improve the socio-economic situation in the country, increase the level of well-being, real wages, social services, [and] assistance to young families in purchasing housing.” 

The Russian Orthodox Church is lobbying for more restrictive abortion laws and proposing a package of reforms, including:

  • Requiring the husband’s “informed consent” for married women to have an abortion; requiring parental approval for underage girls
  • Mandatory pre-abortion counselling, including an ultrasound scan
  • Extension of the “contemplation period” from 48 hours to one week
  • Banning abortion after 8 weeks of pregnancy (current law is 12 weeks)
  • Allow rape victims 12 weeks to request abortion (current law is 22 weeks)
  • Prohibiting private clinics from performing abortions

In 2000, there were 2.13 million abortions in Russia. That has decreased to 506,000 in 2022. With a shrinking population, it is likely that further restrictions are in the cards. While that could bump up birth rates a bit, any significant reversal of falling fertility depends on – drumroll – priorities.

History

The first Year of the Family was in 2008, when the government reformed policies on the foreign adoption of Russian orphans. In 2012, Russia banned adoptions by Americans and is considering extending that to countries permitting “gender change”. In 2013, Russia outlawed adoptions by same-sex couples.

Following the dissolution of the USSR in late 1991, Russia’s birthrate collapsed to levels not seen since World War II, when an estimated 27 million Soviet citizens perished. The economy spiralled into depression while crime and a host of social pathologies spread like wildfire. Russia’s estimated fertility rate has since rebounded to between 1.4 and 1.6, but there is no decidedly upward trend.

In a late November address to the World Russian People’s Council, President Putin said:

We will not overcome the daunting demographic challenges facing us solely with money, social benefits, allowances, privileges, or dedicated programmes. True, the amount of the budget’s demographic spending is extremely important, but that is not all there is to it. A person’s points of reference in life matter more. Love, trust, and a solid moral foundation are what the family and the birth of a child are built on. We must never forget this.

Thankfully, many of our ethnic groups have preserved the tradition of having strong multigenerational families with four, five, or even more children. Let us remember that Russian families, many of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers had seven, eight, or even more children.

Let us preserve and revive these excellent traditions. Large families must become the norm, a way of life for all Russia’s peoples. The family is not just the foundation of the state and society; it is a spiritual phenomenon, a source of morality.

Like him or not, give credit where it's due: President Putin is trying.

Latest legislative initiative

In response to widespread concerns about Russia’s demographic crisis, last week legislators from the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) proposed legislation entitled “On State Benefits for Citizens with Children” that would provide for the award 200,000 rubles (US$2100) per child to women who give birth before age 25.

The average age of a mother at first birth is inching towards 30. On introducing the legislation, LDPR deputies cut to the chase, saying, “Almost 40 percent of Russian women refuse to have children due to unsatisfactory financial situation and living conditions.” All women under age 25, regardless of financial situation, would be eligible for the benefit.

Why write about Russia? Look no further than our Mercator masthead:

Mercator is your first stop for news and analysis that places the dignity of the human person at the centre of everything.

There are so many people in Russia, and everywhere else, for that matter, who agree. They are pro-family and our comrades-in-arms on the issues that count.

Today, we’re on the precipice of world war. Russia and America should strive for better understanding and expend more effort trying to get along than on antagonising one another. Direct people-to-people cooperation working for traditional family values can make friends and mitigate the geopolitical tangles contrived by avaricious elites. World peace depends on it.

Merry Christmas, Mercator fans!


Louis T. March has a background in government, business, and philanthropy. A former talk show host, author, and public speaker, he is a dedicated student of history and genealogy. Louis lives with his family in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Image: Pexels


 

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  • Jürgen Siemer
    commented 2023-12-14 17:20:02 +1100
    The fifth Illusion is that the “West” is superior, because it is a democracy.

    The truth is, that the West is declining, demographically, economically, spiritually and morally.

    At the heart of its decline is that the West has dethroned Christ the King. Western democracies, or the majorities of its people, believe that they do not need God.

    The decline of the family in the West is only one important data point the proves the argument.
  • paolo giosuè gasparini
    commented 2023-12-14 04:17:53 +1100
    The Wall Street Journal of November 1st published an interesting article by Professor Jakub Grygiel, a political studies professor at the Catholic University of America. The article, titled “Three Foreign-Policy Illusions,” highlights three deeply rooted illusions in the American and European mindset that underlie mistakes made by the West in the face of the Russian war in Ukraine, the aggression of Hamas and Iran against Israel, and China’s threats in the Pacific.

    The first illusion is that leaders are solely responsible for wars, and these countries are our rivals only because of their bad leaders. The second illusion cultivated by the West is that international organizations and global governance can overcome national and regional political controversies. The third illusion of the West is that increased trade and wealth lead to peace.

    Adding to Professor Grygiel’s analysis, Italian historian Professor De Mattei introduces a fourth Western illusion: the rejection by many intellectuals and political leaders of any idea of a “clash of civilizations.”

    The “war of civilizations” against the West is proclaimed by Putin, Xi Jinping, and many representatives of the Islamic world, divided internally but united in the fight against the common enemy. Those who deny the existence of a clash of civilizations not only deny the existence of an enemy but also the very identity of the shared destiny to which they belong. Conservatives and traditionalists sympathetic to Russia or the Muslim Brotherhood, willing to justify the invasion of Taiwan to avoid a “global war,” are the “enemy-brothers” of the same “cancel culture” that represents the most radical expression of post-modern leftism.

    Hamas legislator Yunis Al-Astal, in a Friday sermon, addressed Muslim believers: “Very soon, by Allah’s will, Rome will be conquered, just as Constantinople was, as prophesied by our Prophet Muhammad.” He added that Rome, currently the capital of Catholics or crusaders hostile to Islam, will be a base for Islamic conquests spreading across Europe and eventually reaching the Americas and Eastern Europe.

    What will be the consequences if Russia prevails in Ukraine, if Hamas, supported by Islam, destroys Israel, and if China invades Taiwan?

    A few days ago, the Chief of Staff of the German Ministry of Defense, General Carsten Breuer, gave an interview to the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung saying that “they must prepare for a possible invasion by Russia.” This invasion is also considered possible by Poland and the Baltic countries. (I add, as a Catholic, that Blessed Elena Aiello predicted the invasion of Russia in Rome.) Such a defeat would confirm the belief that the West is not experiencing its decline, as Oswald Spengler predicted a hundred years ago, but its agony. However, history is not irreversible, especially when God decides to intervene. On November 5th, an unexpected aurora borealis illuminated the skies of Europe. While astronomers provided scientific explanations, we should address a thoughtful look to the sky, questioning whether this event could be connected to the auroras of 1938 and 1939, which, according to Sister Lucia of Fatima, foretold World War II. Is it an apocalyptic sign, or could the aurora borealis serve as a luminous sign of hope, urging people to view earthly matters through heavenly eyes and remembering that all causes and effects in the world have their origin and end in God, the only one who can grant peace on earth to people of goodwill seeking His glory?

    I express then gratitude to you, Fred for your decisive reminder of faith and I wish for a Merry Christmas.
  • Fred Johnson
    commented 2023-12-14 00:43:24 +1100
    Thanks Paolo, that is a thoughtful and wide ranging comment of yours. To be brief – I do not see that salient word: God. Convertamus faciem Dei is the Google translation of “Turn our faces to God.” Let’s try that and see what kind of fruit is produced; at least Russia and Hungary are trying to reverse the trends you identify and I think are starting to have results. Elon Musk and Jack Ma of Alibaba are firmly on record as saying that depopulation is the world’s greatest challenge for the next 50 years. Pretty smart guys imo and unlikely that they are deists but they “get it”.
  • paolo giosuè gasparini
    commented 2023-12-13 18:10:12 +1100
    Fred, an author, said that the Russian does not want war but does not want to concede victory to enemies; despises dictatorial power but cannot tolerate divisions between different parties; abhors homosexuality and gender fluidity but changes orientation every day on everything. Democracy is a deception, ecumenism is a conspiracy, liberalism is the dominion of the powerful… and Russia remains an enigma in history.

    The issue of gender reveals a condition that Russia paradoxically makes evident with the sum of its contradictions, but perhaps it is time to recognize that it is an epochal and universal issue, certainly not only at the level of personal and sexual orientations. Today’s world is characterized above all by the loss of identity, individual and collective, political and cultural, moral and religious: democracy is in crisis in all its variations and latitudes, the globalized economy is in crisis, the value system considered fundamental for social development is in crisis, and the list of crises could be much longer.

    Russia extols family, childbirth, and the defense of nascent life, while being the country with the highest divorce and abortion rates in the world in percentage, and facing a demographic crisis that appears increasingly irreversible. Moreover, even China is trying to counteract the decline in population in all its megacities, and Europe is certainly not faring better, rejecting the masses of migrants who could be hope for the future. As often happened in the past, Russia sacrifices itself for the whole world, not with its victories and dreams of conquest, but with its impotence to achieve its own dreams, thus awakening all men and peoples from East to West.
  • Fred Johnson
    commented 2023-12-13 16:05:50 +1100
    I heard a prescient comment a few months ago about how Russia is only now turning its back on a 300 year long “dance” or potential relationship / engagement with Europe. The best term to describe their interest in being closer to Europe eludes me, as the value in doing so today eludes the Russians. It is the right decision to move on, in my opinion. To see them encouraging large families and positively promoting the most basic societal unit that in turn strengthens their country hugely is inspiring as we watch the West spiral further into a moral morass. Time will tell but my money is on the Family. And God.
  • Thomas Skrovanek
    followed this page 2023-12-13 13:41:58 +1100
  • Jürgen Siemer
    commented 2023-12-13 06:09:45 +1100
    Dear Paolo,
    Seem like you have not read my post…

    Ukrainian and Russian sons, brothers and fathers are killed and injured in a war between NATO and Russia, a war in which Ukrainian soldiers and foreign mercenaries fight with weapons and uniforms supplied by the NATO countries. Their salaries and most salaries of Ukrainian government employees and Ukrainian pensioners are paid also by the West.

    And the armchair generals in Rome, London and Washington demand from their Ukrainian subjects: fight on and die, if necessary!

    In a war provoked by NATO, a war totally avoidable if the Americans and the Brits had just stayed at home before 2014, or if the completely agreed and signed Minsk II agreement had been applied. If Russia’s legitimate interests and requests had been taken into account.

    Dear Paolo, you are being lied to.

    Of course, bad guys are everywhere, but there are many bad guys and women in Washington, London and Brussels.

    My advise: Germany, Italy and France should leave NATO and request that Amis and the Brits go home.

    We could then establish a new Holy Roman security pact between our central European nations and pledge eternal neutrality and non-aggression. Just like Austria and Switzerland. And no more military intervention in any foreign country – which would mean that the French bring their troops home from Africa as well.

    The result would be peace, prosperity and more happy families in Europe.
  • paolo giosuè gasparini
    commented 2023-12-13 00:51:41 +1100
    Dear Jürgen, thank you very much for attention.

    For weeks now, things have been going badly for Zelensky. Kiev is being bombed regularly, Ukrainian soldiers have lost Marinka, and Avdiivka and Kupiansk are on the verge of falling, compromising General Zaluzny’s military offensive.

    The United States and Europe, both in an election year, are sparing with arms and funds. “If the world gets tired of supporting us,” First Lady Olena declared to the BBC, “it will simply let us die.”

    Many in the more foolish part of the West take pleasure in this prospect. They argue that negotiations should have been opened immediately (in fact, this was also done, in a villa along the Pripyat River in Belarus).

    “Avvenire,” the (pacifist) newspaper of the Italian Episcopal Conference, recently published an interesting editorial whose conclusion is that “yielding to Putin” would not be “a good exercise in cynicism and Realpolitik.” Rather, it would be the result of “shortsighted calculation.” Is there to be gained by “saving on arms shipments and loans”? “A little today, not tomorrow.”

    “Forgetting Kiev and closing our eyes to the dangers from Russia is a dangerous temptation,” he concluded. “Both on the humanitarian level (people continue to die on the battlefields and in Ukrainian cities) and on the geostrategic level, it remains vital to keep the spotlight on the crisis and seek practical long-term solutions that align with our values and interests.”

    But to see more in particular the business stuff, the Russian mentality remains Eurocentric even in its most conflictual versions, and the Far East, which occupies the largest territory, always stays on the “edges of the world.” To conquer those lands, Russians have always preferred to send Ukrainians ahead, from the legendary Cossack hetman Ermak in the times of Ivan the Terrible to the colonizers of Primorye, the Pacific coast where one hears more Ukrainian than Russian or Chinese accents. So much so that the settlers established the autonomous republic of Zelenyj Klin, a “Green Ukraine” of the East. The Far East has never fascinated Russians as the Far West has fascinated Americans, even though there has always been more gold in Siberia than in California, albeit more difficult to extract from the icy grounds.
    Rejecting the variant of the Soviet empire, Solzhenitsyn warned against the “domineering subjugation of Ukraine, Belarus, and northern Kazakhstan,” recalling the toponym Novorossiya, used to define the disputed western lands that were supposed to be “reclaimed” into the Russian statehood, but without tragedies. Unfortunately, even these words of the great dissident have been twisted to justify the invasion of Ukraine. Today, the Kremlin urges the many regions of the Federation to “take responsibility” for those occupied and annexed territories of Ukraine, for the “reconstruction of infrastructure” destroyed by the Russian forces themselves.
  • Jürgen Siemer
    commented 2023-12-12 23:26:46 +1100
    Dear Paolo, you need to analyze politics more in terms of interests. When Russia was almost bankrupt, it had cautiously asked if it could join the EU.
    But it was rejected.
    Russia had always asked that Ukraine should not join NATO due to reasonable security concerns. There are public oral promises by western leaders that Ukraine would not join Nato.
    Back then, Russia did not even have a problem with Ukraine possibly joining the EU, which would lead to a status similar to Austria by the way.
    But US politicians were not honest, breaking their promises and sending their weapons and “consultants” to Ukraine. Then the US led Ukrainians into the Maidan-revolution, which led to the secession-attempt by the ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine. The civil war began.
    If you do not believe me, ask Victoria Nuland.

    Russia tried to negotiate a resolution to the conflict and the civil war for many years. Minsk II is called the latest agreement. But it was broken.

    I am not saying that Russia has always been right. But I do say that Mrs Nuland and her friends have a lot of responsibility.
    Ukrainian men are for the most part sacrificing their lifes for her and Boris Johnson.

    That is not right!
  • paolo giosuè gasparini
    commented 2023-12-12 18:57:26 +1100
    I am very saddened by this uncritical exaltation. But things are not like that. I see that no one realizes that the devil is playing in fact on two fronts, Western relativism and Russian nationalism.

    According to Patriarch Kirill (2018), military power enhances the Christian nature of Russia: “We see that today the Armed Forces rightfully gain increasing authority and respect among the people because, with their ability to defend the Homeland, the pride of everyone in their country grows… it is a great responsibility to be exercised with the power of arms and the strength of spirit. It is the Church that shapes the spirit, and for a strong people, the Church must operate with strength.”

    Whoever sits on the throne of the Kremlin on March 18, 2024, must correspond to a function defined by ideology and even religion; an idol to bow down to in the name of the greatness of Mother Russia, a true deity revered since before the Baptism of Kiev in 988, still in the uncertain inspirations of the Scandinavian, Caucasian, and Asian paganism of the people bridging East and West. The “traditional values” embodied by this semi-divine figure transcend even Orthodox Christianity, often interpreted only as an attribute of the authentic Russian soul, preexisting any other form of morality or religion, projected onto the final solution of universal history. Supreme and metaphysical power is based on the two great prerogatives of Stalinist religion, conflict, and security, which Putin is interpreting at the highest level.

    Dissidents do not concern the Kremlin leadership; what matters more is the perception of powerlessness and submission in the masses, to be fueled by propaganda and surveillance. The true power structures, the only Stalinist legacies alive after the end of the USSR, take care of this: the Moscow Patriarchate and the Security Council. Putin’s first deputy in the presidential administration, former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko, explained in a forum that the ongoing war has three simultaneous and successive levels: the “hot” level of weapons, the economic level that imposes a “turn towards the East,” and the “ideological, or rather, informational-psychological, the battle of meanings,” the smyslovaja bitva. One of the “meanings” to engage in, according to the Kremlin, is that of “freedom” opposed to “liberalism,” not based on individualism but on the communion of shared traditional values. It is not about conquering lands or defending one’s own, but fighting for the “sense of the world,” explaining the entire dynamics of the “special operation,” which goes beyond the military, technical, or economic aspects.

    Kirienko refers to the constitutional changes of 2020, an ideological container for grand “meanings” such as that of “family values.” Indeed, the Russian sense of family is quite original: defending an institution in which very few believe, as the Soviet past had completely disintegrated the concept of the family unit (the real family was the State, at most the Party). Moreover, even the Orthodox Church allows a second and third marriage as “soothing blessings” after the failure of previous unions. The country that practices the most abortions in the world today climbs on fake decrees against abortion, pretending to eliminate it from public health when everyone knows that the only functioning Russian healthcare is the paid one, even in public clinics, perhaps under the table. “Family” is the bastion against “homosexual propaganda,” where gay communities have always been so active and widespread in Russia that every city knows their reference squares (in Moscow, behind the Bolshoi Theatre).
    In reality, “moral values” are just smoke in the eyes in a Russia dominated by oligarchs who are champions of immorality, starting with the Kremlin leaders. In fact, Kirienko reiterates the centerpiece of the battle of meanings, the “true interpretation of history,” where morality plays a little role, and everything is resolved in the reference ideology.

    The feeling of being destined to “save the world,” and not just one’s own country, has always inspired the Russians, called to be the “third and final Christian Rome,” as prophesied by Philotheus of Pskov in the late 15th century.
  • mrscracker
    commented 2023-12-12 01:40:11 +1100
    Perhaps Russian women might be more incentivized to have larger families if they didn’t worry as much about their children being used as future cannon fodder?
  • Jürgen Siemer
    commented 2023-12-11 17:52:27 +1100
    Slowly increasing
  • Jürgen Siemer
    commented 2023-12-11 17:50:53 +1100
    According to the data I see, the birth rate is slowly increasing, now slightly above 1.8 children per woman on average. But at the same time the number of babies born is stagnating / slowly decreasing because the number of potential mothers is decreasing.

    The Russian government has done a lot for families, and achieved something, especially compared to the catastrophic situation after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia came out of the Soviet Union sick, morally and financially bankrupt.

    Now Russian should try to improve the situation in the villages, where the situation often still is desperate.

    Putin had been secretly baptized, and his mother hid this from her husband, who was a believing communist.

    Mothers can do things that change the world.
  • Paul Bunyan
    commented 2023-12-11 10:21:35 +1100
    As for Russia – it’s clear that Putin’s ulterior motive for encouraging children is war. He wants more young soldiers who will die for Russia’s “glory.”
  • Paul Bunyan
    commented 2023-12-11 10:20:55 +1100
    Increasing the population shouldn’t even be a priority. We should work on ending war, disease, global warming, terrorism and poverty before we even think about adding more people.

    Besides, high birth rates always lead to more poverty and crime.