I recently came across this advertisement about Russia, produced by the human rights watch group Amnesty International, which seeks to point out that Russia is concealing massive human rights violations behind a veneer of bureaucratic civility.
Now, I like to think of myself as having an above-average interest in the promotion of social justice. I have also spent the past two summers living in the Republic of Georgia, which is not currently home to Russia’s biggest fans (understatement). I have also sat through the wildly entertaining mud-slinging mess created by the recent presidential elections. All things considered, I still think Amnesty needs to back the hell off. Of course Russia has issues. Of course it is a police state. Of course their legislation is unjust in many ways, especially in those fancy high-tech regulations. Of course they have very little support for small businesses. Of course there is a thriving black market. Of course the government wants to suppress the opposition—nobody wants a revolution when there is so much trouble already.
Any of the Russians I’ve spoken to since getting here (especially my professors) could go for ages about national issues, but there is this one fundamental thing that they have right, which many countries do not: they are working to make things better. When criticizing Russia, one must first remember that this country, as we know it now, has only been around since 1991. Before that there was a collapsing Soviet state with a centralized economy, stunted industrial sector, and widespread “system failure.” Russia had no previous [significant] democratic tradition, no free economy, no individually motivated civic participation, and at some points, even no basic provisions. From that to what Russia is now, is a very long way to have come. Yes, they still do have a long way to go. But if the recent elections are any indication, things are indeed changing.
So Amnesty, please, grow up. Changes are going to come from individuals making decisions, not from insulting smear campaigns that waste charitably-donated money. With everything else going on in the world, it’s like you have nothing else to do. Go help out with Kony 2012 or something.