Russia's children in cycle of crime
Poverty and homelessness among children and teenagers are fuelling crime
and drug abuse in Russia in the worst wave of such deprivation since
World War II, the Government has conceded.
In a surprisingly outspoken speech for a Russian politician, Interior
Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev marked International Children's Day by saying
Russia had about 700,000 orphans.
He also lamented that for a country that in the Soviet era prided itself
on 100 per cent literacy, Russia now had about 2 million teenagers who
could not read and write.
“Today we are living through a third wave of child homelessness,
following those of the Civil War and World War II,” he told a gathering
in his ministry.
“We must unite the efforts of all state and social organisations with
those of human rights groups and citizens to resolve this problem.”
He also said drug abuse had soared, with many children
beginning to experiment as young as 11. Drug-related deaths among
children had increased 42 times since the 1980s.
The Soviet collapse in 1991 left Russia's health and social security
systems underfunded and ill-equipped to deal with the mass unemployment
and poverty that followed.
The collapse also brought a dramatic fall in population, with mortality
rates rising sharply, along with alcohol and drug use.
State funding has risen in recent years, but homeless people are still
common in train stations and public spaces.
Mr Nurgaliyev said that not only was a lack of parental control stoking
crime figures among children often desperate to earn something to live
on, but that abuse by parents had led thousands to flee home.
“Finding themselves in a difficult social condition
and finding indifference about their fate, children try to resolve their
problems for themselves, using criminal or violent means,” he said.
He added that deprived children were often willing recruits for
extremist — particularly racist — groups that have been blamed for
murders across Russia — including several young girls in the city of St
“These groups are not structured and do not have one leadership,” he
“But when the members come under a strong leader, they are easily led
and can commit murder.”
Drug abuse had also risen sharply, with 4 million teenagers using drugs
and 1 million of them were addicted.
“The average age for starting to use drugs in our country has fallen
from 17 to 11 years,” he said, adding that state bodies were failing to
co-operate to solve the problem.
3 June 2005