#2 - JRL 7208
June 3, 2003
Russians Do Not Think About Their Rights
The majority of Russians do not even think about defending their rights
Up to 90 percent of Russians do not know how they are supposed to defend their rights on their own. Furthermore, Russians do not have a precise notion of their rights, especially in the regions and distant towns. This was the conclusion drawn by professional lawyers in the Russian movement For Human Rights' department in the Ural region. The movement organized an event called "Traveling from Ekaterinburg to Moscow" in order to study the situation with respect to human rights in Russia's regions.
"We are building a civil society, but how can we build it if the majority of Russians do not want to solve their own problems? So we set ourselves a goal of 'educating' people, to convince them that they deserve more, to explain to them how they should defend their rights in this or that case. We provide free consultations for the solution of social, communal and employment problems, and we explain to people which organizations they can turn to," Vladimir Shaklein, the chairman of the coordinating board of the movement, said.
Legal experts in the movement have been to five districts of the Kirov region. They came to the conclusion that people were not as active as they had thought they would be. For example, 20 local residents came to consult them in one settlement, and only two people asked for legal advice in another regional settlement. Furthermore, these people knew that legal experts were coming to their areas to provide free consultations.
This situation is typical for the majority of Russian regions. People are afraid of publicity. People could hardly be found who would agree to provide any written information about themselves. For example, a good-looking man came to talk to legal experts one day. They wanted to take a picture of their conversation, but as soon as the man saw a camera, he ran out of the room. Another local resident talked a lot about his problems at work, about low wages and rude violations on the part of his administrators. However, when lawyers suggested he should write an official complaint, he said that that would get him fired.
Russians do not even want to think about defending their rights. The experts came to the conclusion that the Russian regional authorities have presumably committed violations with respect to social guarantees, civil cases, employment disputes and housing problems. People say that their local judges make biased decisions, so no one even wants to go to court, because everyone thinks that it is totally useless. The legal experts with the movement For Human Rights will finish their journey on June 11th, so it is too early to draw any final conclusions. Specialists will analyze the overall situation, make derive conclusions and offer their information to local authorities.