Human Rights in Russia
A Darker Side of Reform
Lynne Rienner 2004
A new documentary by Robin Hessman “My Presteroika” portrays the lives of five individuals who, as children, were raised in the Soviet Union but who now live in post-Soviet society. The documentary describes the challenges they faced as they tried to survive in the new post-Soviet world. In many ways, that world is harder to live in than it was under Soviet rule. For example, healthcare, housing, and daily subsistence are all less accessible today than they were under the old regime. In the USSR, incomes varied in a narrow band; today Russia has one of the highest rates of income inequality in the world. Furthermore, Russia has a human rights record that is no better than that of the late Soviet Union. The most-recent series of politically motivated killings, including the murder of the prominent human rights defender Natalya Estemirova, drew serous criticism by the international human rights organizations.
Jonathan Weiler’s book Human Rights in Russia: A Darker Side of Reform (Lynne Rienner, 2004) explores the human rights situation in Russia beyond the superficial discussion of high-profile murder cases. cases. The book provides an in-depth historical look at human rights abuses in Russia. It gives a very useful introduction to Russia’s recent past, elaborating on the socio-economic reforms that took place in the 90s and on their impact on Russia’s human rights situation. Placing his research in the center of the debate on the relationship between the market-oriented reforms, democratization, and human rights, the author illustrates how all these concepts are often confused. In fact, he says, there is hardly any positive causal link between them. Based on the case studies of the most vulnerable groups in Russia, including military conscripts, ethnic minorities, and women and children, the book demonstrates that the advent of market reforms in Russia resulted in a severe decline in the security of Russia’s inhabitants and in an increase in the life- integrity violations of vulnerable individuals.
This books should be widely read, not only by those who work on Russia, but by the human rights community worldwide.