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Human Rights Watch

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Copyright © December 1998 by Human Rights Watch.
All Rights Reserved.
Printed in the United States of America.
ISBN: 1-56432191-6
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 98-88715



This is a joint report by two divisions of Human Rights Watch: the Children's Rights and the Europe and Central Asia Divisions. It was researched and written by Kathleen Hunt, a consultant to Human Rights Watch, who as a journalist investigated the orphanages in post-Ceausescu Romania for the New York Times Sunday Magazine and covered the break-up of the Soviet Union from 19911994 for National Public Radio.

The bulk of the investigation was conducted by Ms. Hunt in Russia, from February 10 to March 9, 1998. Considerable preparatory research was undertaken during January, and follow-up since her return from Russia. The Human Rights Watch Moscow office provided invaluable research and administrative backup throughout this period, and we are particularly grateful to Lyuda Alpern for her full-time assistance.

The report was edited by Lois Whitman from the Children's Rights Division and Rachel Denber of the Europe and Central Asia Division. Michael McClintock, deputy program director and Dinah PoKempner, deputy general counsel, provided additional comments on the manuscript, and Shalu Rozario of the Children's Rights Division and Alex Frangos of the Europe and Central Asia Division provided production assistance.

It is a pity that a vise of secrecy and fear, reminiscent of Soviet times, has tightened around the isolated world of Russia's state orphanages. Many dedicated orphanage staff and foreign volunteers begged us not to reveal their names, or the institutions in which they worked. Russian workers, they said, would be fired for talking to an outsider. Foreign charity workers would be expelled from the institutions and the doors slammed on humanitarian assistance. This would further isolate the system which they felt a desperate need to improve. We have respected these requests.

This report, nevertheless, would not have been possible without the assistance of many who did take the risk to share what they knew about state-run institutions for abandoned children. Of those in Moscow who wish to be named, we especially thank Sergei Koloskov, father of a Down syndrome child and president of the Down Syndrome Association for families with Down syndrome children, Sarah Philips, a former volunteer with the charity organization Action for Russia’s Children, and Boris Altshuler, Lyubov Kushnir and Lyudmilla Alexeeva of Rights of the Child, Russia's leading nongovernmental organization dedicated to defending children's rights.

Also in Moscow, we wish to express our gratitude to Dr. Anatoly Severny, of the Independent Association of Child Psychiatrists and Psychologists, Marina Rodman, and Sergei A. Levin. Olga Alexeeva of Charities Aid Foundation shared her expertise and the bounty of her research archives, and Karina A. Moskalenko provided invaluable help with our legal research. Further information and insightswere provided by Equilibre, Médécins sans Frontières, and Alexander Ogorodnikov, who runs an independent shelter for runaway children.

Several translators labored over the raft of legal documentation assembled, and assisted with lengthy interviews with orphans. We especially thank Lena Sheveleva, Irina Savelyeva, Tanya Morschakova, Maria Armand, and Alexander Bogdanov.

On our two missions outside of Moscow, Human Rights Watch was generously assisted in St. Petersburg by Médécins du Monde/Doctors of the World; Alexander Rodin, a former deputy in the city council and now independent advocate for children in orphanages, juvenile detention, and the streets; and Alexander Bogdanov, who assisted in the research gathered from a group of teenaged orphans. Our research outside of Moscow would not have been possible without the help of Eduard A. Alexeyev. Further thanks go to Doctor Mikhail M. Airumyan, president of the independent Russian Association of Baby Houses, and Dr. Olga Y. Vassilieva, deputy director of one Russian baby house in a region north of Moscow.

Across the vast territory of the Russian Federation, we would like to extend our appreciation for the time given by dozens of people whom we interviewed extensively by telephone, gathering background information on institutions in rural and remote regions. There are far too many to mention here, but we especially wish to thank Vera Strebizh of Shans, a children's rights group, and Anna Pastukhova of Memorial Society, both of Ekaterinburg.

For the photographs in this report, we are deeply grateful to freelance photographer Kate Brooks, Sergei Koloskov, Natasha Fairweather, and to the British company Independent Television News for permitting us to view the tape of their cameraman’s visit to a shocking psychoneurological internat. Valuable background information was provided by other journalists, including Zoya Trounova, and Sam Hutchinson, who described the inhuman conditions in the orphanages they had visited during the past two years.

Finally, our heartfelt thanks go to the many Russian orphans who talked freely with us. To protect their privacy, the names of all children in this report have been changed as indicated in the footnotes. Our sincerest hopes go to those who spoke with us as well as to those who are too young, or too neglected, to have yet learned to speak. We call on the international community to hasten the day when they can unlock their minds and develop their full human potential.

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