Human Rights: Russia vs West 

December 10 marked 75 years since the UN Declaration of Human Rights. In this regard, many media write about this topic in a variety of contexts such as achievements, violations, historical upheavals and connections with specific cases. Since recently the image of Russia has been deliberately demonized, it is necessary to take a closer look at human rights in Russia and, by all means, the general neoliberal paradigm of the West that interprets human rights in its own way.

From such a perspective, it becomes immediately obvious that the understanding of human rights in Russia is similar to interpretations given to the concept in other countries where religious traditions and customs are preserved regardless of what exactly they profess: Christianity, Islam, Buddhism or some other cults. In such traditional cultures, civil law is closely intertwined with religious traditions that have their own set of rules, including various restrictions and prohibitions. By no means this is considered as an infringement on rights and freedoms.

While the West follows the version of human rights that developed during the era of modernism and the French Revolution, it’s an adverse understanding of freedom. Such authors as John Stuart Miles, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Adam Smith, Thomas Hobbes and a number of other authors shaped a common concept of human rights and freedoms in Western society. At the same time, there was a clearly noticeable trend towards ‘liberation’ and emancipation: if in the 18th century, during the French Revolution, they talked about the need for liberation from the monarchy and the church, then later others gradually joined those institutions.

The removal of restrictions and the destruction of the institutions self-evidently resulted in the destruction of those foundations that were difficult and even virtually impossible to restore even realizing the adverse consequences for society and the nation. How far this has come in the 21st century can be exemplified by the EU countries and the USA. They abandon the traditional institutions of family and even gender offering a large number of types of sexual identities. Black residents, in turn, put forward absurd demands, for example, compensations for the years spent by their ancestors in slavery (which is legal nonsense since the law is not retroactive) and commit various offenses under the guise of ‘rights and freedoms’. Obviously, this has little to do with the exercise of human rights and freedoms but has become a political tool and a new norm normal that was previously a social deviation and was suppressed.

However, mutual claims asserted by Western countries and Russia against each other in connection with human rights have existed for about 150 years. For instance, at the beginning of the 20th century, various Jewish organizations in the United States intensely lobbied the government to exert pressure on the Russian Empire to make it abolish the residence law (since Jews in the Russian Empire were considered foreigners and were prohibited from moving freely across the country). Russia objected to that saying that the Jews were its subjects who had to live in accordance with established laws.

Delegates observe one minute of silence during the high-level event commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, December 11, 2023

It should be noted that women in the Russian Empire were first in the world to receive suffrage as early as in 1906. It was in the Grand Duchy of Finland that enjoyed considerable. Today, the West deliberately keeps silent about the fact that it was the Russian Empire that women received the right to vote in elections and be elected for the first time ever, saying instead that it was Finland (meanwhile, Poland was also part of Russia until 1917). Such approach is typical of the West as a whole: distorting historical facts and committing forgeries to serve political interests and justify one’s own position.

The civil and legal structure of the entire society in Russia was changed after the revolution of 1917. Admittedly, the Bolsheviks made a serious mistake by starting the fight against religion although this problem is covered by the Russian press in a distorted form. Many churches continued to work and the clergy continued to fulfill their mission. However, men and women received broad rights in politics, labor, health, recreation, education, etc. In this regard, American historian Gordon S. Wood in his book “The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States” noted that the real reason that the U.S. authorities did not recognize Soviet power after the overthrow of the monarchy in Russia was the fear of losing the “monopoly on democracy” since there were many more rights and freedoms in Soviet Russia than in USA!

The criticism of the Soviet Union in the West generally focused on the fact that, despite various rights, the interests of the state were set above those of an individual. The collective prevailed over the individual. However, this feature is still characteristic of many countries where the traditional way of life has at least partially survived to this day. There are communities of various shapes and sizes that meet to discuss various issues. And such diversity is an adequate manifestation of different cultures and practices. For example, Africa has such an egalitarian institution as palaver when various issues are discussed in a manner characteristic of the society in question. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Pashtun tribes hold jirgas, a similar meeting aimed to resolve a variety of issues.

Coming back to the Western style of rights and freedoms, admittedly, slave trade and racism, including apartheid (can still be observed in Palestine on the part of Zionist entity Israel), are a kind of the West’s business cards, as they especially were during the Enlightenment era when the concepts of human rights were first voiced. Great geographical discoveries began to serve as a source of enrichment for the European metropolises and enslavement of other peoples: in Africa, Asia and the New World (North and South America).

Western cynicism and arrogance can be exemplified by the so-called human zoos in the USA and many Western European countries where people from distant countries were exhibited in cages instead of animals. A whole pavilion showing peoples from various colonies of France ranging from North Africa to Indochina was exhibited at the World Trade Fair in Paris back in 1931. The same experience was repeated by Belgium in 1958 by exhibiting people originating from Congo behind the fence. Note that this happened already after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 saying that “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination!”

It turns out that according to the West’s logic, there are still those who have more rights and freedoms than others. Aldous Huxley perfectly illustrated this in his Animal Farm where, after being ousted by man’s domestic animals, pigs usurped power very quickly.

It should be added that at the same time, Africans and whites were prohibited from studying in the same school in the United States. Despite the pretentious statements about democracy in the USA, there was racial segregation in the 50-60s of the past century that still echoes today.

It was not even possible to imagine something similar in the Soviet Union given its diversity of cultures and peoples, where a representative of any, even the smallest ethnic group, could receive a higher education and even make a political career for free.

It was already in modern Russia that the West, acting through its institutions and organizations, repeatedly made attempts to impose its rules and orders under the guise of protecting human rights, destroying the fundamentals of nationhood. For example, the International Committee of the Red Cross tried to justify terrorist attacks in the North Caucasus and even legally change the concepts. George Soros’ Open Society Institute exerted an active influence for some time through the education system. Individual facts were used for the large-scale application of sanctions and exerting political pressure (the so-called Magnitsky Act adopted in the USA in 2012 followed by European analogues).

By the way, as regards the use of violence by police officers against their citizens, the difference in Russia and Western countries is very significant. Watching videos of how protests take place and how the police work during such events would suffice. In Russia, peace breakers are normally escorted to a car to record their details and bring a matter into court. In the EU countries and the USA, people normally get beaten with batons (sometimes, judging by newspaper reports, very cruelly with health consequences), tear gas is sprayed into their faces, they are hounded by dogs and water cannons are used.

Furthermore, numerous violations of rights and freedoms are constantly committed within the US and EU. The latest example is the political censorship of the media and persecution of various alternative political parties and movements that oppose the establishment. However, this does not become a reason for other countries to impose sanctions against the United States. Because by trying to instrumentalize any human rights infringements in another country, the US (and the EU) automatically violates their sovereignty. And thereby they accentuate their arrogance and double standards.

This was one of the reasons why Russia ceased to be accountable to the European Court of Human Rights. At the same time, numerous mechanisms are in place in Russia aimed to ensure the rights and freedoms of Russian citizens and the accountability and transparency of executive authorities is constantly improving. Interestingly, in the context of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine (in fact, a war against the entire NATO) and Western sanctions, interaction between the authorities and citizens has reached a brand-new level demonstrating the cohesion of the people and the government in the face of external challenges. Therefore, Russia will fairly set an example of adequate society development where secular laws coexist well with religious customs and traditions, where mutual respect is continually practiced and family values are preserved.

As for the West, if the situation there does not change, it will further the collapse of society and degradation of the state system, the role of corporations and the repressive apparatus will increasingly grow and the potential for conflict will grow as numerous sociologists have repeatedly warned.

Reposts are welcomed with the reference to ORIENTAL REVIEW.
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