Friday, March 20, 2015

In the USSR, There Was No Sex; In Putin’s Russia, No Suicides from Medical Despair

Paul Goble


            Staunton, March 20 – In the USSR, it was sometimes said, there was no sex because that subject could not be addressed directly in the media. However that might have been, a new truth is emerging, in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, there will be no suicides by those who cannot get the medicines they need to treat their incurable diseases.


            The Russian government has been embarrassed by the rising number of suicides among terminally ill people who could not get the medicines they needed either to reduce their suffering or possibly to produce a cure. But instead of spending the money needed to ensure that those who need such medicines get them, Moscow has taken two other steps.


            On the one hand, it has banned journalistic reporting about the causes of suicides so that no one will find out about why this or that individual in fact killed himself. And on the other, it has created a new class of those who are “more equal” than others who will be guaranteed access to needed medicines and thus who will be unlikely to kill themselves for this reasons.


            “Novyye izvestiya” reports today that Roskomnadzor has demanded that the Othodoxy and the World site remove mentions about the cause of suicide by two people who were suffering from cancer. This is the second time that the Russian agency took that step: the first came three weeks ago and involved references to the means those killing themselves used (


            Anna Danilova, the editor of the Orthodoxy and the World portal, told the paper that “according to the logic of the administration, now it is necessary to write that death came unexpectedly, that the individual decided while he was full of happiness and health for some reason to kill himself by suicide.”


            It is not unreasonable to suggest that the media should not talk about the means people use to commit suicide: such reports can lead others to do the same. But it is absurd not to talk about why they may choose to do so, especially if they tell others or leave notes behind as to their reasons.


            Queried by the newspaper as to why it had issued the ban, Roskomnadzor said that the orders had come from “another agency,” undoubtedly one above it and concerned about the image of Russia in the eyes of its own population and in the opinion of the people of the rest of the world.


But another Russian agency, Rostrebnadzor, which is responsible for consumer protection, told “Novyye izvestiya” that it had issued “about 6,000” such orders since 2012 in order to comply with a Russian law banning information about the means people may use to kill themselves. 


Meanwhile, in a related development that also appears intended to hide the consequences of what the Kremlin is doing, Vladimir Putin on March 16 issued a decree specifying that the most senior officials in Russia and their families will get whatever medicines they need to fight cancer free or with a 50 percent discount (


As Aleksandr Ryklin of “Yezhednevny zhurnal” puts it, “we all have an undoubted occasion for pride.” Those who work directly for the Russian president or his representatives can count on free or half-price medicines; those who don’t, however, can’t count on getting such vitally necessary drugs at any price.


But given the crackdown on reporting about those who are driven to despair and suicide, ever fewer Russians or anyone else will have the chance to find out just what the consequences of the Kremlin’s murderous policies really are – and perhaps some of them will even conclude that in Putin’s Russia there are no suicides, just as in Brezhnev’s Soviet Union, there was no sex.

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