A proposal by a top official in the Moscow Patriarchate to tax families with few or no children to encourage adoptions is proving controversial.
The plan, a throwback to Soviet times, is closely
related to the heated debate over the ban on US couples adopting Russian
children that was recently passed into law.
Under the new legislation, Russians
are encouraged to adopt Russian orphans.
Dmitri Smirnov, head of the Synodal Department for Cooperation with
Armed Forces and Law Enforcement Agencies, is behind the proposal. He wants the
government to impose "a small tax on those with no or a few children" with the
money raised going to families that adopt children.
"Why do they adopt children in America? Because the government gives
them enough money not only to feed them, but also allow them to live
comfortably," he told the Interfax
In the past, the clergyman was involved in three children's
facilities in Russia.
Smirnov is in favour of the 'Anti-Magnitsky law' signed in December by
Russian President Vladimir Putin despite opposition within the Russian cabinet.
US citizens are barred from adopting Russian children under the new law, which
came into effect on 1 January 2013.
The law was adopted in reaction to a US law, the Magnitsky Act, which
imposes penalties on Russian officials suspected of involvement in human rights
Sergei Magnitsky was a lawyer who died under suspicious circumstances in
a Moscow prison in 2009 after he had exposed corruption in the Russian Interior
The new Russian law also bans Russian NGOs from engaging in political
activities if they receive funding from the United States.
It was inspired by the case of little Dima Yaklovev, a Russian-born
toddler who died in 2008 after his US adoptive father forgot him in his car. A
US court eventually cleared the latter from any wrongdoing.
"If adoptive families received half of the money wasted in our
orphanages, the children could be adopted by good and reliable Russian families
who would welcome and love them. We would not need the Americans," Smirnov
According to UNICEF, some 740,000 children are waiting for adoption in
Russia. However, only 18,000 Russians have signed up to adopt them. Until now,
the United States represented the main country of destination for Russian orphans
(more than 60,000 in 20 years).
A similar proposal of taxing childless Russians had already been made in
2006. At the time, President Vladimir Putin called it "morally baseless and
A similar law on unmarried people and childless couples existed under
the Soviet Union.
Adopted in 1941, the law required men (aged 20 to 50) and women (aged 20
to 45) to pay 6 per cent of their salary into the coffers of the state.
making less than 91 rubles a month would pay a lower percentage; people making
less than 70 were exempt.