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Russians Passing the Buck on Charities

Published: June 4, 2014 (Issue # 1814)



  • Russia was ranked 123rd out of 153 countries by the Charities Aid Foundations Giving Index.
    Photo: Igor Tabakov / Fotoimedia

I have around 430 friends on Facebook, and plenty of them respond with like and so forth to the vacation photos or the article links that I post from time to time.

But in early May I used Facebook for something much more important than holiday snaps. I wrote a post to draw attention to the plight of Valeria Olshanskaya, a woman who has spent decades working for a charity raising funds to help hearing-impaired children. Valeria is battling cancer and now needs financial help herself.

Valerias main fundraiser is her daughter, Varvara, who is deaf. And young Varvara, seeing her mothers desperate situation, has started using the Internet to appeal for donations.

When I drew attention to their situation on Facebook, my 430 friends, mostly Russians, responded with what I can only describe as a deafening silence. In fact the only person who reacted at all was an American. I was deeply grateful to her but felt deflated and a bit let down.

Two weeks later, I remembered that disappointment as I listened to a speech about charity at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

Andrei Dubovskov, president and chairman of the board at MTS, a major Russian provider of mobile-phone services, was expressing his own frustration over the poor response from the companys 70 million subscribers when it makes charity appeals. He said fewer than 0.1 percent of customers ever participate in charitable projects introduced or supported by MTS.

As the intervention of social networks into our lives has increased dramatically, Dubovskov said, the avalanche of desperate, unsolicited appeals has come to seem to many people like an attack.

As with any attack, people tend to defend to protect themselves from what they see as having to deal with sorrow. Dubovskovs words brought to mind the reaction of a friend, who some time ago received the news that a couple she knew were going through a tragedy. Their daughter had been diagnosed with cancer. Her condition was rapidly getting worse and the outlook was bleak. The girl soon died.

My friend admitted that on first hearing of the situation she had abruptly cut off contact with the family.

I was in no position to help, and I couldnt face either the girl, who was just vanishing, or talking to her parents, she said, trying to explain.

At the Economic Forum, Russians limp response to charitable appeals was also taken up by Maria Chertok, director of the Russian office of the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF). She said the organizations 2013 World Giving Index showed that a mere 6 percent of Russians donated money to a charitable cause even in a way as simple as giving a bit of change to street beggars.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 28


Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.



Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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