Last time, I mentioned how Russia's highly touted stability will come in the form of religious level Puritanism. Well, it's here, and damn, it came faster than I thought.
This year has officially been named the Year of the Family. Last year, as some of you may recall, was Year of the Child. I guess the feds figured that since we've all had babies now, it's time to get married and make it decent. Some cynics might say that this is a reaction to the consequences of incentivizing Russia's birthrate increase. The government has been offering a fairly significant amount of cash for every Russian child. One theory is that people might give birth strictly for the government payout, and then abandon their lucrative children. When you get out into the regions, the payout counts for a lot of dough, more than some people make in a year. Abandoned children on the other hand means more expenditure and stress on the federal system. Sure this all sounds awful, but some of the things that go on in Russia's provinces is pretty freakin' hairy.
Promotions for Russia's family focus are already out there in full force. One of the more visible campaigns on the streets is a series of billboards announcing that 2008 is the Year of the Family. The adverts show a fuzzy, gleeful family, with the slogan "We Choose Love." Some of the ads show a smaller family, others have a larger unit with grandparents, parents, kids and the weird uncle that always creeps you out.
In 2010, most of these kid will probably be in a det dom.
In support of all this is a series of placed content on Russia's major television channels. ORT, the main federal TV channel, has been advertising something called the Wedding Awards 2007 Ceremony. As best as I could tell from the trailers, this is an Oscar-style glamorous event, giving out awards to the best weddings of 2007, whatever that can mean. Obviously nothing more than a staged performance to make getting married seem sexier, the TV bumpers showed a room filled with young wedding gown clad chicks and their goofy looking grooms, throwing bouquets, toasting with champagne and clapping along to the likes of Ivanushki International, Russia's version of Menudo.
Not to be outdone, Channel 3 had been promoting something called Stork Day. Apparently, the channel has invented an entire holiday around this family thing, and have come up with some sort of a variety hour to celebrate. Happy Stork Day, everyone.
The other main outdoor campaign happening right now is one in support of a direct mail program. As mentioned, the feds have introduced some pretty significant bonuses and rewards to incentivize Russian couples to propagate, and they've spelled these incentives out through a series of direct mail informational brochures. In order to ensure that these brochures are read, billboard announcements now dot the city giving folks a heads-up to have a look in their mailboxes for further information.
Folks, this isn't just passive propaganda. This family thing is becoming compulsory. In a place like Russia, there really aren't any rights and freedoms; instead there are permissions and, in this case, obligations. The feds have already set up a commission of psychologists who plan to oblige those units not falling into their model of a family to attend compulsory psychological rehabilitation sessions (http://www.vz.ru/society/2008/1/27/139813.html ).
In the eyes of the Puritans, this program must (and will) go beyond simply a system of rewards and incentives. Instead this is really just a system of punishment for those who don't get on board.
Not too long ago, some friends of mine were out at a park, enjoying a weekend afternoon. There were a total of nine people in the group - singles, couples, and my friends with their newborn. The group was having a few snacks, and some of them were sipping beer. A picnic, of sorts. They were approached by a militia officer patrolling the area. The first thing he wanted to know was which couple were the newborn's parents. After my friends owned up, the officer went on to fine everyone in the group with drinking in public EXCEPT my friends. In the officer's opinion, making babies afforded them greater rights, even at the behest of laws, above those without children.