News / Europe

Freedom House: Authoritarian Regimes Rule Most of Former Soviet Union

TEXT SIZE - +

The human rights monitoring group Freedom House reports that 80 percent of residents of the former Soviet Union live under entrenched authoritarian regimes.  Of the 15 former Soviet republics, Russia recorded the biggest drop in democracy indicators during the last decade, according to the report.  

Corruption, censorship, rigged elections and government-controlled courts are increasingly common across the lands of the former Soviet Union.  Those are the findings of Freedom House's annual survey of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

Christopher Walker, director of research for Freedom House, said backsliding on democracy is the dominant trend in the 29-country report.

"It is quite remarkable, if you think about this, 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall that you have this sort of structuralized authoritarianism in the non-Baltic former Soviet Union," he said. "It is also remarkable that as a practical matter, political dissent is restricted systematically in the countries of the region."

A panel convened in Washington D.C. by Freedom House to discuss the report identified three democracy battlegrounds - Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and the Internet.

Alexander Motyl, an expert on Ukraine at Rutgers University in New Jersey, said that Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine's new president, has curtailed democratic freedoms in his country since taking power four months ago.  But Motyl said that Ukraine's split along East-West lines might stop what he called Mr. Yanukovych's authoritarian drive.

"The independent media and civil society are still quite vigorous and they are fighting back," he said. "It is striking that there are very many people, very many NGOs [non-governmental organizations], very many institutions that are taking part in various actions involving civil obedience, civil disobedience of one kind or other.  So far it all has been very peaceful and above board, and I expect it to remain that way.  The important thing, it is taking place and that people have not given up."

In Kyrgyzstan, inter-ethnic riots earlier this month claimed an estimated 2,000 lives.  On Sunday, Kyrgyz voters overwhelmingly approved a new constitution, paving the way for parliamentary elections in October.

Erica Marat, who wrote the Kyrgyzstan section of the  Freedom House report, said a parliamentary system is an experiment designed to accommodate the regional and ethnic stresses in that Central Asian nation.

"At the referendum, the overwhelming majority supported the new constitution," she said. "But the criticism goes as following:  that citizens of Kyrgyzstan did not vote for the constitution per se, they voted for stability.  Not all of them really know what the constitution really says."

Two Russian opposition leaders on the panel warned that self-censorship and government control are creeping into Russia's Internet.  They said businessmen allied with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin are buying up Internet companies in Russia.  

Oleg Kozlovsky, coordinator of Oborona, a youth opposition movement, said that the recent trial of two Russian bloggers for hate speech, put web writers on notice that the government is monitoring online sites.

Vladimir Milov, a leader of Russia's Solidarity opposition group, said that his country's new nationalists might know how to use cellular phones and computers, but he warned that they are more interested in building strong Kremlin rule than participatory democracy.  


James Brooke

A foreign correspondent who has reported from five continents, Brooke, known universally as Jim, is the Voice of America bureau chief for Russia and former Soviet Union countries. From his base in Moscow, Jim roams Russia and Russia’s southern neighbors.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid