News / Europe

Freedom House: Authoritarian Regimes Rule Most of Former Soviet Union

James Brooke

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.  

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs