Sorry, Kids: Russia Says "Be Home By 10"

"It's 10 pm. Are your children home?"

From now on, millions of Russian parents should keep in mind that this is more than just a public service TV ad.

The Russian government has recently made it illegal for minors under the age of 18 to leave their homes between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. without an adult.

(CBS)
So, no more night clubs ... romantic dates under the moon ... or surfing the Web at round-the-clock Internet cafes at night.

A country where 126,000 juveniles were involved in crimes last year hardly needs a reason.

"One can judge a society's maturity and development level from the way it treats its children," said Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. "Today, in this country, we simply do not have a proper system for the protection of children. This is what these terrible figures are telling us."

In Communist times, the government kept a close eye on its youngsters. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union, children became one of the most vulnerable and unprotected categories of the country's population.

Minors are often victims of street crime, human trafficking, parental neglect and family violence. Drug use and alcoholism among teenagers have reached shocking levels.

After decades of turning a blind eye, the Russian government has finally acted. It hopes that the new 10 p.m. curfew law will help turn things around.

But some experts claim it is a trademark Soviet solution to a complicated social problem.

"People at the top understand only one measure to resolve the problem — some punishment," said child rights activist Boris Altshuler. "No real professional work. But to forbid, to forbid, is the most popular word for any police state. In this sense, it is police state psychology, police state mentality."

It is unclear how strictly the Russian police will enforce the curfew. Russian teenagers appear to be more confused than worried.

"We cannot even explain it," one girl said.

Russians can travel abroad at the age or 14, get married at 16, and serve in the military at 18. But right up until the day when you can be drafted, you are not allowed to step out of your house after 10 p.m.

So, do Russian teenagers really intend to be home by ten?

"Nyet," one group said.

And if stopped by police, they know exactly what to do: "We'll just pay a bribe," one girl said.

More than that, the curfew law may do more harm than good. If properly enforced, the law will require police to return kids to households with drunken and abusive parents.

But arbitrary enforcement is more likely. The curfew law is expected to become yet another source of illegal income for the notoriously corrupt Russian cops.

Such disrespect for the law, not only among law enforcers but also among ordinary citizens, breeds what President Medvedev has called "legal nihilism."

And, said Altshuler, "This law surely provokes mass nihilism of young people first of all."

On paper the legislation sets out to protect teenagers and make Russia a safer place in which to live. But in reality the law may contribute to raising a generation of Russians who have no respect for legality — something that President Medvedev, a lawyer by training, has claimed to be fighting against.


By CBS News Producer Alexei Kuznetsov reporting from Moscow
  • Alexsei Kuznetzov

Comments