21 July 2011

The Largest Russian Charity Takes in $4.2 Million

The most well-supported American charity by the American public is the Salvation Army, which every year collects public donations well in excess of $1.5 billion. Every one of the top 18 American charities ranked by income collects at least $100 million in public donations. Since Russia’s economy is only one-tenth the size of America’s, you would expect the top Russian charity to receive about $150 million in yearly public support. But the Give a Life foundation, Russia’s best performer, doesn’t even get close to raking in $5 million per year. _LRP

CSMonitor
Charity is something of a novel concept to most Russians. Coming from a culture of totalitarianism, an attitude of callous neglect toward fellow citizens might be expected.
Russians simply don’t care what happens to their fellow citizens, much less their fellow man. If you examine Russian history, you see a consistent and reckless failure of the Russian people to stand up for the rights of their neighbors. This was particularly vivid during the time of Stalin.

But corruption too is critical. Take for instance a recent charity concert promulgated by something called the Federation Foundation. Sharon Stone showed up to listen to Russian “prime minister” Vladimir Putin sing “Blueberry Hill” in order to raise piles of cash for sick children. The only problem was that there was no such thing as the Federation Foundation and Russia Beyond the Headlines reports that “a real uproar broke out after the mother of a gravely ill girl” who had been used in the Foundation’s propaganda materials “alleged in an open letter that the hospital where her daughter was being treated hadn’t received a penny from the foundation.” Oops. _LRP


Overall, Russia is far more impoverished than the US, with a much greater disparity of income between the very top and very bottom of the scale. Most Russian men do not live to see their 60th birthday (the Russian age of retirement for men). Russia suffers from extraordinarily high rates of TB, HIV, suicide, alcoholism, violent crime, and child poverty, when compared with western and other advanced nations. The need for charity in Russia is incredibly great. And yet, the more affluent Russians do not seem to feel the tugs at their heartstrings which you might expect.

This callous Russian attitude toward the suffering of others is quite common in the third world, and no doubt derives from historical times when almost no one could afford to lend a hand to a stranger or even to a neighbor. Rather than asking why Russian contributions to charity are so low, perhaps we should ask what it is about North Americans that causes them to want to give?

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