The World Health Organization’s European bureau released a report on violence and knive crime among young people: the report titled “European Report on Preventing Violence and Knive Crime among Young People” is available on the WHO site in pdf format.
The most appalling data are published on Russia: Russia has the worst record in Europe and Central Aia on homocides of young people and the world’s highest youth suicide rate. The rate for violence-related deaths among young people (10 to 29 years old) in Russia is 15,85 per 100 000 individuals – 34 times higher than in Germany.
For more details read the report at: http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0012/121314/E94277.pdf
as well as a reprint article from Russia Profile
Russia Profile October 4, 2010 Still Young, Still Tough
The High Level of Violence in Russia’s Youth Community Can Be Alleviated with Changes in Education, Army Service and State Youth Policy By Svetlana Kononova
Russia has the highest rate of violence among youth in Europe, a recent report by the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe found. Sixteen out of every 100,000 people aged ten to 29 were murdered in Russia each year between 2004 and 2007, shocking statistics show. Experts believe that in Russia, violence breeds more violence but is there a way to break this vicious cycle?
Albania and Kazakhstan rank second and third on the WHO’s list, with rates of 11.2 and 10.7 deaths per 100,000 young people respectively. The rest of the top ten also includes former Soviet republics Belarus, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. According to the survey, the safest countries in Europe for youth are Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, the UK and France levels of crime committed against young people in these countries are 34 times lower than in Russia.
The European report on “Preventing Violence and Knife Crime among Young People” is the first comprehensive report published in Europe on the deaths of young people from violence and stabbings. Sponsored by the government of the United Kingdom, it was prepared to coincide with the Safety 2010 world conference in London, which took place on September 21 to 24. “There is much to be gained by adapting the experience of some of the most successful European countries in preventing violence. If all countries reached the same homicide rates as the lowest in the region, Europe could potentially save over 13,000 young lives per year. In other words, nine out of ten such deaths could be avoided,” said Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO regional director for Europe.
Young people are at risk of becoming both the victims and perpetrators of violence, WHO experts said. And the level of that risk depends on income and gender. Poorer young people are much more at risk of violence than their peers from rich and middle-class families, the survey found. Eighty percent of homicide victims are male, and most crimes against youngsters are committed by males, the report says. Moreover, experts point to a strong correlation between using alcohol and drugs and carrying a weapon.
A documentary film titled “Is It Easy to Be Young?” directed by Juris Podnieks was released in 1987 and became one of the most controversial movies of the perestroika era. It received an award from the International Documentary Association and was shown at the Cannes Film Festival. It narrated the problems of young people who grew up in Soviet society conflicts with parents and authorities, fears, concerns for the future. It seems that nothing has changed for the better during the past 23 years of freedom. Russia is still a very dangerous place for young people, and many youth still feel as though they belong to “the lost generation.”
The authors of the WHO report believe that many of the root causes of violence date back to childhood, and Russian experts tend to agree. “There are two main reasons why the level of violence and aggression in young people’s communities is so high,” said Andrew Degtyarev, a psychologist at the Pro Bono Alliance. “Firstly, many children, teenagers and young people in Russia are growing up in a violent environment. Nursery, school and the army are institutions that repress individuality and use punishment as an efficient way of controlling behavior. Many families use the same methods, thereby strengthening violent patterns. By that the society shows young people a model of interaction where violence is a habitual way of achieving personal goals,” said Degtyarev.
“The second reason stems from the suppression of natural aggression, which is essential for asserting personal physical and psychological boundaries. The nature of this aggression is instinctive. The energy of this aggression can’t just disappear. When this protective aggression gets repressed by violent methods for a long time, it accumulates and boils over on the inside as depression, psychosomatics and suicide or on the outside, as destructive antisocial behavior,” Degtyarev added.
Ilya Yashin, a young Russian politician and a leader of the Solidarity movement, believes that bad state youth policy exacerbates the problem of violence against young people.
“The government spends a lot of money on youth policy. But by such policy it strives to bring up a loyal and submissive generation, which believes that the authorities are something sacred. That is why Vladimir Putin appointed leader of the pro-Kremlin Nashi youth movement Vasily Yakemenko as chairman of the State Committee for Youth,” Yashin said. “At the same time, the government does not pay enough attention to the issues of youth socialization, especially in the provinces. Young people from small towns and villages can’t find any worthy, gratifying job. A feeling of irrelevance and absence of demand in their own country leads to aggression and a searching for enemies by ethnic or religious affiliation. Young people tend to seek simple answers to complicated questions,” he added.
Yashin believes that the existing state youth policy mars the mentality of a whole generation. “Everybody understands that the authorities are ready to pay for loyalty with money and bonuses. Numerous pro-Kremlin youth movements, such as Nashi and the Young Guard, were created specifically for that. As a result, many young people have changed their attitude toward politics. They consciously sell their political loyalty. It is abnormal when people become cynics at such a young age. It is terrible to think what they will turn into in their 40s,” he said.
But how can the problem of crime and violence against young people in Russia be solved? Opinions differ. “There are different ways to decrease the level of violence in youth communities,” said Svetlana Degtyareva, another psychologist at the Pro Bono Alliance. “One effective way was proposed by Konrad Lorenz, a famous Austrian psychologist who studied instinctive behavior and the nature of aggression. He suggested compensating for destructive forms of expressing aggression with safe kinds of outlets, such as sport competitions. But from our point of view, it is necessary to change the existing education system completely, to create a humane and peaceful society in Russia. The repressive system which values obedience should be replaced with an education system that respects the rights of an individual. The rights of young people should be respected from early childhood,” she said.
Yashin proposed several ways to change state youth policy and create a friendly, peaceful environment for young people in Russia. “First of all, it is necessary to give young people the opportunity to realize their dreams. New jobs should be created, especially in the Russian regions. Education should become more focused on solving practical tasks,” he said. “The state should create favorable conditions for career growth of talented young people, regardless of their political views and their parents’ social status.”
Another very important issue linked with crime and violence among young people is compulsory service in Russia’s armed forces. “It should be abolished. Young people are forced to go serve in the army. Parents who have money buy their children out, the poorest serve time in the barracks. This is Russia’s shame. This feudal system should be replaced with a professional army,” Yashin said.