Wednesday afternoon, the Georgetown University Student Association and the Center for Eurasian, Russian, and Eastern European Studies hosted two members of the Russian Duma, Pavel Vladimirovich Tarakanov and Ruslan Aleksanderovich Gulyayev, in McGhee Library.
Both Tarakanov and Gulyayev specialize in youth affairs for the Duma. Gulyayev is a member of United Russia, the main party in Russia, and Tarakanov is a member of the Liberal Democratic Party.
The pair traveled to America to learn about how our legislative branch works. They also visited Congress, the Maryland State Legislature, and the Smithsonian.
Initially, the discussion focused on young Russians in the military. Gulyayev explained that despite the draft many people avoid conscription because they are students. He said that, even though Russia is not fighting a war, a stigma remains that joining the army leads to death. Tarakanov explained that despite this the standard of living in the army has increased.
Tarakonov also provided a grim depiction of Chechnya in 2002, when counterterrorism and military actions occurred regularly. After the conflict ended, he and his colleagues built a youth center for displaced children, organizing activities and tournaments, including Chechnya’s first Counterstrike tournament.
He characterized his time in Chechnya as a loss of naïveté regarding both the foreign media and the continuing arms and narcotics trafficking. Tarakanov noted that ethnic tensions in the region are still high.
His stated goal moving forward is to prevent war in the future because he believes that war politics breeds politics without responsibility.
The two Duma members, as well as individuals in the crowd, laughed nervously during a response to gay rights in Russia. Gulyayev explained that “sexual minorities” in Russia are not considered to be an important political issue. He stated that when they go outside, “painted” and “naked,” that it is inappropriate.
Tarakanov took a much harsher view of things. He found the “propaganda” that the gay community disseminates to be inappropriate. He also stated that since Russia faces a declining birthrate, and gay couples cannot have children, he opposes homosexual relations on a demographic basis.
When questioned about alcohol policies, both Tarakanov and Gulyayev stated that Russia has fairly strict rules, including a two year driver’s license suspension if the driver has consumed any alcohol, laws regarding when liquor advertisements can be shown on TV, and regulations regarding when hard liquor can be sold. Gulyayev decried the traditional stereotype of the Russian alcoholic, quipping that “everyone doesn’t walk around with bottles of vodka in their hands.”
The reception concluded with an exchange of gifts, including a CD composed by the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party.