Couples in Russia's central Ulyanovsk Oblast were encouraged to take September 12 off work in order to procreate, on a special day labeled "Family Communion Day." Muscovites at the time spoke to RFE/RL correspondent Chloe Arnold about the wisdom of state interference in what is often a private family matter.
Nina Fedorushkina, 53, teacher:
"I know this is a special kind of scheme, but I'm completely against any sort of scheme, because I think people should only do things according to their personal convictions. If two parents have decided that they should have a child, then that is a decision for the husband and wife alone, and shouldn't depend on some sort of gimmick. What's more, I think it's humiliating that if they do this, they will receive a refrigerator or a washing machine.
"I think simply that better living conditions need to be created for people, so that they are able to buy themselves a flat. A lot of people simply don't have the means to provide a decent life for their children. Although they say that education is free, parents in fact need to have quite a bit of money to send their children to school. State handouts are so meager that it would really be very foolish to count on the government."
Maria Leonova, headmistress of a nursery school:
"Family Communion Day, as far as I understand, is a day put aside for trying to have children. Well, as they taught us at university, I'll talk about the advantages first, and then the disadvantages. The good thing is that they have noticed that there is a [population] problem and that they are doing what they can to resolve it. But the bad side is this: I think in essence it's a stupid and discriminatory gimmick.
"I think [the state] should work more seriously on this issue. We know that there are countries in Europe where, for example, there are flexible tax rates for families with more than one child. For example, if you have two children, you pay less tax; if you have three, you don't pay any tax at all. And you get benefits, you get help with paying for school, for nursery. We need to work really very hard on rethinking our own critical situation, and I think this will be a very long process."
Aleksandr, 27, driver:
"In general, people will have different opinions about this, but my opinion is that it is not a very good thing [to have children] in exchange for money. I think that having children shouldn't depend on receiving money. It should be a serious agreement between two people who love each other. Money in this instance is not the most important thing."