Wednesday, August 24, 2016


Russian Orphan Thrust Into Spotlight By Adoption Ban

Russian teenager Maksim Kargapoltsev (center) with Mil (right) and Diana Wallen, the U.S. couple who want to adopt him.
Russian teenager Maksim Kargapoltsev (center) with Mil (right) and Diana Wallen, the U.S. couple who want to adopt him.
By Claire Bigg
Last week, Maksim Kargapoltsev was just an ordinary boy growing up in an orphanage in the industrial city of Chelyabinsk, some 1,500 kilometers east of Moscow.

Today, his heartrending story is making headlines in Russia and beyond.

Maksim, 14, has been in the spotlight since reporters in Chelyabinsk incorrectly reported on January 9 that he had written a letter to President Vladimir Putin pleading that he be allowed to join his new family in the United States.

The teenager was close to being adopted by a U.S. couple when a Russian ban on adoptions by Americans took effect on New Year's Day, dashing his dreams of starting a new life in the United States.

His case highlights the uncertain fate of roughly 50 Russian orphans whose pending adoption in the United States was thrown into disarray by the ban.

On January 10, Maksim put on a brave face as he showed reporters photographs of Mil and Diana Wallen, the couple he already regards as his parents.

Maksim denied writing a letter to Putin, which he said would have been as pointless as writing to Father Frost, the Russian equivalent of Santa Claus.

He said Mil and Diana Wallen had begun proceedings to adopt him a year ago but had run out of time before the ban, which prohibits U.S. citizens from adopting Russian children, came into force.

Russian Orphan Holds Out Hope For U.S. Adoptive Parentsi
|| 0:00:00
January 14, 2013
A Russian teenage orphan who is hoping to join prospective adoptive parents in the United States become the unlikely poster boy of a Kremlin campaign to stop U.S. adoptions in Russia. (AP video, with RU-RTR)
(WATCH: Mil and Diana Wallen talk about their desire to be together with Kargapoltsev)

Despite the new law, he insisted that he is determined to go and live with the Wallens.

"If it's no, then it's no," he said. "We'll keep fighting. I plan to finish school then enter a legal technical college. I'll grow up and somehow, I will go to live with them in the United States. If not now, then later."

The Wallens have been visiting the Chelyabinsk orphanage for more than a decade on missions for the United Methodist Church. They say they "fell in love" with Maksim, who was abandoned as a baby, and eventually decided to adopt him.

Prompt Russian Reaction

Russian officials have been quick to react to the case, often in ways intimating that Maksim's prospects in Russia are just as bright as in the United States.

The Chelyabinsk regional governor, Mikhail Yurevich, was shown on state television giving the boy a new phone, and distributing gifts to other orphans.

He said he would help Maksim, who is reported to have health issues, to get treatment in Israel.

Sergei Vainshtein, a member of parliament from the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia who represents Chelyabinsk, also offered to take Maksim under his guardianship and provide him with a good education.

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, has also commented on the case.

In an interview with Russia's independent Dozhd TV late on January 10, he denied Maksim had ever written to the president but promised to investigate why the Wallens had been unable to adopt him.

Peskov also added to the confusion over the adoption ban, saying a separate Russia-U.S. adoption agreement will remain in force for another year.

But he maintained that only those Russian children whose adoption by U.S. families had been cleared by Russian courts before the ban will be allowed to leave.

"This agreement is in no way a mechanism that obliges Russia to give children for adoption," he said. "It regulates the regime for our children there, the monitoring regime.”

U.S. citizens have adopted more than 45,000 Russian children since 1999, including almost 1,000 last year.

More than 650,000 children are being raised by the Russian state. Many of them are not technically orphans but were abandoned by their parents or taken from dysfunctional homes.

Claire Bigg

Claire Bigg covers Russia, Ukraine, and the post-Soviet world, with a focus on human rights, civil society, and social issues. Send story tips to​


This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Ray F. from: Lawrence, KS
January 12, 2013 02:16
Somebody is distorting the truth to this tale. According to Russian news sources, this Russian teenager does not even want to go to the US; he apparently loves his country and has no intention of moving to the US. Rich Russians have come forward and have promised to buy him the latest electronic toys. Why would he want to leave such a paradise?
In Response

by: Asehpe from: The Netherlands
January 12, 2013 15:52
Indeed, why would the Russian media report anything other than the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?...
In Response

by: Adoptive Parent from: USA
January 14, 2013 07:05

The question is why American media reports this bias propaganda garbage and omits important facts about the MURDERS and ABUSE so many adopted children experienced here?

Plus almost everyday school shootings, etc. Maybe the US paradise is not as attractive as Hollywood portrays...
In Response

by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
January 14, 2013 13:31
Adoptive parent from th USSR in dire need of an adoption him,or rather itself.Or maye Eugenia and Jack have already adopted it???
In Response

by: Anonymous
January 14, 2013 20:30
"Adoptive parent," are you really trying to pretend you're a native speaker of English?
In Response

by: Adoptive Parent from: USA
January 16, 2013 01:52

For Budda's sake why did this "Anonymous" individual concluded that I was trying to pretend that I'm a native speaker of English?

I guess one explanation could be relevant to the topic. Large segments of American society remain racist and xenophobic. When they get out of their caves in West Virginia they go to gun shows and TEA party gatherings instead of chess club meetings, art museums, public lectures at local universities, etc. They just don't have too many opportunities to meet Americans who are not native speakers of English. We should welcome them here as this site might be their only chance.

So, going back to Russian orphans... There are societal pressures on adoptive families to go overseas and adopt white Russian babies. Even if the prospective families themselves are not racists, their neighbors are. And if they welcomed an African-American child to their home, they would be known in their neighborhood not as Johnsons or Smiths but "the N-ro boy's parents."

This also explains why they prefer not to adopt older kids who would have trouble learning American English accent. These kids are not tolerated in "Anonimous" world either. This is one of the major reasons why Americans would risk adopting a baby with unknown medical prospects versus an older child.

I hate to break it for our new Amigo, but there is no law in the US that mandates English as an official language. Right now there are entire departments (Math, Physics, Computer sciences, Molecular Biology, etc.) where nobody is a native speaker of English, not students and not professors... What it means for the survival of the Anonimouses is that they need to start learning how to ask "please change my diapers" so they could communicate with their caregivers when they get to nursing home.
In Response

by: Barbara P. from: Colorado
January 12, 2013 22:28
After the American woman heartlessly returned her adopted son unaccompanied to Russia, the media reported that there were scores of people offering to adopt him. He remains without parents, three years later, in a group home. Ray, when you comment on paradise, you've never walked into a Russian orphanage. The latest electronic toys (without batteries or electricity) will do nothing to replace food and medical care.
In Response

by: Ray F. from: Lawrence, KS
January 13, 2013 15:05
Believe it or not, I was being both sarcastic and skeptical. Yes, I had an opportunity to visit a Russian orphanage back in 1999, and to put it mildly, it was a grim experience. My skepticism stems from the way this story was portrayed in the major Russian TV media. The Vesti broadcast on 10 January included footage of the 14-year old orphan denying that he had ever written the letter to Putin, talking about how much he loved his country, then a scene where he was in an electronics store, playing with a new phone from some rich sponsor. I would not be surprised at all if the Russian authorities completely forget about this young man in a couple months, leaving him to an impoverished fate.

Most Popular

Editor's Picks