A View Inside Russia's Orphanages
Published 20 December 2012
St. Petersburg-based photographer Aleksandr Belenky has spent years documenting the lives of children inside Russian orphanages. Russia's State Duma is set to pass in a final reading new legislation that proposes to ban Americans from adopting Russian children. But child-welfare advocates say the move will deprive thousands of needy children from ever finding a family. (13 PHOTOS)
St. Petersburg-based photographer Aleksandr Belenky has spent years documenting the lives of children inside Russian orphanages. Here, a baby boy plays inside a crib in an orphanage in central St. Petersburg in 1991.
A girl suffering from partial blindness participates in a special sporting event for disabled and orphaned children in St. Petersburg in March 2012.
The event was sponsored by the British Council and was supported by a number of Russian human rights officials.
The event offered athletic competitions for children with vision and hearing impairments, as well as children in wheelchairs. A variety of orphanages and special schools participated in the program.
A toddler gazes out a window at a special orphanage for HIV-infected children in Ust-Izhora outside St. Petersburg, circa 2002. Children at this orphanage were typically abandoned by their parents. They received medical treatment but were virtually sealed off from outside life and were rarely allowed to leave the grounds of the facility.
These babies, at a special facility for HIV-positive children in 2005, remained with their families but were put into special, segregated care during the day.
Children with Down syndrome participating in a special tour of the "HMS York," a British Royal Navy vessel docked in St. Petersburg, in July 2012. The excursion was organized for children from city orphanages and special schools.
A boy with Down syndrome on board the "HMS York."
These teenage girls participated in a special ball outside St. Petersburg's Hermitage Museum in 2007. The event brought together girls from local orphanages and cadets from the city's naval academy.
Charities contributed special dresses for the girls, who were one or two years away from leaving the state orphanage system and beginning life on their own.
A special New Year's party for disabled and orphaned children at a St. Petersburg club in 2007
This girl was living in a special communal village for orphans in the northwestern city of Pushkin in 2005. The so-called "SOS" system, which seeks to create a normal family experience for parentless children, has been praised as one of the most progressive solutions for Russian orphans.
The SOS teams a single volunteer to serve as a full-time "mother" to a household of between 10 and 12 children of varying ages. Several households are gathered together in a single "village" and are given the opportunity to manage their own budgets in order to save money for clothes, vacations, or other special purchases.