Monday, February 11, 2008

Window on Eurasia: One in Seven in Mordvinia Now Attempts Suicide

Paul Goble
Baku, February 11 – One in every seven residents of Mordvinia currently attempts suicide at one point or another, law enforcement and medical officials there say, a measure of just how bad life has become over the last several years for people in that Finno-Ugric republic in the Middle Volga.
In the last two weeks alone, nine of them -- all men between the ages of 19 and 57 -- succeeded in killing themselves, Mordvin media reported yesterday. Saransk officials said they were concerned because people there try to commit suicide not in the winter but rather in the fall and spring (
In discussing this trend, the officials told Rosbalt that they blamed it on the extended winter holidays this year, sharp and unpredictable changes in the weather, and “various social factors” -- a euphemism for high rates of unemployment, alcoholism and despair among many people there.
Mordvin doctors said that 14 percent of the residents of their Republic will try to commit suicide at some point. Only half of those who try, the doctors continued, suffer from diagnosed psychological problems, and the authorities are currently able through prompt intervention to save about 80 percent of those who attempt to kill themselves.
Despite this high rate of successful intervention, some 330 Mordvinia residents now succeed in ending their lives each year, a disturbing statistic that local doctors involved in efforts to save such people have sought to publicize through the local media, even though these deaths rarely attract broader attention.
Last month, officials at Moscow’s Serbsky Institute held a meeting on suicides in the Russian Federation as a whole. They reported with regret that Russia ranks second in the world in the number of suicides per capita, and they pointed to especially high rates of death from this cause among Finno-Ugric groups like the Mordvins.
But beyond offering this “ethnic” explanation, the Serbsky officials did not seek to explain this pattern, although reports from Finno-Ugric areas in the Middle Volga in recent years suggest that socio-economic factors rather than ethnic ones are the primary cause of this unfortunate development.
It is thus inappropriate to suggest that members of these groups should be blamed for these suicides. Instead, they are being killed off by those who have created the conditions that have driven so many members of these Finno-Ugric nationalities in the Russian Federation to make this last, desperate act of protest.

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