Wednesday, August 22

Russia Detains Woman for Acquiring "USSR state honors illegally"

Back in late 1999 I got to spend a week in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Like everyone else who visits Russia I bought souvenirs. One item was a huge Soviet Naval Flag. Since we had one the Cold War, I wanted my trophy, and this was it. There were all sorts of Soviet-era items for sale at the flea market, including literally thousands of medals. In addition to the flag, I got some money. I did not get any medals because frankly, they were of pretty poor quality, literally crap. Clearly, the Soviet Union had been awarding medals for anything and everything.

Lucky for me that I was not searched when leaving the country. Seems that the Russians have a problem with their citizens selling USSR trinkets to foreigners:

A Chilean graduate student at the University of Missouri-St. Louis has been detained in Russia for more than two months after customs officials found several Soviet medals and currency she bought from a street vendor. Roxana Contreras, 29, faces up to seven years in prison, her supporters say. She "acquired USSR state honors illegally" and attempted to export them, according to Russian court documents. Supporters in the United States say the physics student was visiting friends in the southern city of Voronezh and probably did not realize she was doing anything wrong when she bought the six military medals, currency and coins for $66 (€49) and tried to bring them on the plane home with her. "They were being sold by a street vendor, so she had no idea they were not supposed to be taken out of the country," said Sonya Bahar, the director of the Center for Neurodynamics at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. - La Russophobe

I had no idea that you were not allowed to take those items out of the country. Looking at how she was charged makes me think that this is nothing more than bogus law enforcement. After all, she was not charged with smuggling or attempting to export anything, just that she acquired the goods illegally. Even that is a stretch, since any 'honors' that were awarded with the medals were awarded by the Soviet Union, and not Russia and are not transferred to any future holder of a medal. Of course the money has no official value at all, let alone any honors attached to it.

Her situation gets even worse, since you need to have a valid visa to get out of Russia and the authorities don't want to extend it. So once she does get permission to leave, she might just get detained at the airport again, for being in the country without a valid visa.

And this is happening in a country that has been awarded the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. For those who care, that's right next to Chechnya.

If you are not familiar with La Russophobe and their critical reporting of Russia's neo-soviet activities, go and take a visit, especially if your thinking of traveling to Russia.

If you want to buy Soviet Medals or other USSR Trinkets, go take a trip to eBay instead. (eBay Search: USSR)

(Order of the October Revolution)

The Order of the October Revolution (Russian: Орден Октябрьской Революции, or Orden Oktyabr'skoy Revolyutsii) was instituted on October 31, 1967, in time for the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution. It was awarded to individuals or groups for services furthering communism or the state, or in enhancing the defences of the Soviet Union. It ranked second amongst the Soviet orders, after the Order of Lenin. - Wikipedia

Cool medal. I want one.

Thinking of Traveling to Russia to See the Sights? One word: Don't do it - La Russophobe

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