Today, we begin the publication of legal advice for our readers. The consultations will be conducted by representatives of the Fund for the Development of Legal Technologies of the 21st century, which is presided over by Russian lawyer, Doctor of Science, Professor Yury Skuratov The first letter arrived from our reader Maya Vaykulenko regarding the issue of the exportation of historic items across Russian borders.
I do not really think that my letter will be read, not to mention published, because nobody is willing to act against men in uniform, who are always right, but I still hope for your help. Maybe, I will manage to get some support from a part of society, since I am very ashamed and sorry for my country. Why do I have to feel like a criminal as soon as I walk into a customs office? I have to say that it is not only me who has this feeling, but also many foreigners who decided to use the services of the Rostov airport. Maybe it is simply because of the fact that I always fly via Moscow, and am used to normal respectful attitudes at the customs? Here is my story.
I got married and gave birth to my child in Italy. Like any other woman, I was delighted about it, but at the same time, I was sorry that I could not share my joy with my relatives and friends. That is why I and my husband decided to go back to Rostov with our son as soon as possible. We were rather short of money at that moment, so I had to go to work in a factory, when my son was six months. My husband’s parents were totally against the idea of a trip to Russia, but I was very naive to think that we would not have any problems.
When we came to Rostov, we had a lot of friends come to see us, and there was a children’s surgeon among them, a good friend of our family. He paid attention to the incorrect shape of my son’s scull. He called his colleague and they agreed to examine my child. Doctors diagnosed hydrolytic encephalitis, and they strongly recommended to start treatment immediately, because the child’s fontanels were closed and he had only a few days left. We decided that my husband would go back to Italy with our son to start the medical examination, and I would stay in Rostov for a few more days to complete the paperwork. We originally planned to stay in Rostov for a month, although my husband could stay there for a week, since he could not be away from his job that long.
I am a biologist by profession, and I am going to continue my studies in Italy, that is why I put some books in my husband’s case, when I was packing the stuff. Unfortunately, I was so preoccupied with my current problems that it did not even occur to me that three old books on ornithology, which used to belong to my grandfather, could be of some special historic value. When I was filling out the blank at the customs, I wrote that there were three books on zoology in my husband’s luggage. I do not know the details of the criminal code; the most terrible thing that I could imagine was that they would not allow us to take those books out of Russia. But the things that we had to go through were overwhelming.
After my husband showed the slip to the officer, the officer asked him what kind of books they were. The husband opened the case and showed him the books. The process of control became too long, I thought that he was having some problems over there, so I tried to come up to my husband. I was offered in a very rude way to take my child and go back home, taking into consideration the fact that my husband did not know Russian, there was no interpreter there, they even prohibited to call to the consulate office.
They eventually let me come up to my husband and child, since they decided to use me as an interpreter. I started begging them to let my husband and son go, I was ready to claim the responsibility, but they wouldn’t listen. They said that they would stay with us until late, and they made us sign papers, in which it was said that the books were not mentioned in the declaration and that they were withdrawn from the personal luggage during the examination. It happened so that we wanted to carry those books illegally. They asked me how I could register the books as printed material and not as items of historic and art value. I did not know that I had to get the permission from the ministry of culture in order to take my books out of Russia. Is it such a big infringement to treat us like criminals, to insult and humiliate us?
They eventually let us all go, confiscated the books and said that we could fly out on the next plane in a week. All the mass media outlets reported the next day that an Italian citizen wanted to smuggle old Russian literature, that the books were confiscated, and the citizen returned to his homeland. As a matter of fact, we were all in Rostov without any money and with a sick child.
We had problems again when we made another attempt to leave for Italy. This time, they found some mistakes in the weight of our luggage. They said that we had to pay a fine of 400 rubles, but I did not have any rubles, only euros, but they ruthlessly claimed that if we did not pay the fine, then we were not going anywhere. I ran out of patience and burst into tears. Another Italian man saw that, he felt sorry for us and paid the fine.
The trip to Russia cost us a lot: my husband was fired from his work, and my parents were deprived of the possibility of seeing their grandson, who had later a cyst diagnosed in his brain. In addition to that, we are not likely to see our books. My husband said that he did not know that the books were valuable, so there were no criminal proceedings instituted against us. The officer calmed us down, she said that the expertise would be over soon and my mother could go and get the books even without any fine. The expertise actually lasted much longer that it was promised, my mother was fined for 2000 rubles ($65), they did not give her the books, because she did not have any power of attorney, but when she came with the power of attorney, they said that my husband had to be present as well.
I do not know, maybe I did something illegal, but I think that the Rostov customs cannot treat people in such a mean way.
Regards, Maya Vaykulenko
Comments from the Fund for the development of legal technologies of the 21st century:
On the ground of the letter, we assume that the customs considered the books, which used to belong to the woman’s grandfather, as items of historic and art value. The Russian Federation law “About the export and import of cultural values” stipulates that cultural values include old books, publications of special interest (historic, artistic, scientific interest).
In this case, cultural values that are going to be taken out of the country must undergo an examination by authorized bodies or by the Russian Ministry of Culture, in particular by museum, library, or archive specialists. The results of the examination are the grounds for the ministry or its territorial bodies to decide if cultural values can be taken out of Russia or not. Printed editions 50 years old and older are included on the list of cultural values of the Federal law, according to which they can be taken out of the country with a special certificate.
As it is clear from your letter, you did not observe the order to take out your books. According to article 56 of the mentioned law, the illegal export of cultural values is classified as contraband and it is punishable according to the Russian criminal law, but you wrote that there were no criminal proceedings instituted against you.
Unfortunately, the details of your letter do not allow us to give the exact estimation of your decisions and customs’ actions. We have to say that one of the major problems at the moment is wrongful acts on the part of legal officers and their lack of respect or people. Russian laws stipulate a certain way to act against such actions.
According to article 405 of the Russian Customs Code, a person has a right to appeal against the decision and actions of the Russian customs bodies, if there is a violation of person’s rights and interests. The appeal is filed at higher customs bodies. Secondary appeals are filed at district or city courts; they can also be appealed at the Office of the Prosecutor General.
Furthermore, international air traffic rules dictate that each passenger owning a plane ticket is entitled to carry 30 kilos of free luggage (on a first class ticket) and 20 kilos of free luggage on economic class. Children with ten percent payment of the ticket cost are the exception. On all other occasions children with 50% payment get a seat, it is allowed for them to carry free luggage pursuant to the norm, as it is fixed for passengers that paid normal and special tariff.
Dear readers, if you are in need of legal help on various issues, feel free to write to firstname.lastname@example.org The specialists from the Fund for the Development of Legal Technologies of the 21st century will answer your questions. You can get more detailed help as well, if there is a need for it.
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov