Prostitution in Russia

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Prostitution in Russia is illegal, but it is not a serious crime. The punishment for engagement in prostitution is a fine from 1500 up to 2000 rubles.[1] However, organizing prostitution is punishable by a prison term.

Historical overview[edit]

See also: Karayuki-san

Prostitution in Russia became common after Peter the Great's military reforms that created a sizable class of unmarried men who were serving in the military. These soldiers started generating a demand for prostitution. Monarchs who followed Peter I had different approaches to prostitution, ranging from complete abolition to decriminalization.

By the late 19th century, prostitution was legal in the Russian Empire and prostitutes were issued a special "yellow ticket" ID cards. Numerous brothels existed in most cities, ranging greatly in class and price. Customers included diverse groups ranging from the aristocracy to the working class. Legally, only women were allowed to own brothels. However, illegal street prostitution was still dominated by male pimps. The term kot (Russian: кот, cat) was used for a male pimp, while a female pimp was referred to as a bandersha (Russian: бандерша).

Following the opening of Japan, Vladivostok would become the focus of settlement for Japanese emigrating to Russia. A branch of the Japanese Imperial Commercial Agency (日本貿易事務官 Nihon bōeki Jimukan?) was opened there in 1876.[2] Their numbers grew to 80 people in 1877 and 392 in 1890; women outnumbered men by a factor of 3:2, and many worked as prostitutes (Karayuki-san).[3] However, their community remained small compared to the more numerous Chinese and Korean communities; an 1897 Russian government survey showed 42,823 Chinese, 26,100 Koreans, but only 2,291 Japanese in the whole of the Primorye area.[2] A large portion of the migration came from villages in northern Kyūshū.[3]

In the Russian Far East, east of Lake Baikal, Japanese prostitutes and merchants made up the majority of the Japanese community in the region after the 1860s.[4] Japanese nationalist groups like the Black Ocean Society (Genyōsha) and Amur River Society-(Kokuryūkai), glorified and applauded the 'Amazon army' of Japanese prostitutes in the Russian Far East and Manchuria and enrolled them as members.[5] Certain missions and intelligence gathering were performed around Vladivostok and Irkutsk by Japanese prostitutes.[6]

Prostitution has been illegal in Russia since the establishment of the Soviet Union. However, during the post-Soviet years, this industry experienced significant growth.


"Tochka" (точка) is a popular euphemism for an outdoor market for prostitutes in Moscow and other large Russian cities, a word literally meaning 'point' or 'location' in Russian. (The word "tochka" may also be used in many other contexts. Its usage is originated from the notion "a point on the map". Initially it was used in military and geologist slang to denote, e.g., a military or geologist base or other specific location. Over time its usages was expanded. For example, in alcoholics' parlance, a "tochka" is a place where vodka is sold.)

Moscow city government actions[edit]

Starting from the late 1990s, the Moscow city government made many noticeable attempts to eliminate prostitution in Russia and there is serious jail time for prostitution to eliminate these markets, other than to eliminate some of the more obvious points along Tverskaya[disambiguation needed], Moscow's main avenue. Tochkas are controlled by organized criminal gangs that bribe local police departments in order to remain in business. Instead, the city police randomly checked the documents of women traveling alone after dark. For this reason, prostitutes often carried a hundred rubles with which to bribe the police.[7][8][9][10][11]

However, the problem of street prostitution in central Moscow was successfully eradicated with the improving of the economic situation by the second half of the years 2000-2010.

Child prostitution, forced prostitution, and the trafficking of women[edit]

Russia is a major source of women trafficked globally for the purpose of sexual exploitation [12][13] Russia is also a significant destination and transit country for persons trafficked for sexual and labor exploitation from regional and neighboring countries into Russia, and on to Europe, Asia and North America. In Tel Aviv the number of brothels skyrocketed from 30 to 150 between 1996 and 2001—largely because of an influx of Russian prostitutes into Israel.[14]

The International Labor Organization estimates that 20 percent of the five million illegal immigrants in Russia are victims of forced labor, which is a form of trafficking. There were reports of trafficking of children and of child sex tourism in Russia. The Russian government has made some effort to combat trafficking but has also been criticized for not complying with the minimum standards for eliminating it.[15] A large and increasing number of women from different countries mostly post-soviet states like Ukraine, Moldova and Central Asian countries like Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, but also China and Vietnam work as prostitutes in Russia.

A large case of forced prostitution and mass murder was uncovered in 2007 near the industrial town of Nizhny Tagil. A gang of pimps had abducted girls and forced them to work as prostitutes in their brothel, killing the ones who refused. A mass grave with up to 30 victims was found. (See: Nizhny Tagil mass murder (2002-2007).)

3 prostitutes from China were arrested in Moscow on January 2009.[16] In 2011, a brothel in Moscow with Chinese and Vietnamese prostitutes which served only Chinese citizens as clients was uncovered, it advertised to its Chinese clients via coded messages in a Chinese language newspaper but was uncovered by the police.[17]

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


Former brothel in Plotnikov Lane (Плотников переулок), Moscow
  1. ^ Code Of Administrative Offences Of The Russian Federation, art.6.11
  2. ^ a b Saveliev, Igor R.; Pestushko, Yuri S. (2001). "Dangerous Rapprochement: Russia and Japan in the First World War, 1914-1916" (PDF). Acta Slavica Iaponica 18: 19–41. Retrieved 2007-02-22.  See section "Japanese Communities within the Russian Far East and Their Economic Activities"
  3. ^ a b Minichiello, Sharon A. (1998). Japan's Competing Modernities: Issues in Culture and Democracy 1900-1930. Hawaii, United States: University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0-8248-2080-0.  (Pages 47-49)
  4. ^ Li Narangoa; R. B. Cribb (2003). Li Narangoa; R. B. Cribb, eds. Imperial Japan and National Identities in Asia, 1895-1945. Volume 31 of NIAS studies in Asian topics: Nordisk Institut for Asienstudier (Issue 31 of Nordic Institute of Asian Studies monograph series, Issue 31 of Studies on Asian topics, Nordisk Institut for Asienstudier København) (illustrated ed.). Psychology Press. p. 45. ISBN 0700714820. Retrieved May 17, 2014. 
  5. ^ Li Narangoa; R. B. Cribb (2003). Li Narangoa; R. B. Cribb, eds. Imperial Japan and National Identities in Asia, 1895-1945. Volume 31 of NIAS studies in Asian topics: Nordisk Institut for Asienstudier (Issue 31 of Nordic Institute of Asian Studies monograph series, Issue 31 of Studies on Asian topics, Nordisk Institut for Asienstudier København) (illustrated ed.). Psychology Press. p. 46. ISBN 0700714820. Retrieved May 17, 2014. 
  6. ^ Jamie Bisher (2006). White Terror: Cossack Warlords of the Trans-Siberian. Routledge. p. 59. ISBN 1135765952. Retrieved May 17, 2014. 
  7. ^ Nyet to Trafficking, Nationalreview Online, June 18, 2003
  8. ^ Stanley, Alessandra. (1998-03-03) With Prostitution Booming, Legalization Tempts Russia – New York Times. Retrieved on 2011-03-30.
  9. ^ Donna M. Hughes on Prostitution & Russia on National Review Online[dead link]. (2002-11-21). Retrieved on 2011-03-30.
  10. ^ Russia's sex slave industry thrives, rights groups say. CNN (2008-07-18). Retrieved on 2011-03-30.
  11. ^ Moscow targets sex trade at last | World news. The Guardian. Retrieved on 2011-03-30.
  12. ^ Authorities turn blind eye on Far East Russia women trafficking. (2005-02-12). Retrieved on 2011-03-30.
  13. ^ Johanna Granville, "From Russia without Love: the 'Fourth Wave' of global human trafficking," Demokratizatsiya; vol. 12, no. 1 (winter 2004), pp. 147–155.
  14. ^ The Skin Trade. TIME (2001-06-24). Retrieved on 2011-03-30.
  15. ^ Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery – Russia. Retrieved on 2011-03-30.
  16. ^ In Moscow, arrested three Chinese prostitutes . TIME (January 14, 2009). Retrieved on 2012.03.06
  17. ^ Prostitutes from China to Moscow was caught on the verses!. TIME (08.04.2011). Retrieved on 2012-03-06.

External links[edit]