Prostitution in the Soviet Union

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Prostitution in the Soviet Union was not officially recognised until 1986.


In pre-revolutionary Russia prostitution was regulated. After the Russian Revolution this system was abolished but prostitution continued. Any estimates of the extent of prostitution were hampered by the state's denial of its existence.

In the work of criminologists Andrejs Vilks and Leonīds Tess, it was noted:

In the textbooks on Soviet criminology, it was argued that social sores such as prostitution, drug addiction, etc. are phenomena peculiar to a society where "decaying capitalism" reigns. In the Soviet Encyclopedic Dictionary, published in 1980, it was stated that prostitution arose in a class of antisocialist society and is widespread under capitalism.[1]

— A. Ya. Vilks & L. V. Tess

The topic of prostitution in newspapers, journals and in contemporary writing was taboo. The rationale was that the publication of the existence of this phenomenon could undermine not only the moral and moral foundations of the country, but also significantly weaken the political authority of the country.

Pre-revolutionary Russia[edit]

Prior to Nicholas I, prostitution was banned by law, starting in 1649 when Alexei Mikhailovich ordered city burghers to watch "that there should not be harlots on the streets and lanes".[2]

Starting in 1843, the reign of Nicholas I, until 1908, there was a forced examination of prostitutes in the Russian Empire. There was no prohibition on engaging in prostitution before the revolution, but there was punishment for procuring and pimping.[3]

The post-revolutionary period (1917–1928)[edit]

Immediately after the February Revolution, all aspects of police regulation of prostitution were abolished. The "sex workers" tried to create their own trade unions and defend their rights as other professions had done. The Soviet government, based on ideological ideas, pursued prostitutes as part of the "war communism". (Lenin, amongst the emergency measures to prevent the insurrection in Nizhny Novgorod, demanded "to take out and shoot hundreds of prostitutes who are causing all the soldiers to drink"[4]). In 1919 a concentration camp of forced labour for women was created in Petrograd; 60% of its prisoners were women suspected of prostitution.[5] At the same time attempts were made to socialise prostitutes as "victims of the capitalist system".

At the end of 1919, the Commission for Combating Prostitution under the People's Commissariat of Health was established, and later the Interdepartmental Commission for Combating Prostitution under the People's Commissariat of Social Security. At the beginning of the New Economic Policy (NEP), prostitution experienced a new surge, it was practised almost openly by representatives of all strata of society. According to surveys, prostitutes were used by 40% to 60% of the adult male population.[5] There were attempts to reintroduce compulsory medical examinations of prostitutes.[2] The police's attempts to repress prostitution (raids, etc.) were combined with the ideas of social prevention advocated by the Central Commission for Combating Prostitution under the People's Commissariat for Health; during the last program, special dispensaries for the socialisation of prostitutes were created.[5]

In the Soviet Union[edit]

Specific laws prohibiting prostitution were not introduced into the Soviet codes until 1987, but prostitutes could be prosecuted under other articles of the criminal and administrative codes. The involvement of minors in prostitution, pandering and the maintenance of brothels was directly legislated against. Ideological negation did not interfere with the actual existence of prostitution in the USSR,[6] although not in an organised form.[2] Hidden prostitution flourished in the form, for example, of "processing" vacationers at resorts. A rise in prostitution was noted in the 1970s.[7]

Pre-perestroika period[edit]

Prostitutes started to be pursued in 1929. A system has been introduced according to which prostitutes were sent to the system of "special institutions of forced labour re-education" supervised by the NKVD[5] - open-type workshops, semi-closed laboratories and suburban colonies of special treatment; in the case of relapse after release from the colony, women were sometimes sent to the camps of the NKVD. The largest colony for prostitutes was located in the Trinity-Sergius Monastery.[5] The treatment in the dispensaries became tougher[2] in 1937 when the dispensaries for former prostitutes were transferred to the Gulag system.[2]

In the early 1930s, suspected prostitutes were subjected to administrative expulsions. With the deployment of the Great Terror they were sentenced to imprisonment on political charges:[5] prostitutes were now classed as class enemies. At the same time, any information about prostitution from the press pages disappeared to create the impression of eradicating the phenomenon.[5] Indeed, organised forms of prostitution in Stalin's times were eradicated. It was believed that prostitution "as a widespread social phenomenon" can not exist in a socialist society because social conditions precipitating it had disappeared; therefore, any cases were the result of atypical personal shortcomings; prostitution was seen as a form of parasitic existence.[8]

In the period from 1955 to 1985, despite the declaration of the incompatibility of prostitution with the socialist way of life, the regime did not dare to enact the legal prohibition of prostitution, although both criminal law and administrative law were used to prosecute prostitutes.

Assessment of the scale and social characteristics of prostitution in the post-war period was complicated even in comparison with the period of the 1920s and 1930s. During all of this time, only two empirical studies of prostitution were conducted, but the results were not made public and labelled "For official use".

Perestroika (1986–1991)[edit]

The edition on prostitutes working for the KGB, in the newspaper Novy Vzglyad (1993)

After 1927, nothing was mentioned in the press about domestic prostitution. Even among sociologists, the topic was taboo:[8]

Since prostitution as a social phenomenon in the country of victorious socialism was "eliminated," some "behaviour of women leading an immoral way of life" or "purely legal problems of the composition of crimes preserved in the criminal code of the republic" were investigated "for official use only" by Yu. V. Aleksandrov, A. N. Ignatov, and others. Sociological studies of prostitution (under its various pseudonyms) in the 1970s were conducted under the leadership of M. I. Arsenyeva, as well as by a group of employees of the All-Soviet Research Institute of the Ministry of the Interior including K. K. Goryainov, A. A. Korovin, and E. F. Pobegailo.

At the same time in the Western media, materials on Soviet prostitutes were published regularly. In 1959, after the publication in the British News of the World of an article on hotel prostitution, the Moscow City Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union adopted a resolution on additional measures to combat prostitution (in particular, the hotels were banned from allowing "strangers" in after 23:00), but for Soviet journalists the theme remained forbidden.[9]

The first publications on prostitution in Soviet periodicals are the articles by Yevgeny Dodolev in the Moskovskij Komsomolets newspaper: "Night Hunters" (October 24, 1986) and "White Dance" (November 19 and continued November 21, 1986). These sensational essays brought Moskovskij Komsomolets to the attention of all unions and raised circulation to a record level. As a consequence, on May 29, 1987, the Code of Administrative Offences of the RSFSR was amended with Article 164-2, which punishes prostitution with a fine of 100 rubles (at that time the monthly salary of a low-skilled worker). A similar article has been preserved in modern legislation.[10]

One of the notable events of the perestroika life of the USSR was the publication of the novel by Vladimir Kunin Interdevochka in the magazine Aurora in 1988. The writer conducted a serious study on the professional activities of prostitutes and for several months followed their work in one of the Leningrad hotels.[11] The working title of the story was "The Prostitute". The editors did not dare to publish the story with such a scandalous title, and Kunin replaced it with a euphemism "Intergirl". Subsequently, this neologism firmly entered the Russian language.[12] The story aroused a violent reaction among the reading audience and the editorial board received a large number of responses. Pyotr Todorovsky directed the film adaptation Intergirl, released to theaters in 1989.

Since the 1980s, there has been trafficking: women and girls are sent "to work"[clarification needed] abroad. There is still no information on clients of Soviet prostitutes during the period.

Post-Soviet dissolution[edit]

See individual articles of post-Soviet states:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Vilks, Andrey; Tess, Leonid (2005). Проституция: Исторический и криминологический аспекты [Prostitution: Historical and Criminological Aspects] (in Russian). Riga. ISBN 978-9984-9773-5-5.
  2. ^ a b c d e Malakhov, Aleksandr (5 May 2001). "Три века российской проституции" [Three centuries of Russian prostitution]. Kommersant Dengi (in Russian) (17). p. 52. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  3. ^ "Проституция" [Prostitution]. The Sexological Encyclopedia (in Russian). Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  4. ^ Telegram to G.F. Fedorov, 9.08.1918 // PSS, 5th ed., Vol. 50, p. 142
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Lebina, Natalya; Shkarovsky, Mikhail (1994). "Кнутом или законом?" [By a whip or by a law?]. Проституция в Петербурге: 40-е гг. XIX в. — 40-е гг. XX в [Prostitution in Saint Petersburg: 1840s–1940s]. Moscow: Progress-Academia. pp. 132–178. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  6. ^ Krotkov, Andrey (2 February 2004). "Казус Венеры. Надо ли государству менять свою политику по отношению к продажной любви" [Casus of Venus. Should the State Change Their Policy on the Sale of Love?]. Political Journal (in Russian) (3). Archived from the original on 5 February 2008. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  7. ^ Parshakov, Evgeny (2008). "Chapter Nineteen: Economic Development of Socialist Society. Trading Phase (Socialism)". Economic Development of Society: Conception of Co-operative Socialism. Historical Research. Politeconomiya. Moscow: URSS. ISBN 978-5-484-01039-4.
  8. ^ a b Prokhorov, Alexander, ed. (1969–1978). "Prostitution". Great Soviet Encyclopedia (3rd ed.). Moscow: Soviet Encyclopedia.
  9. ^ Zhirnov, Evgeny (13 September 2004). "Коммунизм — могила проституции" [Communism is the grave of prostitution]. Kommersant-Vlast (in Russian) (36). p. 72. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  10. ^ "Влад Листьев. Пристрастный реквием" [Vlad Listyev. The biased requiem]. Muzykalnaya Pravda (in Russian) (1). 13 January 2012. p. 12. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  11. ^ Kon, Igor (1997). Опасный секс: Насилие, проституция, болезни [Dangerous sex: Violence, prostitution, diseases]. Sexual Culture In Russia: The Strawberry on the Birch (in Russian). Moscow: OGI. ISBN 978-5-900241-33-3. Archived from the original on 28 December 2008. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  12. ^ Maksimov, Vladimir (26 November 2002). "Типы неологизмов в современном русском языке" [Types of neologisms in modern Russian]. Russian language abroad (in Russian). Retrieved 1 December 2017.

Further reading[edit]