Prostitution in Russia

Prostitution in Russia is illegal. 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

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

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, 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

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 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 in 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]

Human smugglers coerced Vietnamese women to work in brothels in Moscow. Mostly other Vietnamese people patronize them.[18] In one incident the smugglers seized the Vietnamese women's travel papers and tricked them by telling them that a textile factory was going to hire them.[19] The manager of the Vietnamese brothel may have been on friendly terms with Vietnamese Embassy staff since the managers caught a brothel runaway after Vietnamese Embassy was contacted by her.[20] The Russian police could not managed to stop the prostitution because one of the managers of the Vietnamese brothel was a family member of the Vietnamese embassy staff employee[21][22][23] The number of involuntary Vietnamese prostitutes numbers in the thousands.[24] Russia based brothels are destinations via China for Vietnamese girls who were forced into the sex trade by human smugglers.[25]

A Vietnamese American woman, Hui Danh, sought help to extract from the Moscow Brothel her younger sister Huynh Thi Be-Huong.[26] The effort by Hui Danh was successful in having the brothel release those specific 15 Vietnamese women.[27] A teenager who was only aged 16 was among the 15 forced prostitutes.[28]

The Vietnamese woman who ran the brothel was Thuy An and she was family to the Vietnamese embassy employee Nguyen Dong Trieu.[29] The forced prostitutes were hit by their female manager Thuy An.[30]

Three Vietnamese women returned to the city of Ho Chi Minh after they were tricked into going to Russia for prostitution by another woman.[31]

Vietnamese women were tricked into prostitution in Russia by a Vietnamese woman named Le Thi Tham.[32]

Srtensky Monastery's grounds had prostitutes working in its vicinity.[33]

See also


Former brothel in Plotnikov Lane (Плотников переулок), Moscow
  1. Code Of Administrative Offences Of The Russian Federation, art.6.11
  2. 1 2 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. 1 2 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 (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 (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. (2002-11-21). Retrieved on 2011-03-30. Archived June 3, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  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.
  18. Vandenbrink, Rachel (2013-04-22). "Vietnamese Trapped in 'Murky' Trafficking Syndicates in Russia". Radio Free Asia.
  19. "2 Vietnamese women rescued from sex slavery in Russia". Thanh Nien News. March 23, 2013."Two Vietnamese women rescued from Moscow brothel". Vancouver Desi South Asian news. Retrieved 1 May 2013.IANS/RIA Novosti (March 22, 2013). "Two Vietnamese women rescued from Moscow brothel". Sify News. Moscow. Retrieved 1 May 2013."Moscow Police Free Two Vietnamese Sex Slaves". RIA Novosti. MOSCOW. 22 March 2013.IANS/RIA Novosti (22 March 2013). "Two Vietnamese women rescued from Moscow brothel". News Track India.thanhniennews (March 23, 2013). "2 Vietnamese women rescued from sex slavery in Russia". Vietnam Breaking News.
  20. Ha, Gwen (2013-03-28). "Vietnamese Women Fall Prey to Sex Racket". Radio Free Asia. translated by Rachel Vandenbrink. European Country of Origin Information Network.
  21. "Eight Vietnamese women remain trapped in Russia brothel". Radio Free Asia. translated by Rachel Vandenbrink. 4 April 2013.
  22. "Eight Vietnamese Women Remain Trapped in Russia Brothel". Radio Free Asia. translated by Rachel Vandenbrink. 2013-04-04.
  23. "Eight Vietnamese Women Remain Trapped in Russia Brothel – Radio Free Asia". Vietnam Times Online. April 5, 2013.
  24. "Thousands of Vietnamese trafficked to Russia prostitution and slave labor". snapback hats with competitive prices. 2013-04-29. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  25. The trafficking of women and children from Vietnam (PDF) (Report). Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre in association with the British Embassy, Hanoi. 2011. p. 31.
  26. Olsen, Lise (February 23, 2013). "Houston woman worried for sister reportedly held as sex slave in Russia". Houston Chronicle.
  27. Olsen, Lise (July 23, 2013). "Houston woman helps rescue sister from Moscow brothel". Houston Chronicle.
  28. NGO, HOLLY (March 14, 2013). "From BPSOS/CAMSA, Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang's letter". GiveForward.
  29. Hui Danh (April 11, 2013). Statement of Ms. Hui Danh Sister of a Vietnamese Victim Sold to a Brothel in Russia (Report). translated by Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang.
  30. Ha, Gwen (2013-03-28). "Vietnamese Women Fall Prey to Sex Racket". Radio Free Asia. translated by Rachel Vandenbrink.
  31. HoangLe (May 30, 2013). "AAT's center receives four women victims of human trafficking repatriated from Russia and Malaysia". Alliance Anti Trafic.
  32. "Woman gets 10 years for selling Vietnamese women to Russia for prostitution". Tuoitrenews. December 18, 2014.tuoitrenews (December 18, 2014). "Woman gets 10 years for selling Vietnamese women to Russia for prostitution". Talk Vietnam – All About Vietnam."Woman gets 10 years for selling Vietnamese women to Russia for prostitution". VietMaz – Vietnam Local News. December 18, 2014.
  33. Parfitt, Tom. "Moscow police 'discover brothel on monastery premises'". The Telegraph. Moscow.
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