Prostitutes in Russian are often called “dostupniye dyevochki” ("accessible young ladies"). In the Communist era, prostitution officially "did not exist." It became visible in the Gorbachev years and then took off after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Prostitution is now common, particularly in St. Petersburg, a large port city close to Western Europe.

In the early 1990s, prostitutes were an uncommon sight in St. Petersburg. By the late 1990s they filled the lobbies of hotels and train stations. It is estimated that there were 300 call girl agencies employing some 12,000 prostitutes in St. Petersburg in the early 2000s.

Many of the prostitutes in the early 2000s were girls and young women between the ages of 15 and 23, who arrived in cities like St. Petersburg or Moscow with hopes of launching acting or business careers but were unsuccessful. One woman who responded to an ad seeking "young women for interesting well-paid work" told AFP, "It's the only way I can earn a living.” The girl said most of her clients are criminals. She occasionally entertained businessmen who she met in their offices, apartments or even public bathrooms. Problems encountered by the prostitutes included AIDS, venereal disease, gang rapes and beatings.

According to the International Encyclopedia of Sexuality: “Until 1987, the existence of prostitution in the U.S.S.R. was often publically denied. Now, it is one of the most popular professions. It is highly stratified, beginning with those working exclusively with foreigners for hard currency, and ending at the very bottom of social life. Some prostitutes are professionals. For others, it means additional income for a family budget. Male prostitution is increasing. Prostitution is closely linked with organized crime. Entrepreneurs have been quick to take advantage of the economic plight of young women in the former U.S.S.R., recruiting them to service the sexual needs and fantasies of middle- and upper-class males in some of the relatively affluent Middle Eastern countries. The legal status of prostitutes is unclear. Attempts to fight it with administrative measures have failed, but at least now, the issue can be discussed (Kon 1995, 42-43, 62-64, 222-229). [Source: Igor S. Kon, Ph.D. International Encyclopedia of Sexuality]

Call Girl Agencies

Call girl agencies that run ads for "agreeable company" and "young women for your entertainment" are common in St. Petersburg, a city which had had about 1 million residents and about 80 escort services in the early 2000s. When I stayed in Irkutsk in 2004 an English-speaking prostitute called my hotel room.

Prostitutes working through call girl agencies generally keep about 40 percent of what they charge, which works about $10 of $25 in small cities and up to $30 to $40 of the $70 to $100 in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The remainder is divided is among the pimp, call girl agency owner and the gangster that protect them. Stunning top-of-the-line prostitutes that hang out at exclusive hotel and clubs in Moscow charge $500 an hour

There have been reports of a number of scams involving Internet romances with Western men and Russian girls that end up with the Western men getting fleeced. In a typical case a “Russian girl” flirts with a Western man through some dating chat line. Friendly chit chat escalates to an exchange of photographs and this leads to confessions of affection and plans to meet. The men get fleeced for a few hundred dollars when the girl asks the men for a visa or a plane ticket or money to get them. In many cases the “Russian girl” is actually a Russian guy using photos of a pretty girl.

Legalizing Prostitution in Russia?

Under Russian law, prostitutes that are arrest can only be fined about $10. Many of those who are caught are booked and fined and back on the street in a matter of hours. Many prostitution rings have connections with the police and former KGB. Those that don't, often monitor police radios for upcoming raids by understaffed vice squads.

These has been is some discussion of legalizing prostitution as a way of combating organized crime, AIDS and venereal disease. Under proposals suggested in St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad, prostitutes would be licensed and required to work in government brothels in designated area. They would also pay taxes and receive regular health check ups.

Not surprisingly the Orthodox church and Communist Party strongly propose such legislation. Local governments have said that such laws are likely be oppose don constitutional grounds. Organized crimes members and many prostitutes also oppose the idea.

Prostitutes with PhDs and Families

In the 1990s, with the alterative being a dreary job with a monthly salary of $40 a month that is rarely paid on time, may teachers, nurses, mothers, schoolgirls and professional turned to prostitution as a way to make money.

In a St. Petersburg hotel, National Geographic journalist Pritt Vesiland met a women who said she was a cardiologist by profession but worked at the hotel as a prostitute. In one night she could make US$250 dollars, the same amount she would earn in a month if she did the job she was trained for.

The situation is so desperate that a Russian women with a Ph.D. got picked up on the streets in one Turkish town for prostitution. She said she was doing it to make money to raise her children.

Russian Prostitutes Overseas

In the early 2000s, an estimated 500,000 Russian women worked abroad as prostitutes. Some did it on their own volition. Other were duped by gangsters and were little more than sex slaves.

Women from Russia and the former Soviet Union work as hostesses, exotic dancers and call girls in places as diverse as Istanbul, Macao, Tokyo, Dubai, Berlin, Tel Aviv and New York.

A growing number of Russian women are showing up at hostess bars and other places where prostitutes are known to hang out. Many arrive on performance visas under the pretense of performing in a play or ice skating show and appear in bars in special rooms luring customers with "exotic" experiences.

Russian Sex Slaves

An estimated 50,000 Russian prostitutes were working abroad are sex slaves in the early 2000s. Many had been duped by gangsters who attracted them with newspapers ads for models, waitresses, nannies and dancers that read "Work abroad, High pay. No experience needed." Many of the girls were sent abroad with visas for working in a "show troupe".

When the girls reached the country where they were to work their "protectors" seized their passport and sometimes force them to live in horrible conditions: sleeping by day on the floor of dirty apartments and cruising the streets at night. Some were locked into brothels and allowed to go outside only 30 minutes a day. They slept on the same massage tables they used to service their customers.

The girls were often kept in line with threats of violence and reprisals against their families in Russia and the former Soviet Union. They were told that either they work as prostitutes or they would be turned into the police, owing their keepers hundreds or thousands of dollars in job placement and airline ticket fees.

Members of one Russian prostitution ring, that reportedly earned $450 million a year, kept women in hostage-like conditions and beat and raped them. One girl was strangled to death by her pimp when she refused to turn over a $25 tip to him.

Russia was one of 19 nation criticized in a 2002 State Department report on slave trading. The report said it had made no effort to stop the commerce of human being who were forced to work in brothels, sweatshops and other involuntary servitude.

According to the CIA World Factbook in 2015: Russia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children who are subjected to sex trafficking. Russian women and children were reported to be victims of sex trafficking in Russia, Northeast Asia, Europe, Central Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, while women from European, Southeast Asian, African, and Central Asian countries were reportedly forced into prostitution in Russia.”

Child Prostitution and Sex Abuse in Russia

Igor S. Kon wrote in the International Encyclopedia of Sexuality: “Reports of child sexual abuse were extremely uncommon in the Soviet press. Officially, incest did not exist as a societal problem. Indeed, any kind of child abuse and violence in the family - and it is very widespread - is only beginning to come to the attention of authorities and the professional community (Kon 1995, 215-218). [Source: Igor S. Kon, Ph.D. International Encyclopedia of Sexuality ==]

“Some health professionals and others have begun to uncover evidence of various kinds of sexual activity between adults and children, as well as between children of different ages in orphanages, youth camps, and even families. The data on sexual harassment, child abuse, and violence in Moscow and St. Petersburg are largely anecdotal and unreliable, but the problem is serious. In the 1993 adolescent sexuality survey conducted by Vladimir Shapiro and Valery Chervyakov of 1,615 students aged 12 to 17 years in Moscow and St. Petersburg, 24 percent of the teenage girls and 11 percent of the boys said they had experienced some sort of sexual pressure, someone pushing them to go further sexually than they themselves wanted to go. Six percent of those under the age of 14 years reported such pressure, as did more than 27 percent of the 16- to 17-year-olds. Sometimes the perpetrators are older youths, sometimes parents and other adults. Professional medical and psychological help for the victims is at its very beginnings (Kon 1995,276). ==

One 13-year-old boy in St. Petersburg who made money, according to the New York Times, soliciting homosexuals, asking them, "Are you blue? If you like boys, you know, its only $10. For girls, its more."

Rape in Russia

Igor S. Kon wrote in the International Encyclopedia of Sexuality: “The number of rapes and attempted rapes is growing very fast. Since 1961, the increase in reported assaults has been 60 percent; since 1986, the increase has been 21.3 percent (Kon 1995, 207-222). Most recorded rapes occur on the street or are gang rapes. Most date and marital rapes are not recorded in criminal statistics and remain unpunished. Of 333 persons who applied in 1992 to the St. Petersburg Helping Center for rape victims, only four also reported the crime to the police. The reasons for this unwillingness have been fear of the psychological trauma of investigation and trial; fear of information being spread in school and among acquaintances; doubts about the possibility of legal help; and fear of personal safety. All of these fears and doubts are quite justified. Even when the victims are children, the police are often unwilling to open a criminal investigation or even to initiate a medical examination. [Source: Igor S. Kon, Ph.D. International Encyclopedia of Sexuality==]

“According to criminal statistics - and these are unreliable - male youths between ages 14 and 17 commit 30 percent of all reported rapes; 37 percent of perpetrators are between ages 18 and 24; 19 percent between 25 and 29, and 15 percent over age 30. Two thirds of rapists are under age 22, with the most dangerous age being 16 to 17. Every fourth reported rape is a group or gang rape. The younger the rapists, the more often their assaults are carried out in a group. Some 40 percent of rapists have previous criminal records, and two thirds had been drinking prior to the attack. The global socioeconomic, political, and spiritual crisis that Russia is now experiencing invariably causes a rise in violence and crime. Sexual violence is just one of its aspects, closely related also to the sexist psychology and cult of aggressive masculinity. ==

“The psychological profiles of rapists are very similar to those provided by Western researchers. Sixty-one percent of convicted rapists are psychologically normal, but they perceive woman as hostile, aggressive, and dominating figures towards whom they experience an unwanted sense of passivity and dependence. Sexual aggression and rape are often a manifestation of “adolescent rebellion” against women in general. Much of the male rape that occurs in correctional institutions is carried on to establish and maintain a social hierarchy. Coercive sexual activity is also widespread in the military, at schools, and in the arts. ==

“Many Russian citizens lament the liberalization of traditional morality and blame the influence of “Western capitalism” and pornography. The current state of the Russian economy precludes economic or technical support for remedial services or preventive programs. The very first telephone “hotline” service for rape victims was established in 1992 in St. Petersburg. Specialized professional help focusing on sexuality is largely unavailable for sex offenders. The first registered rape recovery center and a crisis hotline for abused women opened in Moscow in 1994.” ==

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated May 2016

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