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Entries / Brothel (entry)

Brothel (entry)

Categories / Population/Urban Living

BROTHEL (maison of tolerance), establishments where prostitutes provided sexual services for men. Secret houses of prostitution existed in St. Petersburg since the 18th century the first official public houses (brothels) appeared in 1843. The Medical Police Committee established at the same time revealed and registered 400 prostitutes in St. Petersburg and concentrated them in special establishments. In accordance with Regulations of the Owners of the Public Houses(1844), the owners of an establishment could be women of 30-60 years old; they received a certain share of the fee, paid by clients. To run public houses in central streets and at the distance less than 150 sazhens (273 meters) from churches, schools and public institutions was prohibited. Up to the 1870s, the sale of alcoholic drinks in houses of prostitution was not permitted; later providing service to drunken clients was prohibited. Prostitutes who lived in public houses were issued special notes, "yellow cards", instead of passports. They had to go to the bathhouses at least twice a week and undergo medical examinations weekly. In 1856 pay-books were introduced into public houses to limit the mistresses’ power. Fashionable public houses were located in Italyanskaya and Meshchanskaya Streets, Ekaterininsky Canal Embankment (the fee there was 3-15 Roubles), cheap ones were mainly in the area of Suvorovsky Avenue and Sennaya Square (the fee varied from 30 kopecks to 1 Rouble). "Establishments" were almost in each house of Tairov Lane (now Brinko Lane). The number of public houses in St. Petersburg constantly increased until the 1880s: in 1852 there were 152 with 884 women, in 1879 - 206 with 1528 women. The majority of customers were petty officials, traders, craftsmen and workers. According to police statistics a typical "card" prostitute at the end of the 19th century was a provincial girl of 24, with "the length of service" of 6-7 years and venereal diseases, often an alcoholic, earning from 30 kopecks to 1.5 Roubles per "session". A.I. Kuprin, V.V.Krestovsky, I.I. Panaev, A.M. Remizov, F.M. Dostoevsky and others masterfully depicted Petersburg public houses and their inhabitants in their works. Since the end of the 19th century in press and society a campaign against prostitution was carried out; it coincided with the development of the worldwide process of sexual morality liberalization. As the result the number of houses of prostitution began to decrease: in 1883 in Petersburg there were 146 brothels, in 1889 - 82, in 1897 - 69, in 1909 - 32 with 322 women. By 1917 there were practically no legal houses of prostitution left, but at the same time the number of prostitutes-"loners" had increased (in 1914 about two thousand were officially registered, even more of them were secret prostitutes). Soon after the February Revolution of 1917 the Medical-Police Committee was abolished, the remaining houses of prostitution were closed, but about 20,000 women were engaged in prostitution. After a certain recession in the period of the Civil War, prostitution began to spread again in 1921. Officially the houses of prostitution were banned by Soviet authorities, but there continued to be still secret "dens of debauchery", the number of which remained considerable up to the end of the 1930s. Running a secret house of prostitution was legally prosecuted with up to 5-years imprisonment. In 1927 in the Central District of Leningrad the militia liquidated 46 dens, and in 1936 in all Leningrad. - 97. One such den with 7 women was 47 Dzerzhinskogo Street (Gorokhovaya); a session there cost 5 Roubles. Militia kept books of so-called prostitute-criminals and professionals: in 1927 there were 3,800 of them, and in 1935-36 - 2,300, further statistics are lacking. A new rise of dens started in the second half of the 1980s (they functioned under the names of "saunas", "massage parlours", "elite recreation centres" etc.), in light of which in 1993 a special department was established in the Main Ministry of Internal Affairs (which is the main policing organ of the Russian Federation).

Reference: Лебина Н. Б., Шкаровский М. В. Проституция в Петербурге (40-е гг. XIX в.-40-е гг. ХХ в.). М., 1994.

M. V. Shkarovsky.

Dostoevsky Fedor Mikhailovich
Krestovsky Vsevolod Vladimirovich
Kuprin Alexander Ivanovich
Panaev Ivan Ivanovich
Remizov Alexey Mikhailovich

Brinko Lane/Saint Petersburg, city
Gorokhovaya St./Saint Petersburg, city, house 47
Grazhdanskaya St./Saint Petersburg, city
Griboedova Canal Embankment/Saint Petersburg, city
Italyanskaya Street/Saint Petersburg, city
Sennaya Square/Saint Petersburg, city
Suvorovsky Ave/Saint Petersburg, city

Шкаровский М. В., Лебина Н. Б. Проституция в Петербурге (40-е гг. XIX в. - 40-е гг. ХХ в.). М., 1994

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February Revolution of 1917