Today’s show is brought to you…because one of our viewers came up with what we thought was an excellent idea. If we do our homework well, not only will this be a good way to learn about a country we might know little about, but perhaps bust some myths regarding stereotypes, and give our viewers relevant and useful information about a place they might want to travel to someday. We picked Russia because this is the first example our viewer gave us, and it’s certainly a place that is widely discussed and possibly even mischaracterized.
So, what’s the first thing we think about when we visit, or go to live in a country, regarding safety? It’s usually crime, but as a tourist, it would be crimes against tourists. As a foreign face living there, you could be mistaken for a tourist. Some countries have a lot of organized crime, yet on the surface things might seem pretty safe for a visitor
Ok, so first we looked at Numbeo, a site that publishes information on the perception of visitors in certain countries, in this case Russia. The level of crime overall was stated as “moderate”. It said safety when walking alone in the daylight was good, but only moderate at night. Just about all crime was said to be moderate, except burglary was low, assaults because of ethnicity was low, and assault and robbery was low. However, the murder rate for 2015 was high by global standards at 11.31 per 100,000. That is higher than the USA. We looked at the Journal of Socialomics to try and understand this. Its main conclusion was this, “…alcohol is a major contributor to the homicide rate in the Russian Federation.” Yes, as you may know from our other shows, Russians drink a lot, especially the men.
You can try and find what governments are saying about travel to or living in Russia. The US Department of State said violent crime in Moscow is not uncommon, stating that visitors “drinking alcohol are especially vulnerable to assault and robbery in/around nightclubs or bars or on their way home.” It also mentioned pickpockets, smash and grabs thefts, mostly happening in busy areas or on the metro. It listed some of the worst things to happen recently, which included a Japanese man being beaten to death, but other than that it only mentioned Russian against Russian violent crime. That doesn’t look too bad, and it seems rates of assaults have seen a dramatic reduction in the last decade. The British FCO reports that, “the majority of Russia, from the western fringes of Europe to the far eastern shores, is safe.” It advises against travelling to Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan and the districts of Budyonnovsky, Levokumsky, Neftekumsky, Stepnovsky and Kursky in Stavropol Krai. It said of the 150,000 British tourists that visit Russia, their visit is mostly trouble free. Again, it said most crime is petty street crime, or even online dating scams or the spiking of drinks. Use common sense it says, and you should be ok. It added that people of varying ethnicities should not receive any negative attention, even though Russia has sometimes been maligned for racism.
We then looked at Quora, where Russian nationals answered the question, “How safe is Russia for foreign visitors?” Dmitry Pavlov, a resident of St. Petersburg, said the same thing as the US and British governments: be aware of thieves and pickpockets. He said it is mostly safe for foreigners, but did add that people should probably stay away from some of the “bad” neighborhoods. He called these “bedroom districts” and listed some, but we all know in any city there are some dodgy looking places we should probably stay away from.
Another man called Sergey Lourie said that in Moscow in some areas, thugs might skulk around at night, so stay in well-lit places. As we found on other sites, he said police are everywhere in Moscow and they are usually helpful and speak some English. Most people said the same, with one Russian poster concluding, “If you take reasonable precautions: do not have unprotected sex, do not drink alcohol too much, do not be rude with strangers and so on – you will be OK.”
Lastly, is it ok to be LGBTQ in Russia, given some horror stories we see on the news?
According to websites dealing with the matter, you should be aware that homophobia is common, but nonetheless you shouldn’t have a hard time. Gay people writing on Quora about the issue, who had visited Russia, said they experienced no problems. One Russian said you are safe, “as long as you don’t flaunt it,” which is kinda stupid, but what are you gonna do?
Some more statistics. As of 2018, Russia has 410 people per 100,000 serving time behind bars in prison. The total number of people behind bars of any sort, even those awaiting trial, was a little over 602,000 out of 147 million people. We don’t need to tell you that this is much less than those in prison in the U.S., but it’s actually still very high in regard to the rest of the world. As for that other talked about matter of the moment, gun ownership, in 2016 the Moscow Times reported that about 9 percent of Russians own a firearm. In terms of the number of guns in a country, statistics tell us that Russia is not that “gun obsessed”.
Another thing is how safe it is to drive. This can be an important matter. A good example is Thailand finding itself at the top of the most dangerous holiday destinations. While Thailand does have violent crime against tourists, and you don’t want to go picking fights with the local tuk-tuk drivers, you’ll find that most of the foreign deaths there, expat or tourist, are down to Thailand’s incredibly dangerous roads. This is a major safety concern, and visitors should be aware of it. So, what about Russia, the country where so many crazy crash videos come from?
Well, the latest list we could find didn’t put Russia in the top 25 dangerous places to drive a vehicle. Still, at 18.9 deaths per 100,000, it’s in the fairly high category. Expatica tells you this about driving in the country: “Russia has a poor road safety record, though driving in Russia has improved in recent years, with a 14 percent drop in accidents between 2010 and 2015, and an 11 percent fall in road deaths.” It said roads can be bad, conditions can be difficult, and there are loads of traffic rules and driving customs you should read up on before getting into a car. It also said some Russian drivers will weave in and out, drive fast and carelessly, and ignore road rules. The article added that this happens less now as Russian cops are not so easy to bribe and are cracking down on these dangerous drivers.
So, what else could be dangerous when visiting or moving to a new country? Food poisoning? ‘Cos you’ve got to eat, right. Well, any world traveler will know there are many countries where you can easily get a case of an exploding stomach, that’s why we have terms such as Delhi belly and Montezuma’s revenge, but Russia doesn’t get on any lists for countries where that might happen.
What about the animals, because getting bitten by a spider or a snake or even a mosquito can end your life in some places. Well, if you are going to enter the Russian wilderness then yes, there are some animals you might want to stay away from. We should add, your chances of going home in a coffin due to meeting one of these is very, very low. Watch out for the brown bear (Mishka), tigers, wolves, the common northern viper or a little spider called the karakurt. On a more realistic note, you have no risk of getting malaria according to the NHS, and dengue isn’t a problem. So, you are pretty much good to go in that regard.
All in all, crime in Russia shouldn’t make it to you unless you are just plain unlucky, particularly if you don’t go getting really drunk and following a strange man down a dark alley on the promise of receiving illegal substances. (been there). Also, maybe don’t drive if you haven’t studied the road rules, and don’t join political protests.
So, Do you live in Russia or have you ever visited Russia? Would you say that it’s a relatively safe place, contrary to how its portrayed in the media? Let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video called Taboos in Other Countries! Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!