History, traditions
Author`s name Michael Simpson

Peculiarities of Russian Homelessness

Many homeless people appeared in Russia as a result of privatization
The Soviet Union used to be a territory without homeless people. That was a qualitative advantage of the regime and reliable support for propaganda. The majority of Soviet people did not have a wish to live in the West: news reports on television showed miserable dirty homeless people digging in garbage tanks, sleeping in boxes, or sitting by the fire at night.

The privatization of apartments was a landmark process in Russia's development. Together with positive changes, the reform also deprived a lot of families of their own property. Some people ruined themselves with drinking over a very short period of time, being unable to settle down against the background of the capitalist market, which had appeared in Russia all of a sudden. As a result, they sold and drank away their apartments. Such people moved to another social category - individuals without a definite place of living, or bomzhy, as Russians call them. This word, "bomzh," which means a homeless person, is not an unusual word in Russian society today. Everyone is used to it. Several years ago it was a word that newspapers used in their reports and articles, and now it has become a common word with a lot of derivatives. For example, there is the colloquial Russian word "bomzhatnik," which means a horrible, dirty apartment. Russian homeless people often live in buildings that are supposed to be leveled. Firemen often say that a lot of fires occur because of such illegal inhabitants.

Homeless people in Great Britain have existed for the entire history of the United Kingdom. This was the result of the forced expulsion of peasants from their lands and the two World Wars played a role too, of course. When soldiers returned from war, they often found their homes ruined, so they had to live in vacant buildings. A movement of homeless people in England became well organized very soon; they even set up their own national federation.

In the 1970s, Great Britain experienced another homelessness boom, which was caused by a lack of accommodation for young people because of the birth rate boom after WWII. People demanded government should provide with dwellings and they occupied vacant buildings. The London-based organization for homeless people still produces booklets for the homeless, explaining their rights, ways to look for accommodations, and so on.

A lot of politicians support the introduction of a mortgage lending system in Russia. You can raise a loan for 20 years and live in an apartment, paying the debt part by part. However, you should bear in mind that losing your job will also deprive you of your house. There is a risk of becoming homeless, especially on account of psychological frustration.

It was the mortgage lending that changed the national character of the Americans. The career determination, the unwillingness to waste energy and emotions on anything is another side of the fear of losing a job and comfortable accommodations as well.

The system for providing accommodations to poor people has been practiced in developed countries for a long time. There is hope that such a practice will appear in Russia too. The Russian parliament is to consider draft laws that will become the legal ground of communal reform. The documents also stipulate the conditions of the social accommodations and determine the categories of citizens, who have a right for it. However, even if Russia makes laws similar to Western ones, it will not be possible to solve all the problems.

Religious institutions are very well developed in Western countries as well. Shelters for homeless people are attached to churches, first and foremost. In Russia, miserable and homeless people have always lived near churches. The church played the role of a social helper. The Orthodox Church hardly ever thinks about this nowadays, dealing with the issues of fiscal privileges and trying to get back the land that was taken away by the Bolsheviks. As a rule, homeless people pass churches by now, for they realize that they will not get either help or support there.

Anna Belobrova
Izvestia Tatarstana

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