Beggary is not a problem for impoverished and developing states only. Street beggars can be found in practically every country of the world. In Europe, however, most beggars are gypsies and immigrants from other countries. Last year, France and Finland began to deport gypsies from their territories, but it was not beggary that laid the basis for such an intolerant decision. There are more serious problems about the situation, although street begging also played its role, of course. The Finns, for example, even decided to ban street begging legally.
Nowadays, beggary appears on the Internet in the form of online panhandling. Men and women collect money on the Internet saying that they have cancer or other deadly diseases.
The problem of beggary in Russia is just as serious as it is in other countries. In ancient times, beggars were respected in Russia. The Church Charter of 996 categorized poor and crippled people as people of the church. They were referred to as Christ's brothers and pilgrims for peace.
In the 17th century, Russia had a special program for the poor. The state provided financial support for elderly people and those who could not make their living for objective reasons.
During the era of Peter the Great the laws became tougher. Giving alms was penalized, physically disabled individuals had to live in special shelters. Those who simply did not want to work and preferred to beg for money in the street, would be persecuted criminally.
In modern Russia, beggars of all stripes flooded the streets of many cities after the authorities canceled the penalty for welfarism. Panhandling is a serious business which is run by serious people.
In Moscow, the most profitable place for beggars is the metro. Each beggar has their special place there, and this place belongs only to them, it can not be taken by any other beggar. A part of the money, which metro beggars collect, goes to their patrons. A metro beggar can make 40,000 rubles a month ($1,300), which is a lot higher than the average salary in Russian provinces. Metro beggars do not break any laws. It is only forbidden to hassle passengers, but it is legally allowed to proffer a begging bow. Those who come to Moscow from other regions (they are the majority) receive support from their patrons, who help them with their registrations.
Russian people have mixed feelings about beggars. Everyone knows that beggary is business, that beggars act like employees, who receive a percentage from their earnings. However, many Russians sincerely help an old lady standing by the church or a child, who sings songs in a commuter train.
A recent opinion poll showed that nearly 64 percent of Russians believe that the state must provide assistance to panhandlers, whereas a third of the polled said that beggars must be persecuted and punished.
However, not all beggars are willing to work. Many of them are happy with their lives, they are not willing to change anything. Many of them were growing on social guarantees - free education, free healthcare, etc, and today Russia has to reap the fruit of social dependency. It sounds horrid, but many are happy with their lives on a dump.
One of them, Leonid Konovalov, a 64-year-old homeless resident of the city of Kemerovo, made a philosophical documentary about the life of the society and sent his piece of art to Cannes. The film titled "I + People =?" lasts for more than two hours.
"There are two strands to the plot in the film. The first is about civilization as a whole, and the other one - about the fight of civilization against me, and my victory in this fight," the author says, adding that the movie contains "erotic" scenes, because as part of his scenario, he needed to undress completely.
"I've made an erotic movie," he says. "I got naked myself and stripped all the beautiful fake clothes off your civilization... to show what's beneath. And that's death."
"The dump is the best of my jobs. There are no bosses here, and you live here as you want. Many won't understand this. When you hit the lowest and become one of the despised, this is the time when understanding comes," the man added.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko had a telephone conversation with US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan