Apartment available: Slavs only

At the start of the World Cup, Russia is doing its best to accommodate foreigners, and even reassuring gay fans that they can hold hands and kiss in public. But for people living in Russia, discrimination is a daily affair.

Daria Sukharchuk
Daria Sukharchuk NewsMavens, Central & Eastern Europe
Apartment available: Slavs only - NewsMavens
Russian apartment building Omsk, KD Flickr

Why this story matters:

Growing up in Moscow, I have seen hundreds of job and apartment listings asking for applicants "of Slavic appearance" (i.e. white), married, under 30, good-looking, or of a certain gender. They were not at all out of the ordinary and we often joked about them -- especially about companies looking for "young women, good-looking and Slavic," to work at their front desks (some less discreet employers would specify their preference for thin, white, blond girls). 

Research conducted by the Higher School of Economics between 2009 and 2010 showed that 70% of online job listings showed some form of discrimination. Little has changed since then in the advertisements, the legislation or even the general attitude towards such practices.

In these cases, the burden of proving discrimination lies with the accuser (e.g. in the US, it lies with the company), making it even harder to pursue such cases.

Lawyers and human rights activists consider these types of cases almost impossible to prove. They rarely even make it to trial.

The fact that it's increasingly hard to report or prosecute discrimination, together with a stagnating economy means that there's very little hope for change in coming years.

Details from the story:

  • The Russian Constitution bans all forms of discrimination -- but existing legislation is not detailed enough to really work.
  • When it comes to the cases of people being denied jobs on the basis of their sex, age, or race, Russian courts only accept official notices of job denials, and disregard evidence such as emails, text messages, and voice records. It is unsurprising that most job seekers do not go to court.
  • The most infamous, and numerous, cases of racial discrimination can be found on websites with private apartment listings. Anyone living in Moscow has seen dozens of those "apartment, Slavs only" listings, where "Slav" means "white". The websites very rarely take such ads down -- they are not seen as discrimination.

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