Modern slavery in Russia

30 July – World Day against Trafficking in Persons 


According to data from international experts, about 800,000 people in Russia are living in slavery.

What is modern slavery?

Slavery is a system of societal relations, which allows for one person to be in the possession of another person or state.

Modern slavery is a wider concept, encompassing human trafficking, forced marriage, child soldiers, and domestic servants or workers held in captivity.

In fact, the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights widened the definition of “slave” to include any individual who is not able to refuse work of their own volition.

It states that one of the mechanisms of hidden slave coercion is inflation, i.e. a rise in prices with no increase in the slave’s pay acts as a hidden and inconspicuous means of robbing slaves.

The underlying aim of the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, announced by the UN General Assembly in 2013, is to improve awareness of the situation of victims of human trafficking, as well as to advance and protect their rights.

Human trafficking and slavery are criminal offences. However, according to research by the Walk Free Foundation, more than 40 million people across the world are living in some form of modern slavery.

According to data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime for 2016, approximately a third of all victims of human trafficking are children. Women and children together make up 71% of victims.

The situation in Russia

Under current legislation in the Russian Federation, criminal liability for crimes against freedom of the person is provided by articles on “abduction of a person”, “unlawful deprivation of liberty”, “human trafficking” and “use of slave labour”.

According to data from the Walk Free Foundation, Russia entered the top ten countries in terms of absolute number of slaves.

Russia is in the company of India, China, Pakistan, North Korea, Nigeria, Iran, Indonesia, Congo and the Philippines. According to their estimates, 794,000 people in Russia are living in slavery. This is equivalent to one in every 200 people.

In regions of the North Caucasus, the practice of bride abduction continues even today. This is not a tribute to tradition, but a gross violation of human rights, with a future obligation to marry. In 2015, the Heinrich Boell Foundation conducted a study called “Life and the situation of women in the North Caucasus”, trying to understand how modern women in the North Caucasus live.

Unfortunately, modern culture is increasingly spreading the idea that people are objects. For example, the humorous project Comedy Club in 2017 released a short film, albeit in a jocular manner, propagating the idea that women are a commodity. The film’s authors directly state: “You will only pay for the period of the exploitation.”

“I am interested to know who allowed these people to perpetuate such a permissive environment that women can be bought and sold, and generally treated as a commodity?! The creators of the idea of trafficking people also divide women-goods into classes, and also assign each category a label, which determines how the woman is priced,” wrote Facebook user Alena Popova on her page.

Alena Popova plans to complain to the film’s authors.

Where to turn if you encounter slavery

Alternativa is a volunteer organisation in Russia, the employees of which tackle modern slavery and free people in Russia and the world from all forms of slavery: work, sexual, “begging” gangs.

If your relative has fallen into slavery, if you suspect  an acquaintance or close friend is being held against their will, if you have talked to a “beggar” and have found that they have been forced to do their “work” with violence, call this hotline +7 (965) 345-51-61 or write to

Alternativa was founded in 2011, and since then has freed more than 600 people.



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