Sunday, September 8, 2019

‘No Non-Russians Need Apply’ – an Ever More Frequent Feature of Housing Ads in Moscow

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 4 – Even in countries that have a strong legal tradition of non-discrimination, many people will actively discriminate against others in renting apartments especially if the most senior official in the state signals that he favors the majority group as opposed to minorities.

            Indeed, they may feel entitled to do so as majoritarianism of one kind of another overrides constitutional and legal commitments to the protection of minority rights and gives people the sense that discriminating against those they don’t like is in fact not really discrimination but rather a form of defense of their own group against what they view as threats.

  Such actions not only are very much discrimination and violate an essential principle of civil life, but they also are inherently counter-productive both because they generate anger among minorities against whom they are directed and because almost all people will find themselves in a minority on some occasion.

“In Russia,” Lenta’s Mariya Volkova writes, “discrimination is prohibited by existing law. But in fact, the law doesn’t work.”  Gennady Loktyev, a Moscow attorney, says that “on the one hand, a property owner has the write to dispose of his property as he likes,” something that opens the way to discrimination (

But on the other, Article 19 of the Russian Constitution specifies that “all are equal before the law” and prohibits discrimination.  But few seeking to rent an argument try to invoke this right because overwhelmingly those who do so lose in courts which in most cases finds for the owner not the potential renter.

Perhaps Roskomnadzor could get involved, Volkova says, but it is far more concerned with “blocking unsuitable messenger services and searching out offensive memes” than fighting discrimination and businesses which might become involved see little reason to risk their profits by doing so.

As a result, the Lenta journalist says, those with apartments to rent routinely discriminate against “people from the southern republics of the former USSR, homosexuals, single people, and families with children or even animals. In countries with developed economies and traditions of tolerance, such owners in the best case remain without renters and in the worst are sued.

“But in the Russian capital, everything is different: the owners of apartments set the terms” and those who want to rent have to cope with them as best they can, Volkova says. An analysis of 21,000 housing ads, found that 2500 of them contained words suggesting that non-Slavs would be subject to discrimination.

The situation in Moscow is far worse in that regard than in other Russian cities, she continues, with the rate in Moscow being about 14 percent, that in St. Petersburg, less than four percent, and in other Russian cities about five percent (

In many cases, however, people with children or animals face even more discrimination than do those who are of a different nationality or religion ( Owners are afraid that the children or animals will damage their properties.  But owners also discriminate against homosexuals and single people, including students.

Racial discrimination is also a problem as a 2016 scandal showed when an American who was black tried to rent an apartment via Airbnb. He was turned down when he sent a picture of himself as he is but offered the apartment when he sent a different picture showing him to be white (

As a result, Airbnb introduced a requirement that those offering services through that company agree not to discriminate.  But Russian companies have not yet been willing or forced to introduce a similar requirement and so discrimination although in principle illegal continues to be widespread in the Russian capital. 

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