Monday, April 29, 2019

Moscow’s Thousands of Homeless Diverse and Facing New Risks, Journalist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 28 – Russian officials say there are 17,000 homeless people in Moscow. The real number is likely much higher, experts suggest, noting that hundreds of homeless across the country die every day “from illness, trauma, cold, slavish work conditions or from the hands of maniac ‘cleansers’” who see it as their duty to liquidate such people, Eva Merkacheva says.

            The Moskovsky komsomolets journalist was asked to get behind the stereotypes these characteristics have given rise to, something she did by interviewing a number of the homeless and those who are trying to help them in one way or another (

                Perhaps the most unusual was a homeless man who was trained as a biologist at Moscow State and then shifted to the study of Oriental cultures. He writes poetry and even posts it online. But his partner is a young woman who gave birth at 12 and whose child has done the same and who is clearly mentally retarded as shown by her treatment of a plastic doll as a real child. 

The two of them have managed to live not badly although they do not have a home of their own, Merkacheva says, adding that “it was a revelation to find out that a Moscow homeless man judging by his food basket lives no worse than I do.” But “nonetheless, his life is extremely unusual,” involving 10 to 15 kilometers of walking every day in search of what the two need.

Another homeless man works as an entertainer at private parties, but when he leaves these, he returns to his world without a place of his own.  He could likely get out of the homeless life, the journalist says; but he has no desire to, a common reaction of many who are in this social category.

Those who work with the homeless say that it often the case because many homeless people in Russia have come up with their own imagined life stories which validate who they are in their eyes and that would likely collapse if they were forced to live a more normal and settled existence.

But the risks to the homeless in Moscow are increasing. On the one hand, many are being forced into virtual slavery by criminal elements. And on the other, there has arisen a group of people committed to the killing off of homeless people and who are prepared to leave food that the homeless may pick up that has been poisoned so that these unfortunates will die.

These “cleansers,” those who work with the homeless say, “have an entire philosophy according to which no one needs the homeless and consequently simply no one will notice their disappearance but will only benefit if they are removed from the scene, possibly the result of the growing cult of violence in some parts of Russian society.


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