Ladies in yellow. Legalized prostitution in the Russian EmpireBy Pictolic https://pictolic.com/en/article/ladies-in-yellow-legalized-prostitution-in-the-russian-empire1
Until the beginning of the XVIII century, courtesans in Russia were on free bread. The first autocrat who introduced legislative restrictions was Peter I. He ordered the closure of all brothels located within cannon shot of the military barracks, and the girls who were caught in the company of soldiers were sent to hard labor. Later, by order of Catherine the Great, the owners of brothels began to be put behind bars, and under Paul I, prostitutes from Moscow and St. Petersburg were exiled to Irkutsk.
However, all these draconian measures, in fact, had no effect. New provincial women arrived to replace the repressed priestesses of love, underground dens were wildly popular, and the French disease remained the main concern of military doctors. Then Emperor Nicholas I, desperate to eradicate this scourge, legalized prostitution in 1840, establishing strict supervision over the representatives of the oldest profession.
In the autumn of 1843, a Medical and police committee was established, which was responsible for controlling the strollers. The women handed over their passport, and in return they received a so — called replacement ticket, popularly a yellow ticket. It was a little book of eight pages, on which were printed the rules of conduct for public women, as well as instructions for the keepers of brothels. The holders of the yellow ticket had no right to engage in another craft, and it was extremely difficult to return the passport.
From the "Rules for keepers": "2. Permission to open a brothel can only be obtained by a woman from 30 to 60 years old, trustworthy. 8. The number of women in brothels should not be accepted under the age of 16… 10. The debt claims of the landlady on public women should not serve as an obstacle to the latter leaving the brothel... 20. The keeper is subjected to strict responsibility for bringing the girls living with her to extreme exhaustion by excessive use... 22. It is forbidden for the keepers to receive visitors on Sundays and holidays before the end of mass, as well as during Holy Week. 23. Underage men, as well as pupils of educational institutions, should not be allowed in brothels in any case."
All brothels were divided into three categories. In the most "prestigious" ones, the maximum fee per night was about 12 rubles and each employee could not serve more than seven people per day. Such places were buried in silks, and the girls wore expensive rings and bracelets. In medium-sized brothels, customers paid about six rubles. And for a stormy night in the most low-grade brothels, 50 kopecks were enough. However, instead of beds there were straw floorings.
In addition to the replacement ticket, a medical ticket was issued. With him, prostitutes regularly came for a doctor's examination. It also marked the payment of state duty.
In 1903, the minimum age for prostitution was raised to 21 years. By that time, 2,400 brothels were registered in Russia, despite the fact that in 1889 there were half as many. For every thousand residents of St. Petersburg, there were more than three courtesans, in Moscow — almost five times more. This is official data, what the real figures were, we can only guess.
In addition, not all women who earned a living with their own body had the status of a prostitute. "Stowaway" girls-most often of peasant origin-offered their services through ads in newspapers. They also came by the thousands to major fairs to entertain rich merchants.
Much more serious competition for regular courtesans were girls who worked in the theater. Often, their contracts spelled out the obligation to "have dinner" with guests at the end of the performance. For such dinners, many cabarets built secluded offices.
Finally, a special caste was made up of kept women. They were called camellias behind their eyes, associating them with the heroine of the novel by Alexandre Dumas-son "The Lady with Camellias". Kokotki, as a rule, were foreigners and led a bourgeois lifestyle. "They get up late," the anonymous author of The Essay on Prostitution in St. Petersburg noted — " they ride along the Nevsky in carriages and flaunt themselves in the French theater."
In general, society treated prostitutes, though arrogant, but not pejoratively. Many people understood that women do not sell their bodies from a good life. Some writers, including Gorky and Kuprin, even romanticized this profession to a certain extent. Everything changed after the October Revolution, when the Soviet government banned prostitution.