Foreign tourists are drawn to Russia by its gleaming cathedral domes, historic sites, exotic locations and breathtaking nature. But, along with those glittering tourist attractions, Russia also has some very dodgy neighborhoods to be avoided by visitors and locals alike. And they now have been compiled into a new list of the country’s most dangerous crime hotspots.
Popular Russian YouTuber created a new video that counts down the top-10 places with the highest crime rates, to decide which is ‘Russia’s most dangerous city’.
Major urban centers such as Moscow and St. Petersburg are unsurprisingly on the list, with comparable crime rates to other big cities. Also making the top 10 are some destinations you may never have heard of.
Russia’s capital city is well-known for its expansive Red Square, imposing Kremlin, and Cold War-era intrigue, thanks to places such as Gorky Park.
Prior to the pandemic, the city was drawing between 17 and 21 million tourists each year. While the overwhelming majority of them encounter nothing more dangerous than lethally large piles of dumplings, Europe’s largest metropolis also apparently has a darker side.
According to the video, in this city that’s home to 12 million, more than 140,000 crimes were reported last year, including 285 murders and attempted murders. But don’t scratch Moscow off your bucket list just yet – despite having four million fewer residents, New York racked up 318 over the same time period.
Last week, a manhunt was launched in the Russian capital after a dance teacher was shot and killed in broad daylight. While her boyfriend was initially suspected, the focus soon turned to identifying a migrant construction worker he claimed had been stalking her for several weeks.
9. St. Petersburg
Arguably the country’s cultural capital, the continent’s fourth-largest city has been called Russia’s “window to Europe” because of its vital Baltic Sea port. Constructed from scratch in the 18th century, complete with classical architecture and scenic waterways, St. Petersburg served briefly as the country’s capital.
But does the cosmopolitan home of Pushkin, Dostoevsky, and Tchaikovsky have something to hide? Going by the number of times it has changed its name, maybe. Originally founded as Sankt-Pieter-Burch, inspired by the Dutch, it was renamed Petrograd during World War I. After the Bolshevik takeover, it was named Leningrad, after the father of the revolution himself. And, in 1991, a citizens’ vote settled on its current name.
Given that it’s another much-loved tourist hotspot, it would be difficult to guess that the YouTuber’s analysis would find the city having registered 55,000 crimes in 2020, with 240 attempted homicides.
It made headlines last year when a distinguished history professor, Oleg Sokolov, was found in the freezing Moyka river. Rescue workers were shocked to find a pair of severed female arms in his backpack, with an investigation revealing that he killed and dismembered his 24-year-old student ex-lover. The former academic was handed a 12-year sentence last week.
The capital of Russia’s Ural region, Ekaterinburg is located at the very edge of Europe. The country’s fourth-largest city is known for its restaurants, as well as the nearby scenic wilderness, and as the place where Russia’s imperial family, the Romanovs, were executed by their Communist captors in 1918.
The metropolis has the dubious honor of beating Moscow in the number of murders and attempted murders that were perpetrated there this year, with 283 recorded by November, according to Varlamov.
Earlier this week, a man from the region around Ekaterinburg was convicted of murder and given nine years in prison after he handed his rifle over to an intellectually disabled teenager as part of a drunken shooting lesson. One shot hit seven-year-old Yegor Korkunov, who died after months in a comatose state in hospital.
Founded by ethnic Cossacks, Rostov-on-Don is an Azov Sea port city with a population of more than a million people. It its known for its historic Turkish-style fortress, its theatre built in the shape of a tractor, and for its sweeping views over the river Don, after which it is partially named.
Rostov punches above its weight when it comes to average crimes such as theft and fraud, earning it a place on the list. Worryingly, he notes that around half remain unsolved.
The city was once home to Andrei Chikatilo, known by Russians as the Butcher of Rostov. The communications engineer killed at least 52 pre-teen boys and young girls in the Soviet Union between 1978 and 1990, before eventually being arrested. He was executed by firing squad in 1994.
Located only a stone’s throw from Rostov, crime in Shakhty is said to be worse than in the regional capital. Its name literally translates as ‘mines,’ as it grew out of a settlement built for workers extracting coal from the surrounding area.
Now, however, many of the mines have been privatized or closed, and the city has rebranded as one of the main producers and exporters of tiles in Europe. Like many former industrial areas, Shakhty is a regular feature on lists of Russia’s ropiest cities, with locals expressing concern over a number of rough neighborhoods in the vicinity.
Another city known for its industrial heritage, Chelyabinsk is a Siberian economic powerhouse, dominating sectors such as metallurgy and arms manufacturing.
Despite its smaller size, Chelyabinsk recorded more crimes than bustling Moscow last year, and, while it is safe for visitors taking the Trans-Siberian railway across Russia’s vast eastern expanse, vandalism and theft are more common here than elsewhere, according to Varlamov’s ranking.
Last year, the city authorities sounded the alarm when a man was caught posing as a doctor in a local clinic. However, his fake diploma appeared to be the least concerning part of the story, when it emerged that he had committed a chilling murder more than two decades prior. As a schoolboy, Boris Kondrashin lured a classmate back to his apartment, gave him a lethal dose of tranquillizers and dismembered his body.
Almost as hard to get to as it is to pronounce, Blagoveshchensk is a distant frontier town located on the border with China with a population of around a quarter of a million. Visitors are advised not to miss its museum, featuring exhibits on local wildlife and the historic lifestyles of the nomads that once populated the area.
Almost 20,000 crimes have been committed in the city which, given its small population, is enough to earn it a spot on the list.
Another jumping-off spot on the Trans-Siberian railway, Ulan-Ude is one of Russia’s most interesting cultural melting pots, as a center of Tibetan Buddhism in Russia. Ethnic Buryats, a nomadic group related to the Mongols, make up around a third of its residents, and it’s famous for its traditional temples and easy access to stunning Lake Baikal.
However, tourist attractions aside, the city ranks in the top three on the list for reportedly attracting 22,000 crimes – around three times higher than the national average.
Going some way to prove that criminals are happy to work whatever the weather, Magadan is located on the icy Sea of Okhotsk and known for its sub-zero temperatures, which have dropped as low as -30 degrees.
Despite local wages being high, due to a thriving industrial sector, it earns a place on the list due to the 34 murders that were committed there in 2019 – five times higher, pro rata, than the average.
While Magadan has had few high-profile killings in recent years, the local area is famous for tragic deaths. The highway leading to the city from Yakutsk is known as the Road of Bones, with the thousands who died constructing the Soviet Era thoroughfare, having reportedly been interned within the concrete, rather than buried in permafrost.
The capital of the Tuva region, Kyzyl is relatively unknown by tourists, despite its claim to be at the exact point of the ‘Center of Asia’. Its monuments and colorful Buddhist prayer wheels make it worth a visit in its own right, but its ranking as “Russia’s most dangerous city” might attract an entirely new set of adventurous travelers.
While violent crimes have tailed off over the course of 2020, with new alcohol licensing laws and travel restrictions having been imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the video, the region leads in murders by a huge margin, with 35 killings per 100,000 residents.