Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Russia: Kazan Prepares For Universiade -- With Proposal To Fine Beggars

The construction of the Universiade Village in Kazan, pictured in March 2012.

RFE/RL Copyright (c) 2013. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

Kazan Prepares For Universiade -- With Proposal To Fine Beggars 

As Kazan prepares to host the 27th Summer Universiade, an international sporting event for university students, the city’s massive renovation is entailing more than just the construction of sporting facilities.

A new proposal for a bill that would impose fines on people begging on the streets is scheduled to be discussed at an upcoming parliamentary session.

To prepare for the Universiade, which will take place July 6-17, Kazan prosecutor Ildus Nafikov recently suggested a 500 ruble ($17) fine for people caught begging.

The majority of the beggars in the capital of Russia's republic of Tatarstan are migrant workers from Central Asia who often live in dismal conditions.

The city has tried to tackle its begging problem before. In 2005, when Kazan was celebrating its 1,000th anniversary, the city’s beggars suddenly disappeared just before the celebrations began.

It was soon revealed that 150 beggars had been taken to a former pioneer camp in the suburbs where they were given accommodation.

But once the celebrations were over -- and the thousands of visitors had left the city -- the municipality struggled to remove the people from the camp and get them to return to the city.

The stakes are even higher now. According to a glossy video to promote the Universiade, Kazan has quite the reputation to uphold, as in 2009 it was nominated the sports capital of Russia.

According to RFE/RL’s Tatar-Bashkir Service, the reconstruction of railways, airports, and roads has cost the city 120 billion rubles (approximately $4 billion).

Another promotional video lauds Tatarstan as being the “heartbeat of Russia.” Previously, the republic has marketed itself as a ”land of harmony and coexistence.”\

This noble ideal was quickly shattered only a few months ago, after a series of deadly attacks shed light on the rising influence of Salafism.

-- Alsu Kurmasheva and Deana Kjuka