There's always someone who gets arrested for doing something stupid at one of these things, and you don't want to be that person.
So, the football cup in Russia has finally started and I couldn’t be more excited. I’m not a die-hard soccer fanatic, in general, but I really like this event. It’s not only the matches, which can be really awesome, but also the whole atmosphere and events surrounding it. I like watching it not only as a historical event, but also to learn about other cultures and traditions. Now, not to engage in old stereotypes about Russians, but even before the Cup started, some strange (at least for me) and kind of unsettling information was making the news all over the world. Like Tamara Pletnyova’s (head of the parliament’s committee for families, women, and children) declarations urging Russian women to avoid having sex with foreign men because, according to her, they could get pregnant, and mixed-race children suffer a lot.
Now, you don’t have to look for any particular declaration or story. You just have to take a look at the suggestions and norms the different embassies throughout the world have released to help their citizens avoid any kind of legal trouble. Most of these are common sense and general norms of civil coexistence, but others are kind of strict, not to mention oppressive, and many of them quite offensive. After reading these, I couldn’t help but wonder how many people from around the world could easily be sent to jail there for something random. So, if you’re already in Russia or you're heading over there to enjoy the Cup, here are some things you should definitely avoid to stay out of trouble.
The LGBTQ+ community should avoid public displays of affection
For me, it’s impressive that all the publicity surrounding the Cup is about respect, inclusion, and tolerance, while the LGBTQ+ community is advised to be cautious and "prudent" while attending the Cup. As it turns out, although homosexuality isn’t illegal in Russia, in 2013 a law banning the promotion of “non-traditional sexual relations” was passed. While this law (also known as the gay propaganda law) isn’t very clear, there have been cases of violence and arrests after public displays of affection between gay people. This is horrible and should make everyone worry.
Absolutely no drinking on the streets
Drinking on the streets is illegal in most countries around the world, but when it comes to massive public events such as the Cup or carnival, the authorities tend to relax these laws a little. After all, how are you going to keep thousands or even millions of people from celebrating how they want? Well, apparently, the Russian police force will not tolerate any form of public drinking during the Cup; if they catch you with a drink in your hand, you'll probably end up in jail. On top of that, you could also get arrested for not carrying your passport with you (copies are useless), so make sure you're not only completely sober, but that you're also carrying this form of ID. You want to go home after the Cup, right?
No foreign flags on the Red Square or at government offices
Here comes another weird law, especially when you’re hosting an event that invites 32 countries who are obviously going to want to show their support for their National teams with their flags and colors. Well, as unreasonable and nonsensical as this might sound, it’s forbidden and you could get arrested (and probably deported) for carrying a foreign country’s flag on the Red Square or at a government office. So, I guess you should probably investigate what and where their government offices are to avoid proudly displaying your national flag.
Make sure you’re not photographing a military building
If you thought that the foreign flag ban was ridiculous, wait until you hear about this next law. While they consider it disrespectful to honor a country other than Russia in these spaces, it's much worse if you take photos of their government and military buildings. Believe it or not, airports are considered to belong to this category, but because they are so tourist-oriented, it's not that much of a problem. Still, if you don't want to risk spending a night in a Russian jail, I would avoid posting that "Made it to Russia!" Instagram story.
Don’t fly drones
Let’s continue with the photo bans. These days, for most people, one of the most exciting parts about traveling and visiting a new country is to share it on social media, but in this case, you might want to be careful with how you take your pictures. If you were thinking about using a drone to get a unique and impressive panoramic photo or video, think again. Drones are banned from Russian airspace unless you get an official permit.
Masks are forbidden in stadiums and the surrounding areas
As you've probably noticed, many of these laws have to do with the fear that a foreign citizen will do something to attack Russia. So, in that same line, it’s also forbidden (with the risk of being arrested as well) to wear any sort of mask at the stadiums and the surrounding areas. Sorry, Mexican fans, your luchador masks won’t be appreciated this time.
Don’t buy antiques
Ok, this is a tricky one. There are tons of completely legal businesses dedicated to the buying and selling of antique and vintage objects. Moreover, it’s okay to buy at these establishments; the problem comes when getting out of the country. Trying to leave the country with objects like artworks, icons, rugs, medals, and a long list of items classified as antiques can led to arrest and even deportation. To actually do it, you have to take your piece to be analyzed and certified as not having any historical and cultural value, which is really left to interpretation, not to mention a long process you might not have the time to complete.
Don’t try paying with foreign currency
Last but definitely not least, foreign currencies are not welcome at all. You might have visited some countries where you can actually pay with euros or dollars without any problem. Well, don’t even try doing it here because you could get detained, since it’s illegal. You can exchange your money at the many banks there or official exchange kiosks. For that, you’ll need your passport and visa.
We’ve come to the end of this list of random things that could get you in jail in Russia. I strongly recommend looking at the lists that the different countries' embassies have released, so that you know what you can and can't do at this football cup.
If you want to know more about Russia and its culture, take a look at these articles:
Illustrations by Mr. Tokki