In attempting to control and eradicate such social evils as prostitution, alcoholism, pauperism, and rowdyism, the Bolshevik government has introduced some interesting and courageous experiments, which deserve more than passing notice.
Russia before the War had one of the worst records for prostitution of all countries in Continental Europe. Unspeakable poverty, and the monotony and drudgery of small town and country life were fertile soil for the procurer. Jewish girls, compelled to live under the wretched economic and social conditions of the "pale of settlement," were frequently victims of the traffic. The pitifully low wage scale of the women workers and domestic servants in Russia, which prevented them from creating any reserve whatsoever in the case of seasonal or temporary unemployment, together with the total defenselessness of that class, was conducive to the successful activity of traffickers in vice and swelled the ranks of prostitution. The notoriously corrupt Russian police administration fell easily for bait in the form of bribes which the panders offered in exchange for protection.
A brief sketch of the attitude of tsarist Russia in this matter is necessary for an understanding of measures undertaken by the Bolsheviks to suppress and eradicate prostitution, since the new Régime has inherited this problem of the ancient profession from the old order. Peter the Great, in his characteristic way, issued an order in 1716 commanding that the various military reservations were to be purged of all women who were there for immoral purposes. The women in question were to be delivered to the