Propiska ( _ru. пропи́ска; full term "Прописка по месту жительства", "The record of place of residence") was a regulation in the Soviet Union designed to control internal population movement by binding a person to his or her permanent place of residence.

Etymology and role

The noun derives from the Russian verb "propisat" ("to write into") — meaning to "write a passport into a registration book" of the given local office. The initial 1930s decree on "propiska" demanded to register "documents", not "people". Later, "propiska" became an official term. The "propiska" was to be recorded both in the internal passport of the citizens of the Soviet Union and at the local governmental office. In cities it was a local office of MVD (i.e. police precinct). In rural areas it was a selsovet, or "rural soviet", a governing body of a rural territory. The administrations of hotels, student dormitories and people who let their premises for rent were also obliged to maintain "propiska" records of their guests. The "propiska" played the roles of both residence permit and residential registration of a person.


The "propiska" system was similar to the Tsarist internal passport system, which had been viewedwho? as a tyrannical means of controlling population movements in the Russian Empire. The Bolsheviks abolished the internal passport system after the October revolution in 1917, but Joseph Stalin reinstated it in December 1932.

In the Soviet Union, a valid "propiska" was required to apply for jobs, to get married, to receive medical treatment, and in many other situations. At the same time, it was almost impossible to get a local "propiska" in a major city without having a job (constituting a sort of catch-22) or having relatives living in the city.

Upon renewal, the MVD would do a check on the person's activities in the five years since the last renewal. Those engaged in activities deemed by the authorities as "anti-Soviet" were under constant risk of losing their "propiska".

At a certain period of Soviet history residents of rural areas had their passports stored at selsovets (officially "for safekeeping") which prevented them from unauthorized migration. It was mainly a result of 1930s rural famines which had caused peasants look for survival in the cities.

Residency permits were extremely difficult for migrants to obtain in large cities, especially Moscow, and were a matter of prestige. Certain "risk groups", such as dissidents, Roma and former Gulag inmates, were often barred from getting "propiska" in Moscow and some other major cities. However, many people used subterfuge to get Moscow "propiska", including marriages of convenience and bribery. Another way of obtaining Moscow residency was to become a "limitchik", i.e., to enter Moscow to take certain understaffed job positions, e.g., at strategic plants or at construction works, according to a certain workforce quota ("limit").

Modern usage

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the "propiska" system was officially abolished. However some of the former Soviet republics, such as Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia, chose to keep their "propiska" systems, or at least a scaled down version of them.

Russia changed "propiska" to "registration". The difference is that only an "owner" of a place of registration (or, in some cases, all persons registered there), not any "authorities", should give consent for registration. Citizens should register if they live in the same place for 90 days. There are two types of registration, permanent and temporary (for not more that 90 days, but can be prolonged). A place of registration is indicated on a stamp placed in an internal passport. Living without a place of residence indicated in the internal passport considered an administrative offense. The registration is used for economic, law enforcement and other purposes, such as accounting social benefits, housing and utility payments, taxes, conscription, etc.

Now registration plays little role in questions of property. In Soviet time, for example, if after a marriage a wife was registered in husband's home, then, in case of divorce, she may obtain some part of her husband's place of residence for her own usage. In modern Russia this was mostly abandoned (there are some exceptions, e. g. for children after divorce), but large part of population still fears that if they register someone on their property, this person can claim part of it later. fact|date=August 2008

In Ukraine, the Constitutional Court ruled that "propiska" was unconstitutional in 2001 (November 14) and a new "informational" registration mechanism was planned by the government, but, in effect, has never come into being. Additionally, access to social benefits such as housing, pensions, medical care, and schooling are still based on a "propiska", as are things like the location for a driving test (and the associated driving lessons).

See also

*Passport system in the Soviet Union
*Russian passport
*101st km

External links

* [ Constitutional Court strikes down internal passport system] - article in "The Ukrainian Weekly"
* [ Russian ombudsman about propiska in modern Russia]

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