About Russia...and not all about football

About Russia...and not all about football

Many of us are happy about the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Football has the power to unite people, and thousands of international visitors are coming into Russia and bringing open-mindedness and vibrancy to a country that has recently been seen as on the road toward isolation.

We would like to use the World Cup as a chance to provide you with more information about Russia. The Moscow office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation has prepared a series of texts and video materials on various topics relevant to Russia that are going to be published in the coming weeks.  They include democratic development and civic engagement, gender equality, and the environment. These texts are not always related to football, but will shed light on problems that are of interest to the local community and that determine the course of our foundation’s work in Russia. They show the many sides of Europe’s largest country — a country that deserves serious interest and attention.

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Recent articles

Football Under the Rainbow

The FIFA World Cup

The FIFA World Cup. LGBTI activists are hoping to use the World Cup as a way to draw attention to the needs and problems of their community. Although they temporarily enjoyed Russian society’s goodwill during the World Cup, public action is still next to impossible in the country.

By Jutta Sommerbauer

No Right for Civil Liberties


Russian state acknowledged human rights and liberties as the supreme value by adopting a new Constitution in 1993 and signing the European Convention on Human Rights. However, as the years passed by, human rights lost their initial significance.

By Johannes Voswinkel

Football fans in Russia: a portrait of a society

Football hooliganism

About football supporters and football hooliganism: Julia Amatuni, an anthropologist from the European University at St. Petersburg, is one of the few Russian scientists doing research on the culture of football fandom.

By Yuliya Amatuni

Interactive map

Map for People is a map for responsible consumers that provides information about places where tourists can eat, drink, buy souvenirs and clothes and, by doing this, support local projects that follow social, environmental and ethical responsibility principles. It is a research and educational project based on peer-to-peer model. 

Activists and experts conducted interviews with entrepreneurs in order to evaluate their compliance with the principle of responsible consumption. A map with charity shops, bars, coffeshops, restaurants and about 20 other local businesses was presented for World Cup fans, visitors and locals. This work is being continued beyond the World Cup in order to develop best practices of exchange and new solutions, rethink and popularize the notion of responsible consumption.

The first stage of our project was accomplished with support of the Heinrich-Böll-Foundation in Russia.

Website of the project

Relevant topics

World Cup on a Swamp

Construction as Destruction

The decision of where to build Kaliningrad’s 2018 World Cup stadium was the subject of heated debate; indeed, some had argued against the original building site but were overruled in 2014. Rosprirodnadzor (the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resource Usage) observed that the soil on the island where the stadium was to be constructed contained dangerous substances, such as benzo(a)pyrene and radon, but this observation went unnoticed.

By Aleksandra Korolyova

Government Sides With Coal Business Against Citizens

Ecology and Business

The Kuznetsk Basin, or Kuzbass, is one of the largest coal deposits in the world. In 2012 the amount of extracted coal in Kuzbass exceeded 200 million tons for the first time. It is planned to further increase the extraction up to 430 million tons by 2030. That being said, the way black coal in Kuzbass is extracted infringes upon the rights of local citizens: the right to life, freedom of movement, inviolability of the home and freedom of opinion. 

By Larisa Koynova

Women Do Belong in Sports

Women's sport in the North Caucasus

It is hardly surprising that women actively participate in sports — even in the North Caucasus, a Muslim-majority region where religion dominates people’s daily lives. But as a rule here, public opinion plays an essential role in all aspects of life, including sports. Yet, recently young women started to make choices in favor of their hobbies.

By Anastasia Rasulova

“Hello, I’ve been detained, what should I do?”

Protests in Russia

Protests organized by the Russian opposition usually end in many detainments. A human rights organization offers legal aid via a hotline and reports on how many people get detained by the police.

By Christina Hebel

Hidden Violence

Violence and harassment

Fear, shame and condemnation by society is what domestic violence and harassment victims have to face in Russia. According to statistics, every 10th Russian faced domestic violence in their family, while sexual harassment at the work place is experienced by every 6th person.

By Anna Alekseeva

Laws of the Game in the Field of the Law

Migration rules

Russia is hosting the FIFA World Cup from June 14 to July 15. That means stronger security measures until the end of July in 11 Russian cities.Olga Gulina, director of the Berlin Institute on Migration Policy, explains how to follow the migration laws of this game.

By Olga Gulina

The Spartak Case

The story of "Spartak" during its first years was the story of a football team that was experiencing in practice how far the boundaries of the "Soviet way” to play football stretched out. However, what was still possible in 1935 or 1936 turned out to be deadly dangerous in 1937.

You are invited to learn about the new project “The Spartak Case”, organized by the International Memorial. The project website is available only in Russian.


There are these stereotypes that a girl is weak and she won’t make it. But if a girl really wants something, if she is gifted, she can walk even through closed doors.

GirlPower, a Moscow-based school of women’s football, was founded 4 years ago and over 200 girls of all ages attend it at the moment. This sport isn’t very popular among women in Russia yet, largely due to gender prejudice and the society’s conservatism. However, GirlPower is breaking down these barriers, proving that the football field is open for everyone. Alla Filina, the leading coach and co-founder of the school, talks about the main difficulties and prospects of women’s football in Russia.

Further readings

Amateur Football in Russia


At the eve of the 2018 FIFA World Cup a new personal exhibition by Sergey Novikov named “GRASSROOTS. Amateur Football in Russia” has been opened in the The Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography in Moscow. The journalist Yekaterina Fomina asked the photographer why he is travelling around provincial stadiums and what role politics plays there.

My project is not just about football – it is about what our country is like.
As for the Soviet football on the whole, and any kind of football, for that matter, I think, it first of all teaches us to overcome a defeat.

Football is unfair and thus resembles the Soviet life


Robert Edelmann, Professor at California University in San Diego, the author of football history books, one of the most renowned historians of Soviet sports in the world. During the 2018 FIFA World Cup Sergey Bondarenko interviewed Robert Edelmann on how sport was and still is a political tool.

By Sergey Bondarenko
Most players just want to enjoy the game. They want to play, so they play, because football is a game that is open for everyone and has a low barrier of entry.

Photography exhibition about amateur football in Russia

What goes unseen behind the glossy images of big-scale official events? While preparations for the 21st World Cup are in full swing, all over Russia hundreds of amateur football teams are taking part in local competitions for the many Russian regions, republics and provinces. Empty seats, no camera flashes and no sponsors is often the reality of such matches. 

From the 8th of July, Sergey Novikov's personal exhibition “GRASSROOTS. Amateur football in Russia” is open for visitors in the Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography. 

Taking eye off the official events and narrative, photographer Sergey Novikov with his Grassroots project strives to draw wide

audience's attention to problems that amateur football is facing in Russia. The photographer aspires to showcase the diversity of football landscape in Russia, the unique location of the country's football stadiums, their role in urban infrastructure, regional identity and the influence they have on the local communities. The project also focuses on initiatives in sport at grass roots level.

During the exhibition an eventful educational programme will also take place featuring Russian and German experts in sports photojournalism, football philosophy and history of architecture. The exhibition and the educational programme are supported by the Heinrich-Boell-Foundation Russia.