‘Hello, Welcome to Moscow!’

PHOTO by Sergey Savostianov / TASS
How Moscow tourist police operates

For over two years now, Moscow boasts a unique police regiment called the “tourist police”. Its officers patrol downtown of the city and assure the safety of international tourists, while also serving as guides and translators. In a conversation with MOSLENTA, these friendly cops revealed interesting aspects of their work and shared some stories about lost Chinese wives and photo memorabilia.

Who Gets Hired

Tourist police is a unique Moscow department created on the basis of the 1st regiment of the Main Directorate of Russia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs. In one form or the other, the regiment has been operating for almost hundred years: it was founded as an equestrian division and now consists of two cavalry battalions and tourist regiment.

Its officers can be recognised by an emblem with a large inscription reading “Tourist Police” and badges carrying their photos and names in English. Officially, the regiment’s officers joined the service in August 2014. As of today, there are 171 tourist policemen in Moscow, and 35 of them are women.

“Our official title: "The 3rd Battalion of the pedestrian area maintenance of a citywide importance’,” says the tourist police commander Ilya Yegorchenko. “The name ‘Tourist Police’ is unofficial, but that’s what we’re actually doing.”

The officer tasks include patrolling the streets and squares where foreign and Russian tourists are mostly present and provide comprehensive assistance to Moscow guests. Knowledge of English is the main requirement for a new recruit to join these forces.

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Tourist police officers during an English lesson

“The requirements are simple – it is obligatory that a person can communicate fluently in English. Our tutors interview and perform the required tests with all applicants before hiring takes place,” Yegorchenko explains. Knowledge of Chinese, French, Spanish or other foreign languages is a great advantage that would increase a candidate’s chances of getting a job.

Guides and Lawyers-Translators

“We have language classes before going out on duty. Various situations can arise during the city patrol and we analyze them, so that our officers can provide all the necessary assistance,” says Lieutenant Oksana Ivanova, the regiment’s English teacher.

Fortunately, most issues are concerned with questions like - "how to get to certain places" or "where a certain building is located and when it was built". So, for the most part our officers perfoming tasks of a guide. However, the main thing that a policeman must know is a legal vocabulary, since the problems do arise sometimes.

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“Excuse me, sir. I lost my wallet”, “I lost my sister”, “My car broke down” – officers team up in pairs to practice their answers to the most frequent questions in different languages.

Photos and Lost Wives

Yekaterina Iletskaya, a police officer, has been serving in the tourist regiment for two years. Despite severe physical activities connected with patrol, she claims that it is her dream job.

“I saw a story on TV telling about the tourist police and I was very interested. I learned the details and, fortunately, it turned out that I've met all the requirements. I am happy to work here.”

Yekaterina has not yet encountered any criminal incidents or emergency situations. "Tourists are the quietest people", she says. During her service, a woman met hundreds of guests from Spain, Italy, USA and thousands of Chinese tourists.

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"The most frequent guests are from China. Generally, the Chinese rarely speak any other language besides their mother tongue. Their groups are usually accompanied by someone Russian-speaking,” she tells. “If not, we have to turn to hand gestures.”

As we walk down Nikolskaya street, first tourists approach Yekaterina’s partner and asks to take a picture with them.

“Yes, especially the Chinese! If someone from their group notices that one is taking a pciture, they immediately surround us to do the same. Obviously, the Red Square is the main site for such requests,” Yekaterina comments.

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And then she recalls an episode with lost wives.

“Once I was involved in an accident with Chinese tourists when two men lost their wives. A security guard wrote down ‘Tourist Police’ on a piece of paper and they started looking for us. We spoke to them and they showed us a picture. We contacted the city centre monitoring department, reported on the situation and gave the appearance details of the missing people and within two hours those couples were reunited again".

Author: Vladimir Shumakov