It was dangerous to walk the streets in many Soviet cities in the 1930s. The
new industrial towns and the workers’ settlements in old ones were the most
perilous. Here drink, the congregation of restless single men, inadequate policing, bad living conditions, and unpaved and unlighted streets all contributed to a lawless, frontier atmosphere. Robberies, murders, drunken fights,
and random attacks on passersby were common. Ethnic conflicts often occurred at worksites and barracks with an ethnically mixed labor force. The authorities attributed the problems to peasant workers newly arrived from the
countryside, “often with dark pasts or déclassés elements.