Exploring the Nature of the Private Security Guard Industry in Russia: How Does it Compare with other Eastern European Countries?

Abstract: Employment of private security guards in Europe and other countries around the world has shown sharp increases relative to the employment of public police officers.  Data from around the world suggests that there are as many security guards as police officers employed in most countries. Private security guards often perform similar functions in public spaces as police officers (e.g., patrol, surveillance, order maintenance, etc.). Yet, they do not have any more legal rights than those of ordinary citizens, in most instances. This trend is interesting in the context of social regulation as some argue that social control has shifted from public to private sectors. In this paper we explore the nature of the security guard industry with a focus on legislative guidelines pertaining to the scope of guards’ functions, employment eligibility, training, and legal powers in Russia. We will also explore how these issues compare with some countries in Eastern Europe. 

Key words: security, private security guards, police, social control, crime control, Russia, Eastern Europe

It is well established that the number of personnel[1] employed in the private security industry either matches or perhaps even far exceeds the number of police officers in many countries around the world. The private security industry is a flourishing enterprise with over 20 million documented security guards (Evans, 2011) often hired by entities in both the public and private sector. This is not a unique feature of the developed nations; in developing countries as well, one can observe the especially high demand for private security services, as states has proven their inability to provide citizens with the adequate level of security (Nalla & Wakefield, 2014). Though the primary task of security officers is to provide protection and prevent crime, their work profile is not limited to these tasks. Their duties often involve providing assistance to people, detecting irregularities, and deterring unlawful acts. The roles security guards assume are interesting given that some of the functions are similar to public police officers who come in close contact with private citizens as part of their daily routines and some of guards’ tasks involve regulating social life on private properties where much of public life often takes place. The aim of this paper is to understand the nature of the guard industry in the Russian Federation.  More specifically, we examine the extent of private security guard employment, the legislative framework for operating and employing security guards, and the existence of any special legal powers granted to security guards.  First we begin with an overview of the nature of the security guard industry in Eastern Europe to set the stage for how the industry there compares with Russia’s.  


Private security might be considered to be simply exercising social control over the security of property and individuals. Often private security guards’ tasks resemble those of public police officers (Nalla & Newman, 1991). In addition, the definition of the private security industry can be extended to include technical security systems, detective services, and information security. As a result, the term “private security services” often refers to this definition of the “complex” product. Thus, for the purposes of this paper, we narrow the definition of “private security services.” We define private security services, following the definition of Joh (2004), as any lawful forms of organized for-profit personnel services whose primary goals are: 

  • Restriction and regulation of access to private and state property (business entities, public spaces, and private houses) 
  • Direct observation of people’s behavior on this property and prevention of wrongful action 
  • Immediate countermeasures to wrongful actions on that property. 

The job profile of a security officer is fairly broad in description, and the duties they are assigned often involve but are not limited to: patrolling neighborhoods; running detection networks in stores; providing private investigations; operating as door supervisors; escorting people; and manning vehicles that transport cash. In addition to these, they may be required to perform duties outside their professional realms, which may involve monitoring the establishment they work for or performing secretarial duties. At times they even do additional non-security types of chores, such as janitorial services and gardening. 

With the growing amount of threat that is prevalent in society, security officers no longer play the archaic role of the watchman; their duties are more specialized in nature. Security officers engage in a variety of tasks, depending on the nature of the market, clients, or employers (Shearing & Stenning, 1983; Wakefield, 2006). 

Security officers’ functions are varied because the goals of private security organizations vary, which in turn guides the nature and scope of security officer work. For instance, in their examination of private security officers in Canada, Shearing and Stenning (1981) noted that security officers who conduct foot patrol typically perform surveillance (such as examining locks, doors, windows, fences, and signs of fire hazards), screen and escort visitors, and search employees and vehicles, as well as conducting other similar routine tasks. The advent of technology has also increased the scope of their work. This can range from performing mundane tasks like operating closed circuit television (CCTV) and other electronic security systems to more specific roles that require greater technological skills.   

Citing work from the European Union, Wakefield (2006) categorizes the role of security guards into seven groups: housekeeping, customer care, preventing crime and antisocial behavior, enforcing rules and administering sanctions, responding to emergencies and offenses in progress, gathering and sharing information, and other. Many tasks less typically associated with security guards are included in the housekeeping category, in which security guards provide services to keep the property clean, safe, and orderly through tasks such as taking care of displays, checking garbage cans, turning off lights, testing fire alarms, and monitoring background music (Brough & Brown, 1989; Wakefield, 2006). Customer care is also a role that belies the stereotypes of security guards. The customer care category includes tasks such as helping parents find their lost children (Gill, 2004), helping visitors with directions and information (Jones & Newburn, 1998), and keeping record of the lost and found items (Wakefield, 2006). Others who have studied store detectives (Brough & Brown, 1989), retail security officers (Gill, 2004), and officers in assorted roles that include working in housing complexes and retail stores (Jones & Newburn, 1998) have found comparable levels of diversity in the nature and scope of officer tasks. Similar findings were observed in Belgium, Spain, and the Netherlands (Cortese, Dryon & Valkeneers, 2003). For a more comprehensive coverage of this issue see Wakefield (2006).


Growth Trends in Eastern Europe

CoESS and UNI-Europa (2011) compile data from 34 European countries but do not include some Eastern European countries, such as Albania, Kosovo, Moldova, Montenegro, and Russia. Data for some other countries in the region are drawn from the Small Arms Survey, whose data points range from 2000 (Moldova) to 2009 (Russia). Table 2 outlines data from 21 East European countries with data sources from the two sources identified above, among others. This table lists either the precise or estimated numbers of security personnel and police officers, as well as the ratio of security officers to police officers. Though most countries in Eastern Europe have more police officers than security guards, the exceptions are Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Montenegro, Poland, and Romania. Countries that have security guards on par with the number of police officers are the Czech Republic and Serbia. 

Table 1. Security Guard versus Police Officer Employment in 2011
CountryNumber of Security PersonnelNumber of Police PersonnelSecurity/Police Ratio
Albania2 (2004)4,09211,9870.34
Bosnia & Herzegovina4,2079,574 0.44
Bulgaria57,14628,167 2.03
Croatia16,00020,000 0.8
Czech Republic51,54247,400 1.09
Estonia4,6273,600 1.29
Kosovo2 (2005)2,5796,2820.41
Macedonia4,000 9,7890.41
Moldova2 (2000)10,00013,4310.74
Montenegro2 (2007)1,9004,2270.45
Poland200,000 103,3091.94
Romania107,00045,777 2.34
Russia4 (2014)718,745894,4780.8
Serbia50,00045,000 1.11
Slovakia17,20021,500 0.80
Slovenia6,364 7,5000.85
Ukraine233,000 152,0000.22
Note: 1  Data source: Eurofound (2013). European Industrial Relations Observatory on-line (EIROnline). Retrieve on July 13, 2013 from  http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/eiro/studies/tn1011018s/mt1011019q.htm; 2 Data from Small Arms Survey 2011. <http://www.publicintelliegence.net/global-private-securitypolice-officer-personnel-levels-countryper-capita-2011/>  Retrieved on July 29, 2013. 3 Data from 2006 from Hiscock (2006). 4. Data on the number of security guards was received by A.Dzmitryieva in 2010 from the Licensing Department of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs; data source for the number of police personnelUNODC (2015) Total Police Personnel at the National Level. Retrieved from http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/data-and-analysis/statistics/data.html.

In countries such as Croatia, Kosovo, and Bulgaria, private security companies and public police work at the same sites (e.g., sporting events, with each having their own unique responsibilities—private security for site security and public police for preventing riots). In contrast, in Czech Republic during the police reform in 2008 there were made efforts to remove the burden of non-police service (e.g. observance of sport and cultural events) from police officers. Another conflict area for private security personnel is that many of them are former military or police officers.

In Russia, according to the Federal law “On private detective and security activity in Russian Federation”[2] private security activity is defined as contractual services to individuals and legalentities provided by companies and individual entrepreneurs licensed by the internal affairs agencies in order to protect the legitimate rights and interests of their clients” (article 1). 

Private security guards’ services may include the protection of life and health of citizens, protection of objects and property (including installation and management of technical security devices), consulting, protection of order at mass events, access control (to buildings, constructions, etc.), protection of objects that are required to have special protection under anti-terrorism requirements (excluding objects where state protection is obligatory by the federal law “On state protection”[3]) and objects of transport infrastructure. The guards are also allowed to assist the police in their order protection efforts—the procedure for such assistance is outlined in a special decree of the Russian Government.[4] This assistance is provided on the basis of a special agreement for maintaining public order between a private-security company and the law-enforcement agency. 


By 2010 about 1.2 million people worked in the security market. Three types of organizations operate in this market. More than half of all security service companies are privately owned security companies. A little more than 40% of the market share is made of two types of government companies: state bodies, which contract their services on the market, and security departments of large state firms. 

Table 2. Security Personnel By Type of Security Company in Russia
Personnel, totalPortion, %
Licensed private security personnel (including in-house (corporate) security services)718,74560%
Extra-Departmental Police Guards and Federal State Unitary Enterprise “Security”280,00023%
Security departments of large state firms200,00017%
Total 1,198,745100%

Private security companies in Russia 

Private security began to develop in Russia in the early 1990s as a result of restructuring and reduction of law enforcement agencies and the increasing demand for security services from newly established private businesses. The need for property protection and enforcing contracts created the demand from the emerging class of entrepreneurs. 

In terms of personnel, the major part of the security market is private security businesses, including 21,768 private security companies, 4110 in-house (corporate) security services, 1687 detective agencies and individual detectives[5]. Their activity is controlled and licensed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. In 2009, the Ministry of Internal Affairs established the Coordinating Council for Cooperation with Security-Detective Businesses, whose task is to ensure cooperation and interoperability between police and private security companies. 

The police operators on the security market 

Russia has unique police structure where there is a sub-unit – Extra-Departmental Protection Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (EDPD), which sells its security service on open market. 

The EDPD is one of the largest departments in the Russian Police and with about 170,703 police officers comprises 23% of all officer personnel of Russian police. As a subdivision of State Police, the EDPD workers maintain all the benefits of their legal status. They are uniformed, armed and enjoy a broad range of powers, which no other employee has in this field. Thus, the EDPD is one of the most important and powerful player on the security service market. 

In close cooperation with the EDPD works the Federal State Unitary Enterprise (FSUE) “Security”, which installs and maintains the alarm equipment, but the EDPD police officers are obliged to react the alarm signals. As a former sub-division of police, the FSUE “Security” in most regions are not geographically and ideologically separated from the EDPD and are still considered as a single organism which reports to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Thus, its estimated 110,000 workers can be considered as part of state providers of paid security services. 

In-House security services

In addition to police and private security, a number of government departments have departmental security units, which are funded from the federal executive bodies that have the right to establish in-house security. Their activities are regulated by the Federal Law of the Russian Federation of April 14, 1999, Number 77-FZ “On Departmental Security” (FZ-77).

Sixteen departments used this provision to establish their own departmental guards, including the Russian Railways Company, the Ministry of Energy, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Defense, Rosatom, Russian Technologies, the Federal Space Agency, and the Federal Agency for Industry. It is estimated that the departmental security units of governmental organizations employs 200,000 people.


Requirements for the security guards

In Eastern Europe, most countries mandate a minimum age of 18 years, a background check, and a license (Table 3). Most countries in the region do not have any required basic education requirements for security guards. A few countries—such as Bosnia & Herzegovina, Poland, and Serbia—require a secondary education. Russia mandates professional training in lieu of a minimum education requirement. Most countries in our data require a security guard to have a license, with the exception of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Macedonia, and Poland do not even require proof of citizenship or residency to work as a security guard.    

Table 3. Requirements and Restrictions for Security Guards in Eastern Europe
CountryCitizen orResidentMinimum AgeMinimum EducationFingerprint & PhotoBackground CheckLicense
Bosnia & HerzegovinaBosnia &Herzegovina18Secondary education3 YesYes
Bulgaria 18  YesYes
Croatia3?518Yes Yes 
Czech Republic 18  YesNo4
EstoniaEstonia19 or 21B Basic education YesYes
HungaryEEA18  YesYes
Latvia 18  YesYes
LithuaniaLithuania, EU, or EEA18  YesYes
Macedonia    YesYes
Poland 18 or 21Secondary Education YesYes
RomaniaRomania or EU18Primary Education YesYes
RussiaRussia18Professional trainingYesYesYes
SerbiaSerbia18Secondary Education YesYes
SlovakiaEU, EEA, or Swiss21  YesNo
SloveniaEU or EEA18  YesYes

Source (except Russia): Confederation of European Security Services (CoESS) (2011), “Private security services in Europe: CoESS facts and figures.” Retrieved July 24, 2013, from http://www.coess.org/_Uploads/dbsAttachedFiles/Private_Security_Services_in_Europe-CoESS_Facts_and_Figures_2011%281%29.pdf.

Source for Russia: Federal law No. 2487-1 “On private detective and security activity in Russian Federation”  adopted on March 11, 1992 (last amended on December 31, 2014). Retrieved at: http://base.consultant.ru/cons/cgi/online

In Russia, Article 11.1 of the law “On private detective and security activity” proclaims that a private security guard must be a citizen of the Russian Federation who has reached the age of 18 years. The prospective guard must undertake professional training and pass the qualification exam and the background check in order to acquire a private security guard certificate and be employed by a licensed private security company. The certificate is issued by a special internal affairs agency. 

Certain categories of citizens (legally incapable, those with a criminal record, etc.) are not allowed to serve as private security guards. Security background checks are undertaken to ensure that an applicant does not intend to use his guard status for committing crimes. Private security guards have to submit their photo to the internal affairs agency and must be fingerprinted.[6]

Special Powers for Security Guards

Security guards in most countries in Eastern Europe have limited powers of search and seizure (Table 4). This trend is similar to many other European nations, of Austria, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Malta, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey. Finland, which allows security guards to perform a search and seizure, is an exception in this matter.

In Russia, generally, security guards’ status is similar to ordinary citizens whose rights and responsibilities are identified in their national constitution and legislative apparatus. In most countries citizens have a right to make a “citizen’s arrest” when they witness a crime. Table 4 displays the search and seizure powers granted to security guards as distributed by various countries in Europe.

Private security guards have very limited power. They are not allowed to perform any actions that are considered to be the prerogative of the law-enforcement agencies: arrest, search and seizure, interrogation, etc. If a person commits a crime at the site where security services are provided or violates the law at the site, a private security guard is required to apprehend the offender and immediately undertake all possible efforts in order to transfer him to the police. This is typically the case in most countries in Europe, as well as other parts of the world. However, the law does not either specify any measures that can be undertaken in order to fulfill this duty or provide any sanctions for disobedience to the guard’s orders. It appears that the rights of private security guards in this particular case do not differ from the rights of any citizen who is witnessing a crime and is determined to seize and deliver the offender to a police station or hold him until the police arrive. All efforts have to be proportional to the nature and type of the committed offense and should not excessively harm the offender (Article 38 of the Criminal Code of Russia).[7]  

Table 4. Search and Seizure Powers of Security Guards in Eastern Europe 
CountrySearch and Seizure
CroatiaA search and seizure is allowed in the following cases: Search of persons (clothing and footwear), vehicles, and objects entering the premises 
Czech RepublicLimited search and seizure 
HungaryLimited search and seizure 
MacedoniaLimited search and seizure: When and where deemed necessary
RussiaNo search and seizure
SerbiaLimited search and seizure: If a crime is being committed or can be prevented 
SlovakiaLimited search and seizure: If the interests protected by a security service are jeopardized or violated
Source (except Russia): Confederation of European Security Services (CoESS) (2011), “Private security services in Europe: CoESS facts and figures.” Retrieved July 24, 2013, from http://www.coess.org/_Uploads/dbsAttachedFiles/Private_Security_Services_in_Europe-CoESS_Facts_and_Figures_2011%281%29.pdf.Source for Russia:  Federal law No. 2487-1 “On private detective and security activity in Russian Federation”  adopted on March 11, 1992 (last amended on December 31, 2014). Retrieved at: http://base.consultant.ru/cons/cgi/online 

When security guards are providing access control services they are allowed to check the documents that warrant entrance to the site for persons or vehicles and to perform a visual inspection of entering or exiting vehicles (if they suspect that these vehicles are being used for committing an offense) and objects that are being carried to or from the site.


The study by CoESS and Uni-Europa (2011) on the training requirements of the 34 European countries observed that the minimum training can range from as little as 7.5 hours (Austria) to one year (the Netherlands). Nearly 50% of all the countries in this group require anywhere between 21 and 100 hours of training, while 18%of the countries require 20 or fewer hours. Though most of the countries mandate training from certified training institutes and even specialist schools and colleges, the qualitative nature of the training was not described in this research.  Table 5 displays the range of activities required by private security guards in Eastern Europe. There is a wide disparity in terms of the number of hours of formal training required for security guards. Among the countries that demand a higher number of hours (over 300 hours) of training are Hungary and Romania. In the second tier, only two countries, Latvia (160 hours) and Slovenia (94 hours), appear on the list, while most of the remaining countries require about 50 hours of training.  Based on the data available for the countries in Table 5, only three countries require a refresher course (Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, and Slovenia).

Table 5. Training of Security Guards in Eastern Europe
CountryMandated by LawTotal HoursTraining provided byRefresher Training Mandated
Bosnia & HerzegovinaYes50 (40 theory, 10 practice)Federal and Regional Ministries of the InteriorYes
BulgariaYes40The training is provided by the company, training schools, and certified training centersNo
CroatiaYes40Accredited training institutes, regulated by the Education, Training and Professional Examination of Private Security Agents and Guards Regulation (July 26, 2004) 
Czech RepublicYes CompaniesNo
EstoniaYes16 basic and at least 50 hours initial trainingCertified security training centersNo
HungaryYes320Specially licensed training institutesNo
LatviaYes160Certified training centersNo
LithuaniaYes52Certified training institutesNo
MacedoniaYes40Chamber of the Republic of Macedonia for Security of People and PropertyNo
RomaniaYes360Specialized companies approved by the Ministry Administration and the Interior and the National Authority of Qualifications (ANC)No
RussiaYes98/174/266 Licensed educational institutionsYes
SerbiaYes50Certified training centersYes
SlovakiaYes40 No
SloveniaYes94Specialized training institutes licensed by the Ministry of the InteriorYes
Source (except Russia): Confederation of European Security Services (CoESS) (2011), “Private security services in Europe: CoESS facts and figures,” retrieved July 24, 2013, from http://www.coess.org/_Uploads/dbsAttachedFiles/Private_Security_Services_in_Europe-CoESS_Facts_and_Figures_2011%281%29.pdf.Source for Russia: Decree of the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation, No. 430, “On the requirements to the minimal content of the professional training program for the private security guards,” adopted on April 26, 2010, retrieved from http://www.umvd56-oren.ru/uslugi/lrr/administrativnye_reglamenty_predostavleniya_uslug/prikaz_minobrnauki _rf_ot_26042010_n_430/. 

In Russia, all security guards must undertake professional training at one of the licensed educational institutions. At least 98 hours of training are required for the lowest category of security guards (they are not allowed to use special devices and firearms), 174 hours are required for the middle category (allowed to use special devices), and 266 hours are required for the highest (allowed to use firearms). The number of hours and general requirements for the program is approved by the Ministry of Education.[8] The training program must include a legal component, special training in tactical aspects of protection services, the use of technical and special devices and firearms (including practical training), first aid, and physical and psychological training. Every five years a security guard must attend refresher training in order to prolong his security guard certificate.


In this paper we provided an overview of the private security guard industry in Russia and how it compares to other countries in Eastern Europe. More specifically, we provided a framework to compare the nature, size, and the regulatory mechanisms that govern the recruitment, selection, rights, powers, and responsibilities of personnel employed in the industry, with standards established in many European and Eastern European countries as a backdrop. We find that there is a wide discrepancy in the employment of security guards relative to public police officers in these countries. Further, we noted significant variation in the regulatory mechanisms relating to private security guard regulations of recruitment, legal powers, and minimum standards of recruitment and training. More important, the minimum standards that govern security guard employment appear to be rather minimum relative to the responsibility that is associated with their job descriptions, with the exception of Russia.

While this study is exploratory, we believe that private security guards perform a rather important task for the state. Though private entities sponsor their employment for protection from crime and hazards, the guards’ role—if not identical to public police, which is an agency of the sovereign state—is to provide an important supplemental role of the public police. This is particularly true in states where security guards far outnumber public police officers. Given that they come in contact with citizens on a regular basis, there are ample opportunities for security guards to exercise discretion in their interactions. Not all interactions can be assumed to be cordial and helpful. By their very nature, security guards are employed to exercise social regulation over citizens. Given that the regulatory framework in most countries mandates minimum or no qualifications or training requirements in legal matters, civil rights, or conflict resolution, among others, there are many opportunities for guards to violate civil rights. There are a few exceptions. Russia outlines a specific number of hours of training for guards assigned for different tasks on an ascending scale. There are others—such as Hungary, Latvia, Romania, and Slovenia—that place significant emphasis on training. Though, from the point of view of the state to ensure professionalism of the industry, future research should also consider examining the extent to which security guard and citizen interactions are satisfactory, which reflect the market forces and their impact on improving professionalism in this industry.  


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[1] In this paper we use the terms “security officer” and “security guard” interchangeably.  

[2] Federal law No. 2487-1 “On private detective and security activity in Russian Federation”  adopted on March 11, 1992 (last amended on December 31, 2014). Retrieved from http://base.consultant.ru/cons/cgi/online

[3] Federal law No. 57-FZ, “On state protection,”  adopted on May 27, 1996 (last amended on March 12, 2014). Retrieved from http://base.consultant.ru/cons/cgi/online.

[4] Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation No. 587, “Issues of private detective and private security activity,” adopted on August 14, 1992 (last amended on December 24, 2014). Retrieved from http://base.consultant.ru/cons/cgi/online.

[5] Data received by Aryna Dzmitryieva in 2010 from the Licensing Department of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs. 

[6] Federal law No. 128-FZ, “On state dactyloscopic registration in the Russian Federation,” adopted on July 25, 1998 (last amended on November 24, 2014). Retrieved from http://base.garant.ru/179140/1/#block_100#ixzz3TY7MAJMN.

[7] Criminal Code of the Russian Federation,  No. 63-FZ, adopted on June 13, 1996 (last amended on February 03, 2015). Retrieved from http://base.consultant.ru/cons/cgi/online.

[8] Decree of the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation, No. 430, “On the requirements to the minimal content of the professional training program for the private security guards,” adopted on April 26, 2010, retrieved from http://www.umvd56-oren.ru/uslugi/lrr/administrativnye_reglamenty_predostavleniya_uslug/ prikaz_minobrnauki _rf_ot_26042010_n_430/.

Mahesh K. Nalla

Ph.D., Professor Michigan State University

Anna Gurinskaya

Ph.D., Associate Professor Russian State Pedagogical University of Herzen,

St.Petersburg State University

Aryna Dzmitryieva

Research Fellow European University in St. Petersburg