Arstotzka is the main antagonistic setting for Papers, Please video game. It is a brutal dictatorship that represses its people, but attracts many immigrants because of economic opportunities. Depending on the choice of player, Arstotzka may be the main protagonist faction or the main antagonist faction.
Arstotzka is a communist country in which Papers Please takes place and where the inspector works at the Grestin border checkpoint. The country’s motto is “Glory to Arstotzka.” Arstotzka is bordered by Kolechia (Ukraine) with Antegria and Republia resembling the real life Latvia and Estonia and the United Federation being the real Russian Federation.
Not much about Arstotzka’s history prior to the events of the game are stated, but what is a central point is the Six Year War between Arstotzka and it’s neighboring country, Kolechia. Around the peace treaty, the October labor lottery is pulled, and the protagonist’s name is chosen for the position of the border document inspector. Due to the border opening, many immigrants attempt entry, while politically/ethnically motivated terrorists attempt to cause trouble and diplomacy is going awry. If the player chooses to remain on the side of Arstotzka, then Arstotzka and Kolechia will make a diplomatic agreement. If the player chooses to side with the rebel faction EZIC, then Arstotzka’s corrupt government will be overthrown.
The Six-Year War was a conflict between Arstotzka and Kolechia. It ended some time before the beginning of Papers, Please.
The details of the war are vague. The description on the official site says that the war has ended but does not provide any time frame. At the beginning of the game, while it is implied that the border town of Grestin has been divided into two and has remained so for the past six years, this does not provide exact dates of the war – it could mean that the situation developed at some point before, during, or after the war. It is unclear dubious whether the war started around 1976 or not.
A particularly heated subject is the status of the city of Grestin, a border town divided into East Grestin and West Grestin. The western half of the city is Kolechian, while the eastern half is under Arstotzkan jurisdiction. Crossing the border between the two halves had been impossible, even for Arstotzkan citizens, until November 23rd, 1982 when Arstotzka opened a checkpoint to allow entry from Kolechia.
Government and Legislation
The government of Arstotzka uses capital punishment and forced labor. To be considered eligible for employment Arstotzkans are expected to maintain families and have at least one fellow family member alive to continue the Arstotzkan growth. Arstotzka also attracts immigrants and foreign workers. EZIC describes Arstotzka’s government as tyrannical.
Arstotzkan administration consists of at least the following ministries:
- The Ministry of Admission (M.O.A.) is in charge of border control. It is also the organization the inspector and the supervisors work for. The M.O.A. issues most of the official documents required by entrants. A break-in at the M.O.A. offices is discovered on day 11 and leads to an outbreak of forged documents. The M.O.A. also gets a new director on day 13 after multiple terrorist attacks. Its seal is a crest with a red slash in the middle surrounded with red color, with or without the M.O.A lettering.
- The Ministry of Labor (M.O.L.) issues work passes to entrants that wish to work in Arstotzka. Its seal is a hammer surrounded by purple color whose head points leftward, with or without the M.O.L. lettering.
- The Ministry of Information (M.O.I.) acts as an intelligence agency. Its Office of Intelligence conducts information audits on government employees and monitors possible domestic and international threats to Arstotzka. M. Vonel is a Special Investigator in the East Grestin Division of the Office of Intelligence.
- The Ministry of Justice publishes the wanted list since day 14. On day 16, it reassigns guards from the M.O.A., leaving the inspector in charge of border defense.
- The Ministry of Health is in charge of public health. It takes action on days 25 and 26 when a polio outbreak in the United Federation begins to threaten Arstotzka.
- The Ministry of Income investigates financial anomalies. Citizens may file a report if they notice a sudden increase in somebody’s wealth.
- The Ministry of Trade produces legal tender. Its name is printed on 5-credit bills. On day 19 it imposes trade sanctions on Impor in retaliation to Imporian trade sanctions imposed against Arstotzka.
Papers Please Countries
There are seven countries and one fake country that does not appear in the map, Cobrastan, in the Papers, Please universe. The main events take place in the border town of East Grestin (marked by a crosshair on the map) in communist Arstotzka. The countries of Antegria and Republia also appear in The Republia Times, another game by Lucas Pope set in a similar but not necessarily the same universe.
The countries are:
- United Federation
According to the map in the rulebook, Arstotzka borders Kolechia and Obristan, and is subdivided into districts that are listed in identity cards and in the rulebook.
- Altan – the inspector is required to confiscate passports of citizens from the Altan district from day 24onward.
- Vescillo – According to his ID card, Messof Anegovych lives in the Vescillo district.
- Gennistora – Simon Wens was possibly killed in the Gennistora district on day 31 by a vengeful father, depending on the choices the inspector makes.
- Fardesto – According to his ID card, Filipe Hasse lives in the Fardesto district.
- Nirsk – The inspector’s hometown.
- Northern Territories – Northern part of Arstotzka with access to Obristan. In unused headlines, Northern Territories are plagued with snow and heavy winds.
- The southern coastline is mentioned several times in the unused headlines. In addition to weather-related news, it is mentioned that Kolechian submarines are detected off coast.
Papers Please Map
Scripted Entrants from Arstotzka
- A woman who knows the inspector’s father (day 19)
- A compromised Arstotzkan spy (day 9)
- Messof Anegovych (days 12 and 16)
- Nathan Cykelek (day 14)
- Corman Drex (day 8)
- Marie Escalli (day 17)
- Filipe Hasse (days 13 and 22)
- Dari Ludum (day 6)
- Simon Wens (day 30)
Behind the Scenes
Arstotzka represents a communist Eastern Bloc-esque country and the checkpoint itself is inspired by the checkpoints separating East and West Berlin during the Cold War.
In addition to the ministries above, Lucas Pope, the game’s developer, also mentioned the Ministry of Propaganda, the Ministry of Recreation and Entertainment, and the Ministry of Stamps on Twitter but they do not appear in the game.
Two ministries, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Finance are mentioned in the unused headlines in the game files but they do not appear in the game.
In the PS Vita announcement, more ministries are mentioned in the text; the Ministry of International Outreach, Ministry of Entertainment Software Production, Ministry of Property Registration, the Ministry of Bridge and Turnpike Construction, and the Ministry of Entertainment Software Planning. The end of the announcement shows the Ministries of Media, Communication, Media and Communication, Admission, Security, and Information approved the release of the game and displays ministry logos.
Arstotzka in Popular Culture
- Papers, Please – The Short Film takes place in Arstotzka.
- Arstotzka is referenced in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. In Chapter 11, there is an immigration checkpoint in a Madagascar town. Going to it will cause a conversation with Nathan Drake and Victor Sullivan, and during the conversation, Nathan says, “Could be worse. Could be Arstotzka.”
- Arstotzka is referenced in Turbo Dismount on some billboards throughout the levels. The billboards contain the Arstotzka eagle symbol and words saying “Glory to Arstotzka.”
- Arstotzka is also referenced in the indie run-and-gun platformer Broforce as a level with the description, “This is Arstotzka. Sources claim that it is, in fact, a country.”
- Arstotzka is referenced in the strategy game Conflict of Nations, where it replaces Moldova in some maps.
The table below shows the country of Arstotzka and its cities. The sample passport and cover image of the Arstotzka Passport are also on the table. In the Notes column you can see the features of Arstotzka passport.
|Issuing country and cities||Notes||Data page||Cover|
Here are a few designs of the Arstotzka flag that have been redesigned by fans of the game. In all of these designs, the official Arstotzka logo is visible.