The phrase "101st kilometre" was first coined after the Soviet Union hosted the 1980 Moscow Olympics in reference to the eastern boundary of Moscow Oblast, located at 101 kilometres (63 mi) from Moscow. Soviet authorities forcibly removed all "undesirable elements" from Moscow, such as known loiterers, prostitutes, and alcoholics, beyond this boundary to improve the city's image for international visitors during the events of the 1980 Olympics.
The 101st kilometre became a colloquial phrase for limits on freedom of movement under propiska, the Soviet system of controlling internal migration. During most of the Soviet era, criminals and other "undesirables" including supposedly rehabilitated political prisoners returning from the Gulags were often restricted from settling in larger urban centers such as Moscow. The propiska laws were intended in part to keep undesirable elements away from foreigners, who were usually restricted to areas within 25 km (16 miles) of city centers, in a similar fashion to the 1980 Olympics. The rights of an ex-inmate to move freely about the country after release from a prison would be restricted for a long period of time. Instead of regular documents, former inmates would receive a temporary substitute, a "wolf ticket" (Russian: волчий билет, romanized: volchiy bilet), confining them to internal exile without the right to settle closer than 100 km (62 mi) to large urban centres where they would be refused the residency permit under the propiska system.