Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Migrant Workers in Moscow from Central Asia and the Caucasus Rely on Co-Ethnics in Capital’s Police for Defense, Study Finds

Paul Goble

Vienna, December 2 – Migrant workers in the Russian capital from Central Asia and the Caucasus frequently rely on their co-ethnics in the Moscow militia to defend themselves against other groups, a pattern that reflects not only the absence of government-backed integration programs but also the low demand for them, according to a new study.
That finding, one that points to the ethnic Balkanization of both the population and government institutions, appears likely, even though the authors of the report do not draw this conclusion, to exacerbate inter-ethnic relations in Moscow still further and to reduce the confidence of the city’s population toward the militia even further.
And to the extent those trends continue, it is virtually certain that some Russian nationalists will demand a kind of “ethnic cleansing” of the militia lest its officers work against the majority nationality and that some non-Russians (and some Russian officials concerned about rising tensions) will call for even more minority officers.
The study itself, prepared under the direction of Igor Savin of the Institute of Oriental Studies for the Nonviolence International NGO and the Institute of Ethnology, limited itself to the conclusion that the lack of “integration mechanisms” rather than “cultural and social differences” is to blame for “hostility and xenophobia” (
The study’s results were presented to a roundtable held in the Russian capital’s House of Nationalities this week on “The Role of the Mass Media in Preventing Xenophobia in Moscow: Do Not Allow the Conversion of Cultural Differences into Social Ones” to which a variety of officials, scholars, and representatives of both immigrant groups and Russian nationalist ones.
Savin told that meeting that he and his colleagues had studied relations between “old Muscovites” and “new Muscovites” (migrants) by means of a series of focus groups conducted in two ethnically mixed districts on the outskirts of the Russian capital, Nizhegorodsky and Zyuzino.
Because Nonviolence International, one of the sponsors of the research, focuses on the use of the media as a means of overcoming ethnic tensions, many of the speakers following Savin supported the NGO’s proposal for creating “a new information resource,” possibly a blog, to bridge existing divides.
Anton Susov, coordinator of the openly xenophobic Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI), supported that idea, saying that despite his organization’s differences with the immigrant communities, such a media space could help integrate them into the Russian culture of the capital.
But many of the non-Russians present were skeptical. Kantemir Khurtayev of the Russian Congress of the Peoples of the Caucasus noted that the Russian mass media had ignored this session, something that did not presage success in using the media to overcome xenophobic attitudes and integrate Gastarbeiters.
And he added that “speaking honestly,” he did “not know how such a resource would work. If Igor Savin knows, fine; personally, I don’t. There already exist [in the Russian capital and indeed in Russia as a whole] a multitude of such platforms which do not leader to anything besides curses and arguments.”
Indeed, he said, “we already have had experience of working with DPNI in at such roundtables. Yes, at this activity, the representative of this organization conducted himself quite well. But pay attention to their site.” It does nothing but provide a “tendentious” flow of information presenting “everything negative that is connected with Caucasians.”
For non-Russians, he continued, “the DPNI’s [repeated] declarations that the Caucasians are guests of Moscow are entirely unacceptable.” If as Savin’s study found, migrant workers from there are now seeking help only from co-ethnics in the militia or other institutions, that points to even more serious troubles ahead for Russian society and the Russian state.

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