Monday, June 21, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Ethnic Neighborhoods Solidifying in Moscow, Russian Realtors Say

Paul Goble

Staunton, June 21 – The Moscow realty company, “Where is That House,” has released results of a study showing that new arrivals to the Russian capital prefer to live with their co-ethnics and co-religionists already here and that this widespread preference is leading to the formation of increasingly clearly defined “ethnic enclaves.”
While there have been academic studies of this trend and while Moscow city officials are fighting against it, most recently with their plans to write a “Code of the Muscovite,” this survey of several dozen realty companies provides an unusual insight into a trend that the demise of the Soviet-era “propiska” system largely precluded (
But what makes this research especially interesting is that it was conducted by realtors, people who will guide those seeking housing. The information the study contains does not represent anything like the “redlining” that used to affect the housing market in the US, but it is likely to be used in ways that reinforce rather than breakdown ethnic neighborhoods.
Ruslan Barabash, spokesman for “Where is That House” (, told “Komsomolskaya Pravda” that because perhaps “only about two percent of the residents of Moscow” can afford to purchase property, residential decisions concern almost exclusively rental units.
At the present time, he said, there are approximately 30-32,000 apartments for rent in Moscow, and “approximately 60 percent of them are rented by foreigners.” Most of them, he continued, arrive “not independently” but as a result of connections with “friends, relatives and acquaintances” from their own groups who are already here.
And most of the arrivals, Barabash continued, try to live close to the others, at least within “walking distance” of their contacts and their contacts’ workplaces because “it is necessary to be able to communicate with someone” and those people are closer always can help.”
The “most compact” settlements of those arriving are the Chinese, the realtors said. “Little Chinatowns are already appearing in Ochakovo and in districts near the Avtozavodskaya and Semenovskaya metro stations.” But other groups are not far behind in forming clearly defined ethnic neighborhoods.
“Not long ago by the way,” he said, “a genuine ‘resettlement of the peoples’ took place,” when “Chinese, Vietnamese and Azerbaijanis began massively, in the tens of thousands shifting from Izmailovo and Preobrazhensky to Lyublino. The reason was simple: the closure of the Cherkizon market.” Now these communities want to be close to the Moskva trading center.
The formation of ethnic neighborhoods is well advanced, he continued. “Their formation happily is still limited only by the fact that those arriving seek inexpensive rentals. It is desirable, of course to be alongside those from one’s native place but in the first instance, it is a question of low price.”
As a result, Barabash says, “on the edges of the city where the price of rentals is lower is being formed a whole international. In Tushinskaya and Novogireyevo districts, for example, all the peoples of Central Asia and the Caucasus live alongside one another!” And that pattern is being repeated elsewhere with other groups.
Seven to ten years from now, the study concludes, “genuine enclaves will have formed.” And “if 10 years ago,” “Komsomolskaya Pravda” adds, “we could not imagine them, now we are half way to national districts” in the Russian capital, something with which academic researchers agree but about which some officials remain in denial.
Igor Kuznetsov, a senior researcher at the Academy of Sciences Institute of Sociology, says that Russian cities, he “fears,” will have the same kind of ethnic neighborhoods as do other countries. “We will not be able to adapt such a large quantity of migrants” as almost everyone predicts Russia will need.
The sociologist points to one way in which the formation of such neighborhoods may present an even bigger problem than many now think: “Russians are a traditionally open people,” he told the Moscow paper, “and do not like it when someone settles separately from all the others.”
But Mikhail Solomentsev, the head of the Moscow city Duma’s Committee on Interregional Ties and Nationality Policy and the proponent of the “Code of the Muscovite,” said that the Russian capital does not have any such “neighborhoods” and that “in Moscow they simply do not exist.”
“All nationalities are equally distributed around the city,” he insisted, and any suggestion to the contrary is simply laughable. And he adds for good measure, “tell me how is it possible to define exactly the nationality of an individual? What for example should be written if the purchaser of an apartment has a Ukrainian mother and a Tajik father?”

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