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How can Russia cope with the influx of migrants?
How can Russia cope with the influx of migrants?
Amidst growing protests fueled by nationalistic sentiments among Russia’s population, the authorities should reassess their policy and create a more positive image of migrants.
The term «nationalism» is a uniquely Western term, and when translated into Russian, is synonymous with «patriotism." However, as recent developments in Russia show, not every statistically average Russian resident understands nationalism as loyalty and dedication to cultural traditions.
Rather, the opposite is true: The Russian form of nationalism is hostility to ethnically «other» people. The consequences of this kind of attitude are support and even empathy towards the type of unrest that arises due to ethnic differences.
This is not a uniquely Russian phenomenon.
However, as is often the case, Russian realities have their unique
specificity. In 2006, the murder of two local residents
in Karelia who originally were from Dagestan provoked mass demonstrations.
In 2010, the murder of Yegor Sviridov in Moscow, again
a resident from the Caucasus, resonated widely and led to clashes
between protesters and law enforcement officials during a meeting held
in memory of the young man. Echoes of the events of those
days, which took place on Moscow’s Manezh Square, also reverberated
in other cities around Russia. In both of these cases, the
assailants were members of
In 2011, in a village in Sverdlovsk, another conflict broke out between the members of different ethnic groups, with local residents on one side and gypsy people on the other. The murder of an ethnic Chechen, Ruslan Marzhanov, in the summer of 2013 led to mass demonstrations by citizens of Saratov.
It now appears that representatives of the various nationalist
organizations within Russia are confidently grasping every opportunity, rushing
to direct their energies into towns and villages to support and
incite protests. The members of the host society (represented by the
residents of Moscow or any other city) are easily provoked, and
thanks to the
The origins for this uprising are usually stress, dissatisfaction with their lives, and difficult financial situations. By that time, however, a few convincing slogans are enough for sparks to fly. In Moscow, as in any large metropolis, there are regular occurrences of murders resulting from domestic violence, but not all of them end with mass disturbances and protests.
Recent protests south of the capital, in West Biryulevo, occurred in October of this year. The unrest did not culminate in a domestic showdown; however, the unrest became an active accelerator for discussions about migrants residing in the country. Virtually all the major TV channels and newspapers included this topic into their weekly summary editions and publications. However, most of the debates have been lost in the vast spaces of the Internet.
In this case, particularly active bloggers did not hold back with terms describing the events in Biryulevo, provoking readers to equally caustic remarks (and the number of comments in some cases reached up to 30 or 40). Everyone was trying to find their own truth, and to find out who is to blame and what to do.
However, there must be another explanation than the one typically offered. When we look at the chronology of the recent events, then between the time of the murder and the mass riots there were several days. Therefore, we do not see here the emotional reaction of society to the event, but rather, a period of reflection of what happened.
Many media outlets have already written that, actually, conflict had been brewing for a long time, and if so, then the murder of Yegor Shcherbakov was only the catalyst. Logically, it should have provoked an escalation already in the first days after the death of the young man. The time lag between events speaks about the preparation and planning of action. Consequently, the public reaction culminating in unrest in West Biryulevo must have been somehow orchestrated.
The influx of migrants into Russia
In fact, the situation is more complex than it seems at first glance. A popular explanation that has been given during the riots is that migrants are showcasing their newfound dominance in Russia. Yet, it is specifically foreign nationals from neighboring countries (often from Central Asia) who take unattractive janitor jobs, work as cleaners, and become vendors in the markets.
This group is dependent on their earnings, because most of the money will be sent to their families and relatives. On their shoulders hangs the support of their families, and provocation or any form of conflict may end for them with deportation, and leaving their children and wives or husbands without a means of subsistence. Taking all this into account, they will strive to work hard and not to attract the attention of law enforcement, as the cost of failure is too great.
For the first generation of migrants (both in Russia and
in Europe), traditionally the transition process is the most
difficult. The second generation, born in a new country, adapts more
quickly and feels like a part of society. When we rely
on the Western experience and research findings on this issue, then
a study of the American Sociological Center REW found that the
Although, when we talk about individuals migrating from Central Asia (according to the data of the FMS, the number of «legal immigrants» now exceeds 1.3 million), then those are the people with traditional cultural values, family values and respect for their elders. Based on their religious backgrounds, these are people for whom an act like theft or murder is sinful by nature. Would they really go against this cultural background and act the way the crowd that reads nationalist slogans and blogs on the Internet says they will? Probably not.
If we turn to the analysis of past disturbances, then
often the instigators of a conflict are the natives of Chechnya
or Dagestan (according to the 2010 census, «the
Domestic conflict, which is the very catalyst for a popular unrest, could very well take place within their social group. However, this kind of murder will not be interesting from the point of view of creating a newsworthy excuse and does not attract interest from the radical nationalist groups. The latter, according to unofficial data, in Russia consists of more than 40 different units.
The Russian Federation historically has existed as a multicultural
and multinational state, where there is a
However, they deliberately overlook the following: first, the economic benefit from the cheap hired labor of foreign nationals, and second, that it is often the case that the instigators of a conflict are neither immigrants nor migrants from the first generation.
To change the situation, first of all, Russian society must discontinue treating migrants negatively. The government should popularize a more positive image of migrants, emphasizing the benefits that accrue to society. If you take away from the Moscow streets all Tajik janitors, then a day later the city, like Italy’s Naples, will sink into a mountain of filth. In addition, with more relaxed attitude towards migrants, the nationalists would be less likely successful in attracting the crowds of angry residents.
«Migration, when governed fairly, can make a very important contribution to social and economic development both in the countries of origin and in the countries of destination," said Mr. Wu Hongbo, UN Under Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs. «Migration broadens the opportunities available to individuals and is a crucial means of broadening access to resources and reducing poverty.»
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