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Russia’s Population Shrinking, Needs immigrants, But Xenophobia In the Way?

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Russia (Photo credit: ccchan19)

This is no longer your father’s Moscow. Except for days such as Eid, when it’s impossible not to notice, the change in the city’s complexion has been happening almost imperceptibly for more than a decade. But now, if migrant labor were to disappear, whole sections of Moscow’s economy would immediately shut down.

Yet needed as they are, the growing numbers of non-Slavic immigrants in Moscow are also resented and – by some – hated. Social pressures are growing, and without major reform of Russia’s almost nonexistent immigration policies, serious unrest – potentially foreshadowed by the anti-immigrant riot a few weeks ago in Moscow – is almost certainly in the offing.

Immigrant influx

Moscow’s migrants might be spotted on any day toiling at the city’s hundreds of construction sites, markets, warehouses, restaurants, and municipal services. But alone, or in small groups, they tend to be invisible to the Slavic Russian majority – except for the Moscow police, who keep track of them and take advantage of their lack of documentation to extract bribes.

English: THE KREMLIN, MOSCOW. Members of Russi...

English: THE KREMLIN, MOSCOW. Members of Russia’s Security Council met to discuss ways to improve state military development policy. Русский: МОСКВА, КРЕМЛЬ. Рабочее совещание членов Совета Безопасности по вопросам совершенствования государственной политики в области военного строительства. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When they do congregate en masse, such as on Eid, it gives politicians like President Vladimir Putin an opportunity to celebrate Russia’s “multinational, deep, rich spiritual heritage,” and to remind people of the official distinction between Rossyanin, a Russian citizen or resident, and Russky, a person of Slavic Russian ethnicity. But such language is how the Kremlin papers over the growing demographic chasm.

According to Konstantin Romodanovsky, head of the Federal Migration Service, there are about 1.8 million foreigners working legally in Russia, and at least 3 million who are working here illegally, mostly in centers like Moscow. Some experts estimate vastly higher numbers of illegal immigrants.

Driven from their former Soviet Central Asian homelands or Russia’s own insurrection-plagued Northern Caucasus by extreme poverty, unemployment, war, and political oppression, the migrants pass through Russia’s virtually unregulated southeastern borders, striving to reach the relative prosperity of Moscow and a few other bustling centers. Putin-era Moscow, fueled by an oil boom that’s only now petering out, offers plenty of low-end job opportunities that are at least slightly better than those most of these people left behind.

Though the Russian state has made few efforts to integrate the newcomers, protect their human rights, or prepare the local population for the unprecedented influx of outsiders, there’s little doubt that they are needed here.


Written by voiceoftruthusa

October 28, 2013 at 12:11 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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