Thursday, January 17, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Oblast Begins Using Sociological Surveys to Identify, Ward Off Ethnic Problems

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 17 – In conformity with Russia’s new nationality doctrine and President Vladimir Putin’s subsequent suggestions that regional leaders bear responsibility for ethnic relations and must prevent the rise of ethnic enclaves, the government of Moscow Oblast has begun using sociological surveys to try to identify in advance potential hotspots.

            According to a report in today’s “Izvestiya,” “officials [there] will conduct regular sociological surveys in order to measure the attitudes of the indigenous population toward labor mmigrants from abroad and those who have come from other regions” of the Russian Federation (

            Mikhail Solomentsev, the deputy head of the internal policy administration of the oblast, told the paper that as a result, “we will know in advance where a conflict situation is possible” and that “if these results show a large percentage of negative attitudes among the local population toward a definite nationality or toward gastarbeiters, then this will be a signal” for us to bring in Federal Migration Service (FMS) officials and representatives of the diasporas.

            According to Solomentsev, he and his subordinates have “already” taken note of “several dangerous places, but he did not name them in order to avoid exacerbating the situation,” the Moscow paper said. His immediate superior, Andrey Ilnitsky, said that with this kind of information, officials could not claim that they do not know what is going on.

            One possible problem location, the paper said, is in Losino-Petrovsky where “almost one third of the population consists of people from the outside who live on one territory and in essence form a national enclave.”  But despite repeated requests that the authorities do something about it, the problem has not been “resolved.”

            Attached to the Moscow oblast governor’s office is a coordinating council for nationality affairs, the paper reported, and Andrey Vorobyev who is currently acting as governor, told “Izvestiya” that his region does have problems with immigrants including with places where they form separate neighborhoods.

            “We have a large number of territories,” he said, “where unfortunately the life of immigrants in general is not regulated in any way. This very much disturbs us, and residents at each meeting demand that the imposition of order. There where enclaves already exist, thre must be limitations and rules, but often there are no rules.”

            The immigrants behave badly and “all this is incorrect,” the acting governor said. “We know about the problems and we will solve them according to the law.”

            According to the paper, the Moscow Oblast government has asked Aleksandr Bosykh, a member of the presidium of the Rodina Party, to help develop means to “prevent inter-ethnic conflicts.”  Bosykh for his part says that the situation in the Moscow region is “complicated” and needs a better system to work things out than the one provided so far by the FMS.

            But not everyone agrees with his assessment. Karomat Sharipov, the president of the Tajik Working Migrant Movement, says that there are about 200,000Tajiks there, that they work in construction and move on when construction projects are finished, and an FSM official adds that “one should not say that there are enclaves” in the Moscow Oblast today.

            As the Moscow newspaper notes, “in recent years, the theme of inter-ethnic relations has ceased to be problematic or forbidden for the authorities. President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev frequently talk about the problem. Various proposals have been made about the resolution of the problem, but there are still no real results.”

            And the paper itself a day earlier explained why sociological surveys may not work either.  The FMS has stepped up its deportation program, and thus many immigrant workers from abroad may be reluctant to talk to the authorities about anything lest that lead to their being sent home (

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