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Window on Eurasia — New Series: ‘Ethnic Enclaves Becoming a Reality in Russia,’ ‘Nezavisimaya Gazeta’ Says

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 Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 18 – Russian officials and following them Russian scholars have long insisted that there are no ghettoes or “ethnic enclaves” in the cities of the Russian Federation even though the influx of migrants from Central Asia, the Caucasus and parts of the Russian Federation has made their denial increasingly unsustainable.

            (On the history of fights over the use of these terms in Russia over the last decade, see,,,,

            Now, Yekaterina Trifonova of Nezavisimaya gazeta has admitted there is no basis for denying the obvious and openly concedes that “ethnic enclaves are becoming a reality in Russia” ( whether other Russian writers will follow her lead or whether the protectors of Russia’s reputation will attack and silence her.

            She makes this acknowledgement during a discussion of what share of crimes migrants are responsible for, a frequently cited and extremely sensitive figure that politicians across the political spectrum fasten on without always understanding what kinds of crimes are involved, where they take place, and who are the victims.

            Because migrants are concentrated in a few cities and absent in most of the country, the four percent increase in crimes among them now regularly cited by the media is like “the average temperature in a hospital,” Mikhail Burda, an instructor at the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service, says. It doesn’t tell much about conditions in the big cities.

            Nor does this number or others like it speak to the way that crimes by immigrants affect the level of tension in society or the way that it predisposes immigrant workers and their families to live together in order to protect themselves from the anger of others, he continues. And it ignores that many immigrants are illegal and thus producing crime by their mere presence.

            Georgy Fedorov, head of the Aspect Center for Social and Political Research, says this alone causes the migrants to seek out others of their kind and to form “ethnic enclaves” where they can run their lives according to their own rules rather than be subjected by the rules of Russian law enforcement – and that too adds to their reported “criminality.”

            In commenting on the situation, Aleksey Yegorkin, a civic activist, argues that many of the crimes arise from fights among immigrants for territory and status or from clashes with the indigenous ethnic Russian majority. To deal with this, he calls for taking steps to promote “forced assimilation” of certain categories of immigrants.

            If his advice is heeded, that alone will likely lead not only to more conflicts between migrants and the majority population but also to their desire to live separately in ethnic enclaves if they in fact want to remain in the Russian Federation at all.

Window on Eurasia — New Series

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