Get our Newsletter
Twitter
Facebook
Youtube
Rss
M.logo en gb

2017-12-08 | Tolerance

Central Asian migrants say they suffer as 'second-class people' in Russia


Workers carry steel mesh during street renovation on August 10 in downtown Moscow. Migrants from Central Asia often work in Moscow as street cleaners and construction workers, Farkhod T., 35, of Namangan, Uzbekistan, told Caravanserai. [Mladen Antonov/AFP]

Workers carry steel mesh during street renovation on August 10 in downtown Moscow. Migrants from Central Asia often work in Moscow as street cleaners and construction workers, Farkhod T., 35, of Namangan, Uzbekistan, told Caravanserai. [Mladen Antonov/AFP]

By Arman Kaliyev

MOSCOW -- Negative stereotypes about Central Asians and anti-migrant attitudes are pervasive in Russia, making an already difficult life more unbearable, migrants say.

These stereotypes and attitudes stem from repeated statements from Russian officials regarding terrorist suspects from Central Asia and negative coverage of migrants in Russian media.

'Second-class people'

According to the Moscow-based Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy and specialists from Russian state agencies, there were 1.92 million Uzbekistani, 1.06 million Tajik, 622,000 Kyrgyz and 522,000 Kazakhstani nationals living in Russia as of June 1.


Makhamadyusuf Mirzaalimov, suspected of involvement in the April 3 Saint Petersburg metro bombing, attends a hearing on his detention at Saint Petersburg's Nevsky district court April 7. [Olga Maltseva/AFP]

Makhamadyusuf Mirzaalimov, suspected of involvement in the April 3 Saint Petersburg metro bombing, attends a hearing on his detention at Saint Petersburg's Nevsky district court April 7. [Olga Maltseva/AFP]

"Migrants from Central Asia do the least prestigious work here -- they clean the streets, build houses and roads, guard various facilities and babysit," Farkhod T., 35, who migrated to Moscow from Namangan, Uzbekistan, told Caravanserai.

Farkhod, who declined to publish his last name for fear of repercussions, came to Moscow five years ago. He first worked at a construction site before becoming a private driver, his current occupation.

Back home in Uzbekistan, he has a wife and four children to whom he sends money every month.

More than anything, Farkhod is afraid of being deported, so he always keeps up with registration requirements in town and does not break the rules that apply to those temporarily residing in Russia.

"The locals think we are second-class people, and it comes out in their everyday attitudes toward us," he said. "'Gooks' or 'monkeys' -- we have to tolerate every possible kind of insult."

Such bigotry is not uncommon. In one published incident earlier this year, Natalya Kushparenko, a journalist from Bishkek, faced discrimination at a Moscow hotel, the Kabar news agency reported.

The hotel refused to book a room for her solely because she is a Kyrgyz citizen, she said in April.

"I responded to the hotel management that I am a Kyrgyz citizen but an ethnic Russian," said Kushparenko. "The employee said, 'But you are not a Russian citizen ... and you live in a country that is hostile to us.'"

'How do I know that you are not a terrorist?'

This year, the discrimination became even worse, Farkhod said.

"One month ago, I was barred from entering a residential housing development in Moscow," he said. "The security guard told me, 'How do I know that you are not a terrorist?' I have been called many things in my lifetime, but that was the first time someone called me a terrorist."

Russians have become more vocal about their opinions on migrants and guest workers after Akbarjon Jalilov, a 22-year-old Russian citizen who was an ethnic Uzbek born in Kyrgyzstan, carried out a suicide attack on April 3 on the Saint Petersburg metro system, killing 14 people.

A few days after the attack, the Investigative Committee of Russia announced that six migrants from the Central Asian region had been arrested in Saint Petersburg. The suspects were accused of recruiting for al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly known as al-Nusra Front) and "Islamic State" (IS).

A month later, the Russian Federal Security Service announced that it had arrested four men -- all natives of Central Asia -- who were involved with IS and complicit in preparing for terrorist attacks in Moscow.

In August, two more alleged IS members were detained, once again from Central Asia, who reportedly were planning terrorist attacks for September 1 in Moscow.

Creating 'an image of the enemy'

This increased focus on the threat of Central Asian terrorist suspects, whether real or exaggerated, creates problems for Central Asian migrants trying to make an honest living in Russia.

Russian media outlets and security officials "shape us into an image of the enemy", Farkhod said.

Nationals from Commonwealth of Independent States countries who came to Russia for job opportunities form the backbone of terrorist groups inside the Russian Federation, Aleksandr Bortnikov, chief of Russia's National Anti-Terrorism Committee, said April 11.

The Central Asian region is the main source of migrant labourers in Russia.

Statements linking Central Asians with IS have strengthened the anti-migrant attitudes held by Russian citizens, according to Farkhod.

"This past summer in a cafe in Moscow, some Russian guys picked on someone I know from Tajikistan and dragged him outside," he said.

The Russians beat up the Tajik, according to Farkhod.

"Nobody tried to help him, not even the establishment's security guards," said Farkhod.

MOSCOW -- Negative stereotypes about Central Asians and anti-migrant attitudes are pervasive in Russia, making an already difficult life more unbearable, migrants say.

These stereotypes and attitudes stem from repeated statements from Russian officials regarding terrorist suspects from Central Asia and negative coverage of migrants in Russian media.

'Second-class people'

According to the Moscow-based Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy and specialists from Russian state agencies, there were 1.92 million Uzbekistani, 1.06 million Tajik, 622,000 Kyrgyz and 522,000 Kazakhstani nationals living in Russia as of June 1.


Makhamadyusuf Mirzaalimov, suspected of involvement in the April 3 Saint Petersburg metro bombing, attends a hearing on his detention at Saint Petersburg's Nevsky district court April 7. [Olga Maltseva/AFP]

Makhamadyusuf Mirzaalimov, suspected of involvement in the April 3 Saint Petersburg metro bombing, attends a hearing on his detention at Saint Petersburg's Nevsky district court April 7. [Olga Maltseva/AFP]

"Migrants from Central Asia do the least prestigious work here -- they clean the streets, build houses and roads, guard various facilities and babysit," Farkhod T., 35, who migrated to Moscow from Namangan, Uzbekistan, told Caravanserai.

Farkhod, who declined to publish his last name for fear of repercussions, came to Moscow five years ago. He first worked at a construction site before becoming a private driver, his current occupation.

Back home in Uzbekistan, he has a wife and four children to whom he sends money every month.

More than anything, Farkhod is afraid of being deported, so he always keeps up with registration requirements in town and does not break the rules that apply to those temporarily residing in Russia.

"The locals think we are second-class people, and it comes out in their everyday attitudes toward us," he said. "'Gooks' or 'monkeys' -- we have to tolerate every possible kind of insult."

Such bigotry is not uncommon. In one published incident earlier this year, Natalya Kushparenko, a journalist from Bishkek, faced discrimination at a Moscow hotel, the Kabar news agency reported.

The hotel refused to book a room for her solely because she is a Kyrgyz citizen, she said in April.

"I responded to the hotel management that I am a Kyrgyz citizen but an ethnic Russian," said Kushparenko. "The employee said, 'But you are not a Russian citizen ... and you live in a country that is hostile to us.'"

'How do I know that you are not a terrorist?'

This year, the discrimination became even worse, Farkhod said.

"One month ago, I was barred from entering a residential housing development in Moscow," he said. "The security guard told me, 'How do I know that you are not a terrorist?' I have been called many things in my lifetime, but that was the first time someone called me a terrorist."

Russians have become more vocal about their opinions on migrants and guest workers after Akbarjon Jalilov, a 22-year-old Russian citizen who was an ethnic Uzbek born in Kyrgyzstan, carried out a suicide attack on April 3 on the Saint Petersburg metro system, killing 14 people.

A few days after the attack, the Investigative Committee of Russia announced that six migrants from the Central Asian region had been arrested in Saint Petersburg. The suspects were accused of recruiting for al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly known as al-Nusra Front) and "Islamic State" (IS).

A month later, the Russian Federal Security Service announced that it had arrested four men -- all natives of Central Asia -- who were involved with IS and complicit in preparing for terrorist attacks in Moscow.

In August, two more alleged IS members were detained, once again from Central Asia, who reportedly were planning terrorist attacks for September 1 in Moscow.

Creating 'an image of the enemy'

This increased focus on the threat of Central Asian terrorist suspects, whether real or exaggerated, creates problems for Central Asian migrants trying to make an honest living in Russia.

Russian media outlets and security officials "shape us into an image of the enemy", Farkhod said.

Nationals from Commonwealth of Independent States countries who came to Russia for job opportunities form the backbone of terrorist groups inside the Russian Federation, Aleksandr Bortnikov, chief of Russia's National Anti-Terrorism Committee, said April 11.

The Central Asian region is the main source of migrant labourers in Russia.

Statements linking Central Asians with IS have strengthened the anti-migrant attitudes held by Russian citizens, according to Farkhod.

"This past summer in a cafe in Moscow, some Russian guys picked on someone I know from Tajikistan and dragged him outside," he said.

The Russians beat up the Tajik, according to Farkhod.

"Nobody tried to help him, not even the establishment's security guards," said Farkhod.

Do you like this article?

Ca mobile no 164

Comments

* Denotes Required Field
Captcha

34 Comments

Asd | 2018-05-18

Migration is problem of government. Russian and Asian. If people had job in their countries they wouldn't go to Russia. Russian government policy is to attract migrants. So if you don't like migrants you should blame russian government and not asian people. They would prefer to stay home with peach trees than to be here in cold and dark country.

Рита | 2018-01-09

We always worked and vacationed in cities around the CIS [NOTE: probably USSR, not CIS], [there was] no need to recruit and invite [people] from Central Asia then. To this day, they are hiring in every city in Russia. You can find rotten people of every nationality.

Ертай | 2018-01-08

Who are they, anyway? I do consider them second-class people.

Махмад | 2018-01-04

That's bad politics. If politicians want PEACE among migrants, it's not far off, but they [politicians] need to improve their standing by saying bad things about migrants. They can't say these kind of things about their compatriots; you can see it on TV, as if they are rooting for their own people. I wish my RUSSIAN brothers, sisters, GRANDPAS, and GRANDMAS good health and good luck. Migrants are not your enemies.

??????? | 2018-01-01

I feel sorry for migrants

Махмад | 2017-12-27

This is not human, and these are not Russians. My GRANDPA always spoke highly of the Russian people.

Абдумумин | 2017-12-26

Folks, I am from Tajikistan. The Russians abroad, especially in the USA, are also considered second-class citizens or, it is safe to say, third-class, but they don't understand that, especially young people. Look at how they are brought up. People who do not act justly, and infidels, will burn in hell. And we by all means should not lose faith in the Lord of All Worlds. Then we will laugh at them! Friends, be patient and don't allow injustice. They think that they have inherited the land for good.

михаил | 2018-01-02

Live in misery in your villages; you poor guys don't have to go to Russia, no one is waiting for you there with open arms!

Казах | 2018-01-08

Mikhail [the author uses "u" instead of "a" in "Mikhail" to make it sound like the Russian word for "dick"], or whatever your name is, you are a freaking Nazi. Asians are better than everyone.

Мадамин | 2017-12-23

The older generation probably remembers how well they were received, respected, and how people shared their last piece of bread with them when they migrated to Central Asia. It took just one Russian to be in a group and then everyone was forced to speak Russian, so as not to offend that Russian person. But now we have a different kind of youth.

Жумавой | 2017-12-22

It is necessary to change people's attitude toward migrants; they do good, and are beneficial for Russia.

ерик | 2017-12-22

Going to Russia for chicken feed? No. [They could] insult [you] by calling [you] chinks or gollywogs. There are other destinations like Korea, Canada, and Singapore where we are needed.

ерик | 2017-12-22

Going to Russia, like gollywogs? Not for anything

Кяфир | 2017-12-20

The attitude towards Christians in Central Asia is no better

Махмад | 2017-12-27

It is a lie, dear.

??? | 2018-01-01

I agree with Makhmad

ИНКО | 2017-12-19

Dear RUSSIANS, remember 1941-1943, when a STARVING UZBEK gave his ration card for some bread to evacuees from RUSSIA

Мурад | 2018-01-02

Inko, our ancestors did a good deed, that was their nature, and I don't think that we need to mention this. Honorable men don't do any favors, and they don't brag about kind deeds they do. They just put their hope in Allah and fear Him. Our ancestors never kept evil in their hearts, although they remembered how the Russians annihilated them mercilessly during both Tsarist times and under the Bolsheviks. We all know that various explosions are perpetrated by the Russians themselves (there is lots of evidence on YouTube and even Zhirinovskiy talked about that), and then either Caucasians or Central Asians get thrown under the bus. I just keep thinking, why would you go [there] to be humiliated? [Would you do that] to make our own ancestors turn in their graves because we have confused patience with a loss of pride? The best option is to bring all our people home and build an iron curtain between us and Russia. And no diplomatic relations at all. Life is a boomerang, but the boomerang returns [to strike down] with double force.

Алексей | 2017-12-19

Salaam to everyone! So, why are you superior people going to Russia, where you are considered second class? This is because people think of you the same way at home, and not just in Russia, but all over the former Soviet Union! So stop whining like little girls, but start working and earning a living.

Верующая | 2017-12-26

We don't consider our men who go earn a living in your country second-class citizens, as you put it; you are not worthy of respect. Every man deserves respect when he wants to work hard and provide for his family. And the fact that some of your people sort out and humiliate human beings is because they are themselves sorted out and humiliated by their life, and Allah will humiliate them even more.

Махмад | 2017-12-17

Those who don't appreciate work of these poor migrants do not support Mother Russia. There are good and bad migrants, and people should know better than to blame migrants for everything. I am sorry, but there are lots of bad people everywhere. I respect Russia, and like Russian cities. May God give PEACE AND PROSPERITY to Russia, and I wish good health to the people with whom we forged a friendship under the former USSR.

Генадий | 2017-12-16

The truth hurts. However, this is not the fault of the Russian people, but our shared misfortune.

Житель Таджикистан | 2018-01-08

There were no conflicts when I studied in Russia in the 70's. We were friends with Russian guys and gals, and treated each other with respect. It is interesting, but when we harvested potatoes in the villages [NOTE: a common Soviet practice of sending students out to the countryside to help peasants and farmers harvest potatoes, vegetables, etc.] the Russian girls among us were quite bashful, and wore headscarves. They were OK with adults telling them 'Shame on you!' [if the girls misbehaved]. In a nutshell, there was friendship, love, respect, and mutual understanding. But what do we have now? Both Russia and Central Asia have to tackle this issue. As the great Russian writer Anton Chekhov wrote: "We must strive to ensure that everyone sees and knows more than his father and grandfather saw and knew."

Виктор | 2017-12-16

This attitude is based on things that people avoid talking about. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, in the 1990s Russian people started to be persecuted in Central Asia. How many Russians were killed because of ethnic genocide is something that they keep quiet about, and the facts are covered up. And now migrants from Central Asia are committing violence against Russian girls. The authorities in Central Asia and Kazakhstan actively pursue anti-Russian policies, and demand that Russia severely punish those whom they consider nationalists, but do not care what happens in their own countries. There are people convicted of these crimes in Russia, but you cannot name at least one person convicted of Russophobia in Asia. There are none, as if everyone is pure and innocent. Anti-Russian policies in Tajikistan forced Russians to flee for good, and those who remained in the country are political and social pariahs. It is easy to go on and on... Don't blame Russians for something you bring upon yourselves. You have driven all the Russians out of your country, and now you insist on being respected in Russia.

Кондрат | 2017-12-24

I disagree with you. I am using 'ti' to address you [the informal form of "you" in Russian, disrespectful if used to address strangers and older people whom someone is not well acquainted with or closely related to] because there are few people like you in Russia. It is a lie that all the Russians were forcefully kicked out. Many Russians live in Tajikistan. I have a Russian-speaking wife, and we have four children. I do respect Russia and its people, and my wife respects all Tajiks. One wrong word from you can shatter lives for a lot of families. Paper doesn't refuse ink. For example, it's not my fault I was born Tajik, or that you were born Russian. Let's respect each other, dear friend, and watch what we say. There are good and bad people of all nationalities. Let's not insult an entire people because of one man. Let's say good things, and answer each other's questions. Sorry if I wrote something wrong.

Махмад | 2017-12-27

Dear Victor, no one ever drove [me] out. Believe me, to get some kind of help my brothers who had gone to Russia said different things - trust me, please. I worked with Russians, both at home and in Moscow, all my life. The first year of work in Moscow was hard, I wanted to quit my job, but when I submitted a resignation letter everyone in the group I worked with stood up and said, "Mamadik, please stay!" They hated me the first year because I was a gollywog for them, but when I had worked with them for 10 years at the Moscow Railway I was the most respected. Sorry, I am making grammar mistakes. I wish you a happy New Year, full of happiness and good health.

Атда | 2017-12-30

Dear Sir, the Russian people have never been persecuted, but it is just that the requirements in Central Asian countries, and in Russia, have changed; it's that simple. It is mandatory to understand and speak the official language of the land you live in. But, as usual, the Russians don't want to learn [languages], and so as a result they blame the government for discrimination against them. I don't get it - why do the Russians always feel mortified, as if they have a sense of entitlement? Look at the whole world - it has always been the case that America and Europe consider you "third-class" people and the Russian language is not in fashion there. If you ask them why they don't learn Russian, they say, "Phooey! We don't need to." And the French elite can't stand the Russians at all, and think you're rednecks. And the attitude of Poles toward you is in a league of its own, and they call you invaders. May you should analyze the situation, and ask yourselves why people have that kind of attitude toward you. Maybe the Russian people themselves need to change first?

Эрик | 2018-01-03

Dear Russians! I am a Kazakh, and my wife is Russian. My son-in-law is Ukrainian) Father-in-law is half-Georgian ) Friend is Tatar ) Daughter-in-law is Ingush ))) Basically, the whole former USSR! And we are a big, close-knit family living here in Kazakhstan! Peace be with you, and may God help you! Come over here, we will be happy to see everyone!

Резидент | 2018-01-08

If Russians are so bad and arrogant, then sit at home and don't come here to earn a living. Go to China, Singapore, or someplace else. Stay away from us, we are the occupants who built schools, kindergartens, and movie theaters for you and have not deserved your kindness.

дауд | 2017-12-16

The Russians have always treated Central Asians with hostility and insulted them. It is their mentality, their true colors. How can they be tolerant if they are mostly godless people and alcoholics? There is only one solution here. We should marry their women so that they have children with slanting eyes, like Asians. They would shut up then.

Резидент | 2018-01-08

[Your] wedding tackle has not grown out yet. [A literal translation of the disparaging Russian expression meaning a person is not up for the task, immature or too weak for something. The closest in English is probably "there's no lead in one's pencil] We will drive out the gollywogs to where you are soon.

Шавкат | 2017-12-13

It's true - it's like that

дуглас | 2018-01-09

If nobody respects you, and you are treated like a terrorist, that means you are stupid yourself. If there are a lot of jobs in your home country, why would you go somewhere else? Normal people are never jobless, they always have something to do. It's better to commit suicide than clean up someone else's dirt. I am telling you, look for work in your country, you'll definitely find it.

Октам | 2017-12-10

Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, and Tajiks will someday stop going to Russia to work there... some people are already flowing into South Korea, UAE, European countries, etc. Meanwhile, [they have to] they have to put up with humiliation because they need to make money... PERSEVERANCE AND PATIENCE WILL WIN OUT