Monday, February 18, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Will a ‘Little Tajikistan’ Soon Rise in Perm Kray?

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 18 – In an odd twist to reports that Sverdlovsk officials may build what some are calling “ghettos for gastarbeiters,” Tajik workers in Perm Kray are seeking official permission to build their own ethnically pure neighborhoods or even entire towns there, an effort that at least one Russian contractor is supporting.

            But both local activists and the region’s mufti have denounced this idea, arguing that it will both attractive negative comment from other parts of the Russian Federation, none of which have allowed such things, or – and this might entail even worse consequences – lead other ethnic communities there to demand the same thing for themselves.

             The local news outlet,, reported last week that representatives of the Tajik diaspora reportedly have called for the construction of an ethnically pure district either in Perm or in the Saostrovka region adjoining the kray capital, but journalists quickly discovered that the story is more complicated and more explosive than that (

            The Tajik gastarbeiters, the news outlet said, want to build “a real ‘Tajik’ quarter where there will be several residences whose apartments would be sold exclusively to Tajiks,” thus allowing them to form their own ethnic neighborhood, according to  Dzhonibek Dzhonov, the director of the EuroPlus Company which specializes in services for Muslim immigrant workers.

                His firm has already selected land for the construction of “a new quarter for the Tajik diaspora” in the village of Kultayevo.  Roman Yushkov, a local activist, told the news service that several locations were now being considered which would become the “concentrated” ethnic neighborhoods.

            Dzhonov said that the SIM company had already agreed to build this ethnic housing, but an official of that firm said this was not the case. He said “we have never been involved in doing anything like that, and we will not be involved” in such things in the future.

            Given the controversy, Dzhonov initially said he had nothing to do with it, “but after several hours of conversation with correspondents of, he finally admitted that it was his idea.” After that, he began to provide details. “It is possible,” Yushkov noted, that Dzhonov doesn’t understand “just how scandalous” this idea is.

            But it is also possible, he acknowledged that “the Tajiks are afraid that if this idea is subject to coverage in the media, the authorities will prevent them from realizing their plans,” he continued.

            In fact, said, “the idea of building ‘a little Tajikistan’ in Perm is hardly new.”  Five years ago, the Tajiks tried to get approval for it but failed, although the authorities did suggest that the gastarbeiters could move into one or another of the Russian villages that have recently been abandoned, something the Central Asians refused to do.
            And Yushkov added another reason why the Tajik gastarbeiters may face an uphill fight: Many are concerned that “the representatives of the Tajik diaspora intend to put down roots in Perm,” something that would mean that they would never  be likely to leave and that their numbers there would only increase.

But the sharpest criticism of this proposal came from the local mufti, Mukhammedgali-khazrat Khuzin, who said he was completely against the idea (; spread across the RUnet by

“We know quite well what such a place of ethnic settlement would become. China Towns, Harlem, and the Cairo cemetery where several million people live, a place where there is a way in but no way out.” Residents of such places are subject to mistreatment and “remain in that status for years. In Russia, a multi-national country, such reservations are absolutely unacceptable,” the mufti said.
According to Khuzin, “if the Tajiks build their national settlement, then other diasporas will say: ‘Give us the Industrial District of Perm to the Uzbeks and the Lenin District to the Uzbeks.”  Russia needs “another way out [of its problems with immigration], but not by the path of creating [such] reservations.”

“If we accept labor migrants, they must not be put in the status of slaves or live in basements or railcards where dozens of people are forced to somehow maintain themselves.” That will only lead to social explosions.  What Russia needs, he suggested, are special centers like the ones in Latvia to screen and train immigrant workers

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