Thursday, October 17, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Experiencing Its Own ‘Second Generation Immigrant Problem’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 17 – When riots broke out in Paris and other European cities several years ago, sociologists said that lying behind them was what they called “the second generation immigrant problem,” the tendency of the children of the first wave to be simultaneously more attached to their own national cultures and more demanding to their host countries.

            At that time, most Moscow commentators suggested that Russian cities did not have that problem not only because most of the immigrants came from former Soviet republics and thus were partially acculturated already but because few of the immigrants had remained in Russian cities long enough to produce a new generation of adults.

            But now it appears that Moscow at least may be having its own “second generation immigrant problem,” one that is likely to be far worse both because of the weakness of state institutions and because of the lack of a tradition among the predominant Russians of tolerating differences in others.

            According to a post on yesterday, there may now be as many as four million non-Russian and predominantly Muslim gastarbeiters and their families in Moscow city and the surrounding area. Of this number “fewer than half have official registration” (

            These people constitute “Moskovabad, a civilization which territorially corresponds with Moscow but which lives according to different rules, in a different dimension and time,” the blogger says.

            What is new is that “in Moscow already has grown up a second generation of migrants. This consists of young people, most of whom have residence permits.  However, they to a great extent are not integrated into the social life of the capital” but remain ethnically, linguistically and culturally separate.

            Their numbers in turn, the blogger says, are constantly being increased by the arrival of new groups of gastarbeiters, “who fill up the existing enclaves of quasi-Muscovites” and make these communities sufficiently strong that they are “capable of organizing according to their own rues their way of life, business and recreation.”

            According to the blogger, this is “a certain parallel world,” one that is very much apart from that of indigenous Muscovites and which the latter only on certain occasions come into contact with.  But as Moskovabad grows, contacts increase and so do tensions, given the failure of the state to take measures and the increasing radicalism of Muslim leaders and Muslim youth.

            “The process of mixing together of Wahhabism, bureaucracy and business is advancing by seven-league steps, as a result of which are being formed so-called ‘Wahhabi holdings’ which actually lobby for the existence” of Moskovabad and its “’second class’” citizenry on behalf of business and government interests.

            “Of course,” the blogger says, “the problem of Moskovabad must be solved as quickly as possible” even if that requires harsh and unpopular measures. Otherwise, the city and the country will pass “a point of no return.”  And this solution will require visas for those coming from abroad and tight restrictions on migration within the country.

            To begin with, the blogger says, it would not be a bad thing if “the first people of the state” would start talking about these problems rather than acting as if they will all go away on their own.

            There is a major difference, however, between Russia’s “second generation immigrant problem” and Europe’s, according to Aleksandr Mineyev, the Brussels correspondent of “Novaya gazeta,” and it is a difference that does not speak in Russia’s favor now or in the future (

            Europeans are angry about immigration, but they expect their governments to deal with it and express their own concern via the political process and vote for anti-immigrant parties.  But the one thing the Europeans do not do “is rise up” against migrant workers and take things into their own hands.

            As a result, Mineyev continues, “in Europe, there is no problem of ‘Muslim immigration.’”  Rather, “there are several various problems one way or another connected with immigration,” including adaptation. Radical Islamism, illegal immigration, re-unification of families, welfare, crime and wages paid off the book.

            For Europeans and most other, he writes, “migration is the way of life of humanity whether we want it or not.  Labor migration is a normal condition of the contemporary world,” and opposing it is like being “against nature.”  But migration does mean change and for some that is hard to accept.

            “Yes, Europe will be white, black and yellow with an Arab shading” in the future.  For the continent, “this is not the first nor will it be the last mixing of blood.”  However, as far as Russia is concerned, this process, Mineyev suggests with an ellipsis, is likely to be different and far more difficult, at least in the short term.

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