Friday, June 27, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Kyrgyz Migrant Workers in Moscow Very Nationalistic and Don’t Want to Integrate or Remain There, Study Finds

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 27 – Kyrgyz migrant workers now in the Russian capital are very nationalistic in their assessments of themselves and others, have little interest in integrating into Russian society, and want to return to their own country when they can, according to a new study based on in-depth interviews with 350 of them.

            The study, carried about by the Moscow Center for Research on Migration and Ethnicity and reported by four scholars this week at a seminar of the Laboratory for Comparative Social Research, provides one of the most detailed examinations yet of how gastarbeiters from Central Asia think and feel (

            Most of those interviewed at 50 places near capital metro stations were male and aged between 18 and 29, more than half had children, 53 percent spoke Russian fluently, 38 percent spoke it well enough to make themselves understood, but nine percent did not know Russian at all, the researchers said.

            A third of the sample said their wives were with them, and 15 percent said they had minor children living with them.  One in five has Russian citizenship, and the average income of these people is “under 30,000 rubles” (900 US dollars) a month.

            Those who have higher incomes go back to Kyrgyzstan at least once a year, but all of them say they would like to go back more frequently while they are working in Russia. And “not more than three percent” of the sample said they would like to remain in Russia permanently, the survey found.

            The Kyrgyz gastarbeiters in Moscow have remained separate from the surrounding community. More than half – 53.5 percent – said all their regular contacts were ethnic Kyrgyz, and 63.1 percent said they had none with ethnic Russians.  Nearly three out of four preferred to go to Kyrgyz cafes or other places where they would be with people like themselves. 

            According to the results of the survey, he respondents were overwhelmingly proud of being Kyrgyz (98 percent), said they “loved all Kyrgyz” (89 percent), considered being Kyrgyz important (96 percent), and said they would prefer to live with Kyrgyz (69 percent), although most (70 percent) did not exclude the possibility of being friends with non-Kyrgyz.

            On the sensitive issue of ethnic intermarriage, however, three out of four – 76 percent – said they would not give their daughters in marriage to people of another nationality. Almost the same figure –75 percent – said they did not even like to see Kyrgyz women have anything to do with such people.

            Such attitudes, the researchers said, correlate with the disposition of Kyrgyz residents of Moscow to shut themselves off to the broader community.  “The higher the level of nationalism,” they conclude, “the more probable that the migrant will be involved in a regional or familial cluster or in a ‘Kyrgyztown.’”

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