Staunton, July 13 – One of the moments when the disintegration of the Soviet Union had clearly reached a point beyond the capacity of the Kremlin to stop was when members of various nationalities, exploiting an opportunity created by Gorbachev’s glasnost, began to specify on the then-new personals columns in Soviet papers the nationality of those they wanted to meet.
Now, a generation later, a Muslim businessman has created the first site and mobile app for Muslims in Russia who only want to meet other Muslims, a development “Izvestiya” reports on today that has already led one ethnic Russian to ask in replay: Why should such sites exist “only for Muslims?” (izvestia.ru/news/588628).
Seeking to downplay this development by making it an exoticism, the Moscow paper suggests the new site is only for immigrants and for those who want a second or even third wife, something Russians overwhelmingly oppose. But that portrayal almost certainly misses the real importance of such a site.
The service, Mydiaspora.mobi, was set up by Arsen Kazibekov, who secured 150,000 US dollars from two Tatarstan businessmen to get started. That amount will allow him to operate for five months and test whether his business model which is directed primarily but not exclusively at Muslim gastarbeiters will work or not, he told “Izvestiya.”
According to Kazibekov, 10,000 people have registered on the site, of whom 1500 have filled out the detailed questionnaires required for being matched with someone else and indicated a willingness to spend ten US dollars monthly. The majority of those, he says, are Daghestanis, Armenians, Chechens and Tatars; and the numbers of men and women are roughly equal.
Vartan Mushegyan, an Armenian who heads the Russian Council of Diasporas, is opposed to the appearance of “a specialized ‘eastern’ acquaintance service.” He says that “the peoples of the Caucasus, Trans-Caucasus and Central Asia don’t trust virtual forms of community” at least when it comes to choosing a spouse.
But Nikolas Koro, a member of the Guild of Marketing Specialists, told the paper that social networks by their nature are focused on a narrow audience. “Services for representatives of particular confessions are a sensible marketing decision,” adding that “the activities of Muslims in Russia is growing” which makes them “ever more interesting” for marketers.