Thursday, September 8, 2016

Russians Increasingly View Ukrainian Refugees as ‘Freeloaders’, Sociologists Find

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 8 – Since 2013, Russians have become less hostile to Central Asians and people from the Caucasus whom they view as culturally different; but at the same time, they have become more hostile to refugees from Ukraine, not because of cultural distinctiveness, but because Russians believe they are “freeloading” on Russian society.

            That shift is documented by recent survey research conducted by the Moscow Institute of Sociology ( and and summarize today on the Tolkovatel portal (россияне-видят-в-беженцах-с-донбасса-н/).

                The two sociologists, Leokadiya Drobizheva and Vladimir Mukomel, point out that Russia is going to have to rely on immigrants for some time, less to maintain the overall population than to cope with a projected decline of some five million people in the prime working age cohorts between now and 2030.

            Consequently, they say, the decline in hostility toward those from culturally distinct areas is welcome. But that decline has been matched by a growth in hostility to Ukrainian refugees who, their surveys show, are viewed by an increasing number of Russians as “freeloaders” who expect to be taken care of and are taking jobs and housing from Russians.

            As summarized by Tolkovatel, the two experts found, “the new trend in the attitudes of Russians toward migrants” is increasing hostility to “refugees from the Donbass.”  What is “interesting” is that the surveys find that Russians view these Ukrainians as Ukrainians “and not as Russians,” despite Moscow media claims.

            If Russians are hostile to immigrants who are culturally distinct for their perceived failure to fit in to Russian life, they are hostile to Ukrainians for another reason: Russians assume that these Ukrainians are “freeloaders” who are taking jobs and apartments away from Russians and who thus should be sent home.

            Ukraniian refugees, the two sociologists say, are blamed for “taking our places,” according to one Russian in Rostov and keeping Russians from getting better jobs and apartments, according to another from the same city.

            The refugees feel this antagonism and they also have another complaint:  One in Belgorod said that he had been pressured to donate money to someone from Donets presumably to continue the fight against Kyiv.  According to the Ukrainian refugee, the man from Donetsk dismissed his claims of poverty by saying “But Vladimir Putin promised us?”

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