Monday, August 20, 2018

Emerging Ethnic Enclaves in Moscow Seen as Threat to Russian Political System

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 20 – The emergence of ethnic enclaves in Moscow and other major cities is worrying some Russian analysts and officials not only because it shows that the migrant communities don’t intend to integrate into Russian society but also because these enclaves or ghettoes may contain militants who will threaten stability in the country.

            Igor Beloborodov of the Presidential Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISI), says he is especially worried since the Kyrgyz diaspora in the capital is increasingly ghettoizing and elaborating institutions, such as boxing clubs, in which there may be weapons and links to ISIS and other radical groups (

            “Many say,” he continues, “that Moscow is not threatened by the appearance of ethnic quarters or ghettos … but in fact, world practice shows that ghettoes arisen in any major city … and we already have something like this.” They may not be as closed as some elsewhere but they have an entire social and economic pyramid within them and control large parts of the economy.

            Kyrgyz gastarbeiters who have come to Moscow are outnumbered by Uzbeks and Tajiks, but in contrast to the latter, they have formed much tighter communities whose members can get almost all the services they need from other Kyrgyz who speak their language and share their culture. As a result, they are far less inclined to speak Russian or integrate.

            Meanwhile, in an article for the influential Voyenno-Promyshlenny kuryer, Grigory Nikonorov and Igor Rodionov express an even bleaker view. They say that “migrants are preparing for battles in the streets of Russian megalopolises” and could threaten public order in these cities (

            An analysis of military actions in this century, the two say, “show that megalopolises are ever more often the arenas of armed conflict. Battles in city neighborhoods give unique opportunities to the weaker side to gain equality” with their opponents who have more weapons but can’t easily use them against such insurgents.

            Not only is it harder for states to fight on the streets of their own cities, the military experts suggest; but governments are reluctant to use the force they have to suppress urban risings in many cases lest they alienate potential allies. And they argue that the new force in this situation is often formed by immigrant workers.

            If economic conditions decay, these workers in many cases turn to crime rather than return to their homelands, Nikonorov and Rodionov say.  And that union of ethnicity and crime often make such communities more powerful than would otherwise be the case, as was true in Odessa in 1944.

            Russia today faces a serious problem. According to Russian officials, there are approximately 20 million migrant workers in the country, legal and illegal; about 70 percent of them are followers of Islam.  Officials don’t have tight control over them, and as a result, they are increasingly acting outside of the Russian legal field.

            Some argue, the two say, that migrants still form a relatively small share of Russia’s population, less than 20 percent. But that is the wrong way to view the situation, they suggest. Of residents of the country between the ages of 18 and 34, almost a third are immigrants. Moreover, while Russians are spread throughout the country, migrants are concentrated in major cities.

            As a result, the two military specialists argue, Russia’s “urban infrastructure could be at some point violated or taken under control” by the migrants.  Because of the language barrier, the closed nature of ethnic groups, and their involvement with crime, the authorities face a far greater challenge than most now assume.

            Access to information networks, the two say, “make sabotage or an uprising completely possible” in Russia; and consequently, the authorities need to develop specific measures to counteract these dangers. “The migrant factor must be included both in the defense strategy of the country and in the development of military tactics in urban agglomerations in particular.”

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