Saturday, December 21, 2019

Online Social Networks Help Immigrants to Russia but Also Seek to Exploit Them, Sociologist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 19 – Immigrants to Russia from CIS countries often turn to online portals because they lack information and contacts needed to adapt, Dmitry Timoshkin says. Many of these sites help and promote solidarity among migrants but others seek to exploit immigrants or draw them into one or another part of the shadow economy.

            These sites are thus a two-edged sword. On the one hand, they promote solidarity among ethnic and regional communities; but on the other, they breed suspiciousness about Russian society and even about other immigrants, given that some of them are involved in the for-profit sites or even criminal activity.

            Timoshkin, a sociologist at the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service, reports on 40 of these sites in “Trust versus Disorientation: The Economics of Russian-Speaking ‘Migrant’ Groups in Social Networks” (in Russian), Ekonomicheskaya Sotsiologiya 20: 5 (November 2019), pp. 53-73 ( A summary is available at

            Some of the sites are cooperative and help people without charge by exchanging information; others are about offering services for a charge and clearly are intended to make money, but most, Timoshkin says, combine elements of the two.  The first and to a certain extent the third have high levels of participation; the second much less so.

            Among the sites offering services for a price, there are many legitimate ones; but unfortunately, there are many that make “absurd” promises about what they can do if someone sends them money or seek to recruit immigrants for escort services or work in drug trafficking. Other sites frequently point this out, but the shadow falls on all of them for many immigrants.

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