Thursday, February 25, 2021

Kremlin Edges toward Admitting Russian Cities have Ghettos and that They’re a Security Problem

Paul Goble

Staunton, February 24 – Soviet propagandists took great pride in asserting that, unlike in Western countries, no ghettos or even slums existed in the cities of the USSR, although they rarely mentioned that this was the result of the propiska system which allowed officials to determine where people would live.

            When that system was banned and largely collapsed after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian cities experienced the rise of both slums and ghettos because in most places, how much money people had and where they wanted to live has played a larger role than officials in determining the residential patterns of members of various groups.

            Not surprisingly, ordinary Russians, commentators and sociologists called attention to the development first of slums, where the poorest Russian urban residents were concentrated, and then of ghettos, where members of particular ethnic and religious groups choose or are forced to live together.

            (For background on that popular and academic recognition of this change, see,,, and

            But Russian propagandists and most Russian officials continue to deny the reality of ghettos, although many have had to admit that there are slums, given rising levels of poverty over the last decade. But all this may now be about to change, with the Kremlin acknowledging there are ghettos in Russian cities and that these represent a national security threat.

            Last week, Dmitry Medvedev, former Russian president and current deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, said that in many Russian cities, “enclaves of migrants” of different ethnic and religious background than the predominant population are taking shape (

            He called for the development of new laws and greater attention by officials to this situation because, in Medvedev’s words, “such enclaves intensify the isolation of migrants and not infrequently increase conditions which lead to the rise in crime.” Medvedev spoke only about migrants, but he did not distinguish between those from abroad and those from elsewhere in Russia.

            He thus becomes the highest Russian official to go even as far as this in acknowledging both that ghettos now exist in Russian cities and that they constitute a security problem given that the same conditions that give rise to criminal activity often lead to ethnic and religious extremism which in Russia is invariably criminalized. 

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