Tuesday, September 21, 2021

'Flood' of Central Asian Migrant Workers into Moscow Oblast Sparks Violence

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 19 – In Buzhaninovo, a settlement of 1700 people in Moscow Oblast, 1,000 people came out to protest after a Central Asian was accused of murdering a 65-year-old female pensioner. The case went viral, first in the local press, then in the all-Russian and finally online, an indication of how explosive such clashes risk becoming.

            Four days ago, following reports that a Central Asian migrant worker had committed the murder, people went into the streets to protest the failure of officials to regulate the influx of immigrants and to control the behavior of that group which in Buzhaninovo forms 10 percent of the population (ritmeurasia.org/news--2021-09-19--antimigrantskie-vystuplenija-v-podmoskove-prichiny-i-sledstvija-56497).

            The local media reported that a Tajik man had raped and then murdered the Russian pensioner (altgazeta.ru/news/12576-ubili-i-iznasilovali-starushku-v-buzhaninovo), a story that was picked up by the local press which denounced officials for allowing the settlement to become “an aul” (kopeika.org/proishestviya/troe-migrantov-iznasilovali-i-ubili-65-letnyuyu-zhenshchinu).

            The central Russian media then followed suit (e.g., kommersant.ru/doc/4985977), and VKontakte posted a story which in the space of a day attracted 143,000 views and led to 1,000 commentaries (vk.com/videos23550172?z=video23550172_456243378%2Fpl_23550172_-2). That means more than 80 times as many people as there are residents of the settlement read it.

            The story acquired legs when it was reported that every eighth to tenth migrant worker arriving in the Russian Federation this year is working in Moscow Oblast and that while migrant workers form only one in 26 workers in Russia as a whole, in Moscow oblast, the figure is one in 12.7.

            This has led, commentators say, to “a clear violation of the ethnographic balance in favor of the people from Central Asia” and that in turn has mean that “there is no effective control of the situation by the police.” To prevent this conflict from exploding, the authorities evacuated all migrant workers from the settlement.

            That “extinguished” the local conflict, but it does nothing to eliminate the problem. Russians are furious that so many immigrants are being allowed to enter the country and settle precisely in their neighborhoods. And they fear that even more will be coming given that officials in Moscow say the city is suffering from a shortage of 200,000 migrant workers.

            If anything like that number arrives on the charter flights from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan that some Russian companies are organizing, more clashes are likely however hard the authorities try to restrict coverage of them.

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