Staunton, Dec. 9 – Moscow metro officials put up direction signs in Tajik and Uzbek at two stations where buses from districts where many migrant workers live converge. That has eased congestion at those stations by 50 percent, but the appearance of such signs has infuriated some Russians.
According to the Nazaccent portal, the erection of these signs has “significantly improved the quality of the work of the stations. Thanks to them, lines at ticket offices have shortened by 40 percent” because “there have been fewer requests by foreigners for information” (nazaccent.ru/content/37336-poyavlenie-v-metro-tablichek-na-tadzhikskom-i-uzbekskom-razgruzilo-vestibyuli-na-50.html).
But the portal also reports that many ethnic Russians are upset about the signs nonetheless and want them removed (nazaccent.ru/content/37317-glava-spch-poprosil-sobyanina-razobratsya-s-vyveskami-v-metro-na-uzbekskom-i-tadzhikskom.html and nazaccent.ru/content/37002-smi-v-moskovskom-metro-snyali-centralnyj.html).
Three things about this superficially small event make it important. First, it calls attention to the fact that migrant workers from Central Asia live in concentrated areas. Otherwise they would not be converging in this way. And that suggests those areas are on the way to becoming ghettos, something the Russian authorities have long denied.
Second, there are many small things the authorities can do to make things easier for themselves, for the immigrant populations, and for Russian residents as well. Adding signs in additional languages is a small thing. Despite the complaints of some, no Russian language signs have been taken down or covered over.
And third, despite this, the symbolism of the multi-national nature of the population of Moscow is something apparently so disturbing to some Russians that they object to doing even something that benefits themselves because it also benefits the Central Asians working among them.