Sunday, August 14, 2016

Gastarbeiters have Become ‘Moscow’s New Working Class,’ Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 14 – Migrant laborers from Central Asia and the Caucasus are “the new working class” of the Russian capital and make an enormous contribution both to the economy and government even if they offend many Russians, who aren’t prepared to do the jobs they do, because of their contrasting national styles.

            That is just one of the conclusions, Russian experts on migration offered in the course of a discussion organized by the Rosbalt news agency about the status of migrants in Russia during the current crisis, a discussion that highlights just how difficult it now is to know what is going on in that sector (

                Vladimir Mukomel of the Moscow Institute of Sociology says that despite scare headlines in the media, migrant workers from former Soviet republics did not desert Russia en masse when the ruble collapse. Instead, their national composition changed, with Ukrainians replacing Uzbeks and Tajiks – although statistics are not reliable given administrative changes.

            Other experts like Valentin Chupik of the TONG JAHONI migrant NGO say that officials are undercounting the number of gastarbeiters by 15 to 20 percent and that that figure may be increasing given that employers don’t want to pay the higher fees for registration that the government now requires.

            And Yuliy Florinskaya, an expert at the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service, says that the real reason that the number of gastarbeiters has not fallen by a greater amount is that although the situation in Russia has become less favorable, it is still more favorable than many of the migrants would face if they return home.

            Those factors, along with the unwillingness of many Russians to take the jobs that migrants had been performing, have kept the number of gastarbeiters in Russia relatively higher than might have been expected and points to the fact that such people from abroad have become Moscow’s working class.

            That is likely to remain the case for some time, the experts agree, regardless of what the authorities do and regardless of what happens in the economy of the Russian Federation in general and of Moscow in particular.

            What these experts did not discuss is the fact that where ethnicity and class coincide, each intensifies the feelings of the other and thus helps to create a situation where clashes are more likely and any resolution of those clashes less so. If that is the result of the replacement of Russians by foreigners in the Moscow workplace, there is going to be more trouble ahead.

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