Sergey Abashin: Reading about Migrant Workers

Central Asian migrant workers queueing to obtain work “patents” at the Russian Interior Ministry’s migrant workers processing center on Red Textile Worker Street in central Petersburg, March 10, 2017. Photo by TRR

Sergey Abashin
Facebook
March 19, 2017

Very few people are interested in reading about migrant workers in Russia. True, many people readily believe the myths and repeat them, but they don’t want to get to the bottom of things, even if you hand them the data on a silver platter. This apathetic attitude to figures and facts is also typical of how migration is regarded.

I wrote yesterday [see below] about the trends in the numbers of migrant workers from the Central Asian countries in Russia for 2014–2016. Let me remind you that the number of Kyrgyz nationals first fell and then began to grow, exceeding the previous highs by 10%. The figure is now about 0.6 million people. (I am rounding up). The number of Tajik nationals has decreased by 15–25% and has been at the same level, about 0.9 million people, for over a year, while the number of Uzbek nationals has decreased by 30–40%, to 1.5 million people.

Now let us look at the data on remittances, all the more since the Central Bank of Russia has published the final figures for 2016. In 2016, private remittances from Russia to Kyrgyzstan amounted to slightly more than $1.7 billion, which is 17% less than during the peak year of 2013, but 26% more than in 2015. Meaning that, along with an increase in the number of migrants, the amount of remittances has grown quickly as well, even at a faster pace. Remittances to Tajikistan amounted to slightly more than $1.9 billion in 2016, which is 54% less than the peak year of 2013. The amounts have been continuing to fall, although this drop has slowed as the number of migrant workers has stabilized. Remittances to Uzbekistan were slightly more than $2.7 billion in 2016, which is 59% less than in the peak year of 2013. Meaning the largest drop in the number of migrants has led to the largest drop in remittances.

*****

Sergey Abashin
Facebook
March 18, 2017

Data on the number of foreign nationals living and working in Russia has not been made public since April 2016, when the Federal Migration Service was disbanded. But this does not mean there is no such data. The figures exist, and they become available from time to time. For example, an article published in RBC [on March 16, 2017] supplies some data as of February 1, 2017. What follows from the figures?

The number of Kyrgyz nationals has increased since February 2016 by 5.6%, and since February 2015 by 8.9%, and amounts to 593,760 people.

The number of Tajik nationals increased by 0.7% over the past year, and by 13.3% over two years, and amounts to 866,679 people.

The number of Uzbek nationals has decreased over the past year by 15.2%, and by 31.7% over two years, and now amounts to 1,513,694 people.

So we see three different trends. After Kyrgyzstan joined the Eurasian Economic Community [now, the Eurasian Economic Union], the number of its nationals in Russia has continued to grown. After a decline of 15–20%, the number of Tajik nationals has stabilized, while the number of Uzbek nationals has fallen by 30–40%.

There are slightly less than a total of 3 million people from Central Asia living and working in Russia. (I did not take Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan into account. If I had, the figure would have come to about 3.6 million people.)

Sergey Abashin, who teaches at the European University in St. Petersburg, has been a frequent contributor to this website. Translation and photo by the Russian Reader.

Whataboutism as State Policy

Portrait of Omar Kipar, a Nogai man, circa 1900. Courtesy of Wikipedia and the Russian Museum of Ethnography

Sergey Abashin
Facebook
October 1, 2016

The Russian authorities do not like remembering and commemorating events that darken and cast doubt on the beatific picture of the country’s past, meaning conquests, mass murders, deportations, and so on. Not only the authorities but also many people who consider themselves intellectuals, thoughtful and knowledgeable people, avert their eyes and turn up their nose when they are reminded of such events. Why stir up problems? they say.

Another argument is that “there” (which usually means “the west”) things were much worse or no better at any rate. That is right, both the fact that memory has often been used to fuel conflict and political rivalry, and that things were no better “there.” But does this mean we should forget history, forget its difficult and controversial chapters, engage in censorship or self-censorship? Would that really help us solve our current problems in the here and now? Would such a simple trick help us feel that we and our history are “righter” than other countries and their histories?

On October 1, 1783, Suvorov defeated rebellious Nogai troops who had refused to abide by the decision to resettle them and their families from the Black Sea region to the Urals. Many of the Nogais who were not killed in battle or hunted down and killed were forced to scatter across the steppes and mountains, to escape to the Ottoman Empire. Thus, one of the most powerful nomadic powers to exist in what is now Russia perished.

Translated by the Russian Reader. A translation of Sergey Abashin’s essay “Movements and Migrants in Central Asia” was published on this blog in July 2015.

La vie de l’esprit en Russie

eviter-avec-les-russes

Sergey Abashin
Facebook
March 27, 2016

A really well-known Russian scholar receives a monthly salary of eighteen thousand rubles ($270) at an academic institute. It goes without saying that he is able to earn money on the side in different ways. The only question is the meaning of such salaries. What do they signify? What does the state say to the scholar by paying him a salary like this?

Translated by the Russian Reader. Photograph courtesy of New Point de View

Two Years Later

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“Miss Koktebel recommends avoiding UV rays by wearing a hat, since you don’t have any other clothing.”

Sergey Abashin
Facebook
March 16, 2016

Now, two years later, it is clear the annexation of Crimea has had only negative consequences for Russia. Crimea set off a chain reaction that gave rise to the war in eastern Ukraine (which would never had happened if not for the annexation) and, later, the military action in Syria, leaving thousands of people killed and producing hundred of thousands of refugees. Ukraine, Russia’s closest neighbor, has been made an enemy for years to come. Nobody in the world has publicly supported the annexation. In fact, most countries in the world have condemned it. Russia has been excluded from a number of international organizations and clubs, where its voice is no longer taken into account, meaning a huge blow has been dealt to the country’s image and its international status. The sanctions have greatly exacerbated the economic crisis, which has hit the quality of life in Russia hard. The number of poor people has increased, investments have decreased, and future prospects have worsened. The annexation has opened the way for the rise of hysteria and aggression and a political clampdown at home. This has had a devastating effect on culture, human relations, and human rights, and has generated all the conditions for Russia’s political self-destruction. The negative consequences are so numerous that it will be difficult to turn the situation in a positive direction. If the annexation continues, however, these negative effects will continue to grow. In terms of Russia’s interests, it was definitely a rash, mistaken, and criminal move.

Translated by the Russian Reader

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A man with a Russian flag greets armed men in military fatigues blocking access to a Ukrainian border guards base not far from the village of Perevalne near Simferopol on March 3, 2014. Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images

EU urges more countries to impose sanctions on Russia over Crimea
Robin Emmott and Dmitry Solovyov
Reuters
March 18, 2016

BRUSSELS/MOSCOW (Reuters) – The European Union called on Friday for more countries to impose sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula two years ago, but the Kremlin said Crimea was Russian land and its status non-negotiable.

In a statement issued on the anniversary of the formal absorption of Crimea into Russia, the 28-nation EU said it was very worried about Moscow’s military build-up in the region.

The EU also said it would maintain sanctions that ban European companies from investing in Russian Black Sea oil and gas exploration.

“The European Union remains committed to fully implementing its non-recognition policy, including through restrictive measures,” the European Council, which represents EU governments, said in its statement. “The EU calls again on U.N. member states to consider similar non-recognition measures.”

The Kremlin responded by saying the issue of Crimea could not be “a matter of negotiations or international contacts”.

“Our position is known: this is a region of the Russian Federation. Russia has not discussed and will never discuss its regions with anyone,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a teleconference with reporters.

“In this case we should treat with respect the expression of the will of Crimean residents and the decision which was taken two years ago,” he said.

Peskov was referring to Crimea’s referendum on secession from Ukraine in March 2014, which was followed by a formal request from the local parliament to the Russian Federation to admit it as a new subject with the status of a republic.

On Friday Putin will visit the construction site of a bridge being built to Crimea across the Kerch Strait to connect the Russian mainland with the peninsula, Peskov added.

NATO and the EU are concerned by Russia’s military build-up in Crimea, which they say is part of a strategy to set up defensive zones of influence with surface-to-air missile batteries and anti-ship missiles.

As well as the EU, the United States, Japan and other major economies including Australia and Canada have also imposed sanctions on Russia over Crimea, but others including China and Brazil have avoided direct criticism of Moscow.

The 28-nation EU imposed its Crimea sanctions in July 2014 and then tightened them in December 2014, banning EU citizens from buying or financing companies in Crimea, whose annexation has prompted the worst East-West stand-off since the Cold War.

After Russia’s annexation of Crimea, an armed separatist revolt erupted in mainly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine that Kiev and its Western backers said was fueled and funded by Moscow. Russia denies the charges.

Images, above, courtesy of the Daily Mail and Al Jazeera America 

Captives of the Caucasus?

"Captives of the Caucasus: #Kadyrov Is a Russian Patriot." A mash-up by Anatoly Veitsenfeld of a famous scene from the beloved Soviet comedy  film Kidnapping, Caucasian Style (Leonid Gaidai, 1967) and the recent social media campaign by pro-Kremlin celebrities, photographed holding pieces of paper with this message printed on it. Thanks to Comrade EM for the heads-up
“Captives of the Caucasus: #Kadyrov Is a Russian Patriot.” A mash-up by Anatoly Veitsenfeld of a famous scene from the beloved Soviet comedy Kidnapping, Caucasian Style (Leonid Gaidai, 1967) and the recent social media campaign by pro-Kremlin celebrities, who have been photographed holding pieces of paper with this message printed on it. Thanks to Comrade EM for the heads-up.

Sergey Abashin
Facebook
January 22, 2016

Everyone has been getting drawn into the virtual fight with Kadyrov. I, too, have been outraged by what has been said and done in Chechnya. But I am afraid of certain hasty generalizations that have already begun to take shape amongst the “opposition” (by which I also mean a certain detachment from the authorities, not necessarily confrontation with them).

First, it is shortsighted to turn the fight against the, so to speak, Kadyrovshchina into a fight with the Chechens. This is the principle of collective guilt all over again. We are falling into the same trap without solving the problems but only aggravating them. Kadyrov does not represent all Chechens. There are many people opposed to him, both moderate liberals and more aggressive radicals. The majority of people simply live their local lives and keep their mouths shut. They are occasionally dragged off to pro-Kadyrov rallies and forced to hold placards and shout slogans, but that does not mean they are ardent Kadyrov supporters. We just need to keep this in mind.

Second, the current regime in Chechnya is not something “Islamic,” “Caucasian,” “Asian,” and so forth, epithets that many liberals have been quick to pin on it, thus reproducing the white man’s colonial language. The Kadyrovshchina is a projection of the regime in the Kremlin. The Kremlin created it, the Kremlin has financed it, the Kremlin controls it, and one of the reasons it has done this has been to divert attention from itself. The current Putin regime and the Kadyrov regime, as part of the former, are not some kind of “Asian backwardness.” They are the peculiar system that emerged in the wake of Soviet modernization, with all its illusions, unfulfilled projects, traumas, and its incapacity for recycling this legacy in the post-Soviet period. As a consequence, we see a strange modern archaism or peripheralization.

Third, jettisoning Chechnya and punishing the Chechens can hardly solve the problem. Where we would jettison them? How would we punish them? We need to change the regime in the Kremlin, to establish a whole new regime in Russia, to create new development programs or programs for overcoming peripheralization, and as part of these programs think about how the former borderlands, colonies, and Third World can be included in this development, rather than building a wall they will beat against until they smash it.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Crumbling Down

Some people ain’t no damn good
You can’t trust ’em, you can’t love ’em
No good deed goes unpunished
And I don’t mind being their whipping boy

I’ve had that pleasure for years and years
No no, I never was a sinner, tell me what else can I do
Second best is what you get till you learn to bend the rules
And time respects no person and what you lift up must fall
They’re waiting outside to claim my tumbling walls

Saw my picture in the paper
Read the news around my face
And some people don’t want to
Treat me the same

When the walls come tumbling down
When the walls come crumbling, crumbling
When the walls come tumbling, tumbling down

 —John Mellencamp, “Crumblin’ Down” 

 

tsar putin
Cover of Yevgeny Satanovsky, If I Were the Russian Tsar: Advice to the President. Image courtesy of LitRes

Yesterday was a rough day for the anti-imperialist pro-Putin western left (which is basically all that is left of the western left). First, there was the publication of Sir Robert Owen’s report on his inquiry into the death of Alexander Litvinenko, in which Owen concluded that Putin “probably” approved Litvinenko’s murder in 2006.

Then the day got rougher.

Vladimir Putin publicly blamed Vladimir Lenin for the collapse of the Soviet Union.

President Vladimir Putin on Thursday blamed Bolshevik revolutionary Vladimir Lenin for planting the ideas that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Interfax news agency reported.

During a meeting of the Presidential Council for Science and Education, one of the attendees quoted a poem by Boris Pasternak describing Lenin as someone who had managed the flow of his thoughts to rule the country.

“Letting your rule be guided by thoughts is right, but only when that idea leads to the right results, not like it did with Vladimir Ilich,” Putin quipped in reply. “In the end that idea led to the fall of the Soviet Union,” he added.

“There were many such ideas as providing regions with autonomy, and so on. They planted an atomic bomb under the building that is called Russia which later exploded. We did not need a global revolution,” he said.

Putin has in the past famously described the fall of the Soviet Union as the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century.”

“Putin Slams Lenin for Laying ‘Atomic Bomb’ Under Russia,” Moscow Times, January 21, 2016

So toss out your forty-five volumes of the collected works of Lenin in English, comrades. He is on your new supreme leader’s bad list.

Statue of Lenin in the yard of the Soyuz stationery goods factory in Petrograd. Photo by the Russian Reader
Monument to Vladimir Lenin in the yard of the Soyuz stationery goods factory. Petrograd, June 19, 2015. Photo by the Russian Reader

Sergey Abashin
January 21, 2016
Facebook

Oh my, it turns out Lenin planted the “bomb under the building known as Russia,” and what he had in mind was the collapse of the Soviet Union as a consequence of “ethnic autonomization”! So said the leader!

There are a few curious points in this statement.

First, the leader has equated Russia with the Soviet Union. Meaning that he has dubbed Central Asia, for example, a part of Russia. But he probably did not even notice it.

Second, the leader clearly indicated that the ideal is the Russian Empire, where, apparently, there were no problems, and which fell apart, apparently, as a result of the revolution and not the imperial elite’s wrongheaded policies.

Busts of the Tsetsarevich Alexei, Emperor Nicholas II, and Empress Alexandra, all identified as "holy martyrs," outside the Theotokos of Tikhvin Church, Petrograd, April 25, 2015. Photo by the Russian Reader
Busts of the Tsesarevich Alexei, Emperor Nicholas II, and Empress Alexandra, all identified as “holy martyrs,” outside the Theotokos of Tikhvin (Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God) Church. Petrograd, April 25, 2015. Photo by the Russian Reader
Display case describing the "Russian economic miracle" that was, allegedly, swept away by the October Revolution, outside the Theotokos of Tikhvin Church, Petrograd, April 23, 2015. Photo by the Russian Reader
Outdoor display case describing the “Russian economic miracle” that was, allegedly, swept away by the October Revolution. Theotokos of Tikhvin Church, Petrograd, April 25, 2015. Photo by the Russian Reader

The leader has clearly ignored the fact that Lenin, whatever you might think of him, attempted to reassemble the lands of the former empire, which by that time had virtually collapsed. And he was able to do this (reassemble the former empire) only by making certain compromises with the ethnic elites, by granting them “autonomy.”

Third, the leader’s rhetoric is obvious preparation for the 100th anniversary of the revolution, which is likely to be depicted as a tragedy, imposed [on the country] from the outside.

 Translated by the Russian Reader

Friends

all the young things

Sergey Abashin
January 12, 2016
Facebook

A friend of mine, the headmaster of a private school in the Moscow Region, has received a written order to add the head of the municipal administration and the head of the education department to his Facebook friends. The order is obligatory for the headmaster, and advisable for the school’s teachers. He has to report back before January 14.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Read my translation of Sergey Abashin’s compelling recent article, “Movements and Migrants in Central Asia.” Photo filched from the Facebook page of some Petrograd cider house or burger bar where folks who look like the folks in the photo, above, go to pretend they are living in “Europe.”