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Muscovites and Migrants don’t Understand Each Other

The tension between migrants from the North Caucasus and local residents in Russia is due to cultural and value differences. Migrants share collectivist values, while the local population is more individualistic. Olga Verbilovich and Viktoria Galyapina, researchers at the HSE Laboratory for Socio-cultural Research, investigated the specifics of the mutual attitude between migrants and local residents in Moscow and Stavropol Krai through the use of focus groups

Moscow and Stavropol Krai are two Russian regions, which are among the leaders in terms of incoming migrants, who come either to study, or for permanent or seasonal work. Moscow attracts migrants thanks to its economic opportunities, and Stavropol region due to its close geographical position.

The authors of the study organized 16 focus groups consisting of 5-10 participants: men and women aged from 17 to 69, Muscovites or residents of Stavropol Krai, as well as representatives from North Caucasian ethnic groups.

It turned out that both attitudes among locals to migrants and migrants to locals are different in the Russian capital and Stavropol region. Muscovites have a more aggressive attitude to migrants than residents of more remote areas, and it is harder for migrants to adapt in Moscow because of the pressure of life in a modern mega-city. In addition, migrants don’t understand the locals, who seem them to be immoral, and they want the locals to respect their ethnic culture.

Table. Design of the sampling

Focus group # 

City 

Respondent’s profile 

Gender 

Age

1

Stavropol 

Local Russians living in Stavropol Krai

M 

17-25 

2

26-60 

3

F 

17-25 

4

26-60 

5

Representatives of North Caucasian ethnic groups in Stavropol Krai

M 

17-25 

6

26-60 

7

F 

17-25 

8

26-60 

9

Moscow 

Local Russians indigenously living in Moscow

M 

17-25 

10

26-60 

11

F 

17-25 

13

Representatives of North Caucasian ethnic groups who have lived in Moscow at least 1 year

M 

17-25 

14

26-60 

15

F 

17-25 

16

26-60 

A total of 16 focus groups

Source: presentation by Olga Verbilovich and Viktoria Galyapina

Caucasian power

Migrants coming from the North Caucasus to study or work in other regions, continue to maintain their collectivist values, which imply the priority of group interests and opinions (family, team, society). The individualism of the locals, who are freer in their views and actions, is not understood by migrants. And they aren’t ready to reconcile themselves with typical Russian behaviour, which is immoral in their view. Immorality means disrespect to the elderly, a tendency to drink and smoke, as well as perceived immoral behavior by women. According to the surveys, the migrants would like the local population to respect their culture by, at least, not demonstrating immorality in their presence, and, preferably, by trying to adopt good qualities from other cultures.

A separate block of questions in the study was about family relationships and gender roles. The results showed that migrants who find themselves in a different cultural environmentdon’t express a readiness to change their attitudes to the role of women in family and society. Moreover, the fact that in Moscow, for example, men and women have equal rights is seen by migrants as a sign of local men’s weakness.

Figure. Mutual perception

Source: presentation by Olga Verbilovich and Viktoria Galyapina

Another theme of the questions was religion. Migrants in Stavropol paid a great deal of attention to religion in their responses. They believe that Islam should be forcefully implanted in children. At the same time, they mention that it’s wrong to associate Islam with Wahhabism, since Wahhabism is for uneducated people and criminals, and it is funded from the West. The study results show that the level of reflection among Moscow migrants is higher than in Stavropol, and they understand the reasons for the locals’ suspicion of Islam more comprehensively.

Migrants in Moscow tend to attribute the locals with their own ethnic qualities. According to the researchers, this happens because migrants are trying to cope with anxiety and instability, related to being an ethnic minority in a big city.

Results of the surveys demonstrate that migrants have a hard time adapting to life in in the big city and have a dual attitude to the environment. On one hand, they are ready to integrate in the local society, willing to get a high social status, education, and prestigious profession. On the other hand, they are unwilling to change and have a desire to demonstrate their culture and demand others follow its norms.

The most dangerous of the locals, according to both Moscow and Stavropol migrants, are young men and elderly women who, they believe, are most intolerant of migrants.

Moscow phobias

According to surveys, only 14% of Muscovites are ready to live next door to a family of migrants from the North Caucasus (FOM SOC project, MegaFOM survey, October 2011). A lack of Russian language knowledge, difficulties in communication, low professional qualifications, an untidy and repellent appearance are the characteristics which Muscovites attribute to migrants (results of a survey by Levada Centre).

The study by Olga Verbilovich and Viktoria Galyapina showed that Moscow residents have a rather aggressive attitude towards migrants. Migration is a global trend, especially specific for mega-cities. But among Muscovites, the researchers say, conservative trends are popular – they are willing to preserve the old order of things. According to talks in focus groups, many residents of the capital are satisfied with a situation when migrants have far less rights and opportunities and are under strict control by the police. At the same time, the authors say, some Muscovites have a friendly attitude towards migrants, but they would like the migrants from ethnic regions to be fully integrated in the cultural environment of the big city.

According to Moscow residents, the most dangerous are young migrants, both men and women.

Special role of the media

In this study the authors analyzed how migrants and locals evaluate the role of media in forming their mutual perception. And both sides tend to give negative characteristics. Migrants believe that the Russian media shows migrants as criminals and terrorists. And Muscovites think that the media promotes an undesirable inflow of migrants to the capital, because they present Moscow as a city of big opportunities and don’t accurately describe the difficulties migrants may face when they come to the capital.

The authors also consider,how it is possible to promote understanding between migrants and local residents. One block of the research results, which relates to the dialogue between migrants and the locals, demonstrates how complex this problem is. Both migrants and local participants of the focus groups included people who had experience of interethnic friendship. But both the former and the latter say that they can be friends, but shouldn’t trust each other in a difficult situation, since there is a risk of being betrayed.

Nevertheless, the researchers believe that it’s necessary to promote a positive image of migration as a whole, as well as accurate images of migrants and the locals, through media and open dialogue platforms.

 

Author: Marina Selina, March 11, 2014