In Search of the Russophone Community in Britain: From Russia Abroad to Global Russians
The Russophone community in Britain represents a diverse social, demographic, and ethnic group comprised of UK citizens and residents of Russian and Soviet heritage, including migrants from the former Soviet Union, the Russian Federation and neighboring countries, bound by one common denominator, the Russian language. Russophone migration to Britain kicked off after the Russian Revolution, which led to the formation of the Russia Abroad, and followed the main migratory waves of the 20th century, reaching its peak in the aftermath of USSR’s dissolution in 1991. Statistic data and estimates of the Russian-speaking population in the UK have been disputed for their ability to capture the actual presence of the community in the British society today, which ranges from 70.000 to over 350.00 people. From oligarchs to highly qualified specialists and migrant workers, the majority of Russian speakers have settled in London transforming the city into a predominant hub for Russophone diasporic culture.
The aim of the present paper is to explore the development of the UK Russian-speaking diasporic community in the long durée. In March 2018, I started my two-year ethnographic study of community cultural events in London and Edinburgh looking at meaning-making and community building practices. During my fieldwork, I had the opportunity to interview fifteen Russian speakers, who are members of the Waterstones Russian Book Club, the largest book club of its kind in Britain, and fifteen famous Russophone writers, who visited the country to participate in various literature-related events. The comparative analysis of the two groups of interviews demonstrates how the cultural dialogue between Russia and the various diasporic loci around the world has changed over the years and how it has contributed to the creation of a global Russophone ideoscape and a shared transnational cultural identity among the diasporans.
The Turkish Community in Czechia: A Diaspora in the Making?
Immigration is a relatively new phenomenon in Czechia. The securitisation and politicisation of migration in the Czech domestic discourse has created a great deal of public anxiety, especially towards Muslims. This paper focuses on the position of Turkish migrants, the second largest Muslim community in the country. Using combined data from the Czech Statistical Office and from a questionnaire survey, it investigates the Turkish community’s assessment of adaptation to the Czech environment and their position within the wider Turkish diaspora policy. I argue that that the non ‑transparent Czech immigration policy and Czech Islamophobia are potential factors influencing the adaptation process of the Turkish community, which might affect their decision to remain in the country. Furthermore, the small size of the Turkish community can hamper the migrants’ social life, who might wish to maintain strong ties with the homeland and the diaspora community in Europe.
Migrant Neighborhoods in Russia – Do They Exist and Is There a Pattern Behind Their Emergence?
Being based on a wide-scale research, undertaken in 3 Russian regions, the paper strives to define a special pattern, that explains emergence of neighborhoods, dominated by migrants and their descendants in Russia. Till recent time the scholars shared an opinion that such neighborhoods don't emerge in Russian and that is due to the special urban structures, known as post-socialist. Some recent scholarship -- both on the side of urban studies and migration studies – started to question this opinion. In 2018 a project was launched that aimed at describing the real state of art with migrant neighborhoods in Russia as well as exploring the mechanisms that bring them about in case they exist. In order to achieve these goals a variety of methods was used including analysis of residential and other statistics, interviews with experts, observation and interviews in neighborhoods etc. The field studies were carried out in the Moscow agglomeration, Yekaterinburg and Krasnoyarsk. A total of 513 interviews were conducted. The research showed, that neighborhoods, where migrants form a substantial share of population, which is several times bigger, than city average, do exist, they all emerge next to huge markets, moreover, the mechanism behind their emergence is almost same in each of the cases. In the 1990s, markets began to emerge on the periphery of cities where migrants worked in different positions. In the following decades, one of the city markets stood out, into which a significant part of the wholesale trade moved, and around it a cluster of small enterprises and businesses formed. This market is often adjacent to residential developments, which - due to the peripheral location of the market - usually had an industrial origin. In the 1990s and 2000s, part of the old population of these houses died, and part - moved to other areas. Into these ‘spare slots’ migrants settled who worked in the market, as well as their relatives and friends who were not connected with the market. Over time, a diverse infrastructure was developed on the market and in the buildings adjacent to it, aimed at migrants, in addition, the area began to be considered as a migrant area at the citywide level. As a result, although it cannot be said that the local residents of the area began to leave because of migrants, in some cases those non-migrants who could have settled there - did not do that. Moreover, there was an outflow of non-migrants, which was caused by dissatisfaction with the ethnic composition of school classes. However, this did not drop the demand, which was ensured by the influx of migrants, moreover, if the district was well located, new buildings appeared there, the proportion of residents of migrant origin in which turned out to be higher than in older houses of the region. As a result, in such an area, the share of migrants in the population — in comparison with other areas of the city — turned out to be especially high. These and other results as well as the detailed methodology of the study will be described during the presentation.
This paper is co-authored with Anna Rocheva and Nataliya Ivanova.
Informal Practices and the Rule of Law. Russia, Migration and the ‘Arctic Route’
When the border between the Russian Federation and Norway and, later, between Russia and Finland ‘opened’ during the ‘migration crisis’ of 2015 and 2016, the so-called Arctic route through Moscow and Northern Russia became another major channel to the European Union. This study examines the Russian state as a legal power operating through informal practices, and how these practices manifested in the Arctic route. We focus especially on migrants’ experiences with Russian informal practices, intermediaries in the process of migration and encounters with the Russian legal system. In doing so, we aim to improve our understanding of migrants’ experiences in Russia as a country of immigration and transit, and our understanding of the everyday insecurities and opportunities such informal practices amongst migrants generate. Our analysis relies on narrated stories from the asylum application protocols of 1164 asylum seekers who used the Arctic route and applied for asylum in Finland in 2015 and 2016. The paper is based on our article published in Turaeva and Urinboyev (2021) on Labour, Mobility and Informal Practices in Russia, Central Asia and Eastern Europe.
This paper is co-authored with Minna Piipponen.
Promoting Similarity and Constructing Compatriots in Russia’s Far East
Typically, debates about migration focus on difference and efforts to build walls, establish quotas, and test knowledge of language and culture with the goal of restricting migration. In this paper, I shift our focus to look at policies that seek to attract immigrants based on cultural similarities through an ethnographic case study of Russia’s Resettlement of Compatriots Program.
Introduced in 2006, the compatriots program offers expedited citizenship to ethnic Russians, Russian speakers, and those “spiritually and culturally tied to the Russian Federation.” Online, the compatriots program appears to be a Slavic—or culturally similar—solution to Russia’s demographic crisis. Social media posts, videos, forums, and websites that advertise the program depict ethnic Russian and Ukrainian families returning to the homeland. However, 13 months of ethnographic research in Primorskii krai, a priority region for the program, and Moscow, the site of its inception, reveal that a diversity of participants qualify, including those targeted by recent discriminatory migration laws—Russian-speaking immigrants from Central Asia and the Caucasus.
Drawing on participant observation and interviews with officials and compatriots, alongside media analysis of the program, I argue that officials seek to create a culturally palatable solution to demographic changes in Russia by promoting the program as Slavic. As politicians in Moscow have made labor migration policies more restrictive, they have simultaneously made it easier to obtain Russian citizenship for those willing to move to other parts of the country, especially to Russia’s eastern borders with China. At the same time, the legal ambiguity of the term compatriot allows officials in regions like Primorskii krai to adapt the program to meet the needs of immigrant populations already living there. I argue that officials’ adaptation of the compatriots program is not just utilitarian though. It also reflects local officials’ desires to restore the diversity and prosperity of small cities in Primorskii krai as remembered during Soviet times.