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Moscow for Non-Muscovites - City Authorities Find New Methods of Fighting Xenophobia

While Russian human rights activists are voicing concerns about the increase in racial crimes in Russia, the capital�s authorities have begun to implement a new program: "Moscow multinational: the formation of civil solidarity and a culture of peace and agreement ". Its purpose: "to make each person living in Moscow, irrespective of his or her nationality, feel like a Muscovite". Sociologists are also contributing to the program, devising ways to improve Muscovites� attitude towards migrants, and vice versa.

According to the data of human rights activists, victims of racist attacks in Russia since the beginning of the year already totals more than one hundred people, including 14 killed. The majority of racist attacks were carried out in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. In the capital alone 9 people have died since the beginning of the year and 35 more were beaten. Moscow currently has the greatest number of radical nationalistic groups of any city in Russia. The Director of Moscow�s human rights agency, Alexander Brod, has stated that there are around 50 thousand active �skinheads� in Russia. According to expert data, around two thousand of them are in Moscow, and several thousand people more people are involved with nationalistic parties and movements.

Meanwhile capital authorities are attempting to stamp out the problem of xenophobia. Working with the government of Moscow they have created the International Advisory Board, composed of eight working groups. The board prepares laws and works with young people and in other in areas such as sport, culture and tourism. Recent examples of their work in Moscow include an international competition for the most fashionable national dress, an ethnic festival "Navruz", arranged for Muscovites from Central Asia, which attracted a crown of more than 20 thousand, and an international summer camp run by the leaders of minority interests groups.

However, very little is being done on the ground to improve the day to day relationship between people of different nationalities in Moscow. At present there is no position on the board with the responsibility of building communications with ethnic organizations. The head of the Committee for Interregional Communication and National Politics, Mr. Aleksandrov, has stated that Moscow Multinational is critically under-funded.

The same is also true of the Moscow Urban Migratory Program. It is clear that the Moscow police are unable to cope with the flow of illegal workers into the capital. Employers flagrantly disregard penalties and fail to stick to quotas for the employment of foreigner workers. 20 million rubles is annually allocated to the migratory program, but officials say that this is totally inadequate.

The methods of the program have also been criticized. For three years running trains in the Moscow have been plastered with flyers reminding people to obtain registration for their place of residence. However, in those three years there has been no study into the effectiveness of this ongoing campaign; there has been no money set aside for such a study. Deputies of the treasury of the Moscow City Council have promised to look into the matter.

At the same time the capital authorities have complained that a new law, already passed its first reading in the State Duma, aiming to simplify the system of registration and work-permits for migrants is a serious threat. They claim that its adoption will cause the labor market to crumble. But Capital authorities fail to acknowledge that the common practice of registering hundreds or even thousands of migrants as living in a single Moscow apartment will simply become more widespread if the new law is rejected.

While officials argue, sociologists are conducting studies of migration and xenophobia and are proposing their own ways of �normalizing the migratory situation� in the capital.

After conducting studies, scientists from the institute of sociology, Russian Academy of Science, discovered that over the last 15 years the number of Armenians, Georgian and Azerbaijanis has grown rapidly. The rate of increase of these ethnic groups is much higher than that of other nationalities living in Moscow.

The sociologists claim that this sharp rise in the birth rate among these ethnic groups has also created a new disease in the minds of the native Muscovites, what they have termed �migrantophbia�. In 1990s the Armenians, Georgians and Azerbaijanis settled predominantly in the old Moscow regions (Leninist, Sverdlovsk, Kalinin, Krasnopresnenskiy, Baumanskom, etc.), and their number among the indigenous population was comparatively low. But in 2002, when the last population census was carried out, the number of residents of Transcaucasian origin in the city had sharply increased. It was also noted that people of Caucasian origin were moving into areas of Moscow such as Chertanovo, Biryulevo, Degunino, Saburovo, Izmailov. In these areas the proportion of Caucasian residents is four to five times higher than that in the population of Moscow as a whole, which is around 5%. Sociologists claim that these factors have "created fertile conditions interethnic clashes".

There is the further problem that the majority of migrants (70 - 85%) are men of working age. Indigenous Muscovites resent what they see as competition for jobs from outsiders, further fuelling nationalist sentiments. In addition over the last 15 years the level of educational level among migrants has seriously declined and it has been commented that this decline will: "impede the rate of development of the overall intellectual potential of Moscow". This is put down to the fact that most migrants work in manual jobs which require so special skills or even language proficiency. According to the surveys carried out by the sociologists 70 - 80% of migrants had their employment in Moscow organized by relatives and friends already living in the capital.

Surveys also reveal the extent of xenophobia among Muscovites today: one fifth of Russians admit that they are cautious around Ukrainians, one third behave this way around Tartars and Jews and half of Muscovites are cautious around Armenians and Georgians. But the least liked ethnic group is by far the Chechens with 36% of Muscovites stating that they have a �bad� opinion of this ethnic group.

Sociologists have put forward a number of suggestions for improving the relationship between Muscovites and migrants. Firstly it is important that migrants do not isolate themselves from the rest of Moscow society. In order to achieve this, migrants must somehow be persuaded not to ghettoize themselves in certain areas of the city but to settle in new areas among other Muscovites. However, at present it is unclear what steps the Moscow authorities could take in order to achieve this.

A second suggestion made to the Moscow authorities was to create official urban aid centers specifically targeted at migrants. These aid centers will offer migrants help with finding employment as well as legal advice.

A third suggestion was to educate the people of Moscow in the cultures of people of different ethnic heritages. This education would be aimed mainly at young Muscovites within school. At the same time sociologists suggested offering migrants �learning to live in Moscow� courses.

The sociologists reiterated that the main aim of their suggestions was to persuade Muscovites to accept foreigners. In order to achieve this, �nationalist� feelings must be replaced by �internationalist� feelings: "The more Muscovites know about the problems of migrants, the more warmly they will relate to them" one expert commented. However, although these measures may help to make migrants feel more welcome, there is a long way to go before migrants truly feel at home in Moscow.

Source: Electorat.info

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