Migrants' Associations in Moscow



"Crossing Borders" Lecture Series
Monday 22nd February, 2-4 p.m.
Facultaire Raadzaal, Emile Braunschool, Volderstraat 3, 9000 Gent

Migrants' Associations in Moscow: Between State Patronage, Ethnic Solidarity and Civil Society

Dr. Bhavna Dave, SOAS, University of London

The increase in the scale of labour migration in Russia, its complex migration regulatory regime and ineffective implementation have led to the formation of various migrants' or diaspora associations which offer a variety of services in the face of weakness of rule of law and civil society organisations. Migrants’ associations are also required to register under one of the bureaucratic categories - migrants rights NGO, a social organization (obshestvennaya organizatsiia), social fund (obshchestvennyi fond) etc – in order to be able to operate legally. Navigating the complex bureaucratic procedures for registration, remaining legal and registered, and raising funds without being seen as a ‘commercial enterprise’ or ‘foreign-funded’ association are the fundamental challenges they encounter. These survival imperatives require them to cultivate close personal connections with key figures within the government, as well as w ith their respective embassies and diaspora officials. The struggle for survival and for staying legal generates considerable competition between the various migrants associations, including NGOs, resulting in personalised rivalries. In this climate, what services, protection, welfare assistance and advice are they able to offer to their compatriots and how ‘representative’ can they claim to be? This paper will explore how these migrants’ and diaspora associations and position themselves vis-à-vis the state, their respective ethnic or national communities and civil society organisations in articulating cultural, social and legal claims of migrants. The paper will focus on associations and networks representing migrants from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in Moscow and the Moscow region.

Dr. Bhavna Dave is Senior Lecturer in Central Asian Politics in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, as well as Chair of the Centre for the Contemporary Central Asia and the Caucasus. She is the author of Kazakhstan: Ethnicity, Language and Power (London: Routledge, 2007). Her current research deals with labour migrants and the emerging migration regimes in Russia and Kazakhstan