Academician Vitaly Naumkin
Institute of Oriental Studies
This report exemplifies how National Academy of Sciences–Russian Academy of Sciences discussions have contributed to broader analyses of important issues.
The workshops held involving Russian, American, and French counterparts provided opportunities to have constructive exchanges of opinions as well as to engage in the discussion of some of the most crucial issues facing the current global agenda. We used the key takeaways of the meetings and discussions in carrying out our academic research and experimental studies. One of the most important aspects raised was the radicalization of labor migrants, who arrived in Russia from the Central Asia states.
Labor migration from the Central Asia states to Russia allows those states to solve their problems related to unemployment and exacerbating demographic situations, whereas Russia, at the expense of labor migrants, fills vacancies in its labor market, especially those that are not attractive to local residents.
The overwhelming majority of labor migrants coming from the Central Asia states have arrived in Russia to obtain an income and solve financial problems experienced by their families, primarily the men. The vast majority of labor migrants note that one can always find a job in Russia that might not be highly paid necessarily, but guarantees stable earnings. If you are Russian-speaking and you have a professional qualification, then there is a chance you can obtain a well-paid job. Some labor migrants
often try to take advantage of their stay in Russia to learn new skills and trades. There are some who find it much more exciting to work in Russia rather than in their own villages in the middle of nowhere. The greater part of migrants come to Russia for seasonal work. Some plan to stay in Russia for a longer period, even permanently. The highest desire to secure Russian citizenship is harbored by the Kyrgyz and the Tajiks, and to a lesser degree by the Uzbeks.
Most of the migrants who have succeeded in being granted Russian citizenship have been integrated into new communities quite well. Their children receive a good education and enjoy an opportunity to get ahead in life using the social elevators. However, there are a minority who prefer to lead their own lives and continue to mingle predominantly with like-minded individuals representing their ethnic background. This model of behavior can lead to a recurrent migration challenge facing the European Union member states, where children of migrants in their third or fourth generation, including migrants of well-off families, end up sharing radical views.
The labor migrants from the Central Asia states are capable of hard work and acting at their own initiative. They are not arrogant or egoistic. These qualities are valued by their employers. According to the labor migrants’ estimates, there is less corruption in Russia and more freedom of speech than in their own native countries, they do not have to give bribes to obtain a good job, and there is no religious persecution. The most important issue is not to break the law.
The respondents from some labor migrants—residents of Tajikistan and ethnic Tajiks who have been granted Russian citizenship—have proved to be more open in responding to surveys than the labor migrants from Uzbekistan.
Ethnic Kyrgyz, in contrast to ethnic Uzbeks and Tajiks, have exhibited a more tolerant and accommodating attitude toward religious matters. Among the migrants, especially those who have a higher educational background, some individuals are not concerned with religious matters at all. Moreover, some consider themselves atheists. The greater part of the polled Kyrgyz believe that neither religious leaders nor the Mosque play a significant role in radicalization. At the same time, they believe that the religious factor does have an impact on a part of the Uzbek community residing in the south of the Kyrgyz Republic. The Kyrgyz Uzbeks have appeared to be aliens in their own country. However, they have not been accepted as insiders by the ethnic Uzbeks from the Republic of Uzbekistan.
Such is the tragedy of the second largest ethnicity in the Kyrgyz Republic. The residents of Tajikistan first come by themselves and then bring their families
along. The residents of Uzbekistan stay in Russia without their families more often than not. As a consequence, there are a lot of split or broken families among the Uzbeks and Tajiks alike. This is another problem that needs to be solved.
The educational level of the Central Asia migrants has been decreasing over the years, and in 2020, in connection with the pandemic, the number of migrants in Russia has been lower than before due to the difficulties associated with travel across the borders. The number of migrants who have a good knowledge of Russian that would allow them to adapt to the new environment without any problem has been also decreasing. Most of the labor migrants learn about the new developments from the electronic media outlets and the web sources. The social media feature the communities whose memberships includes kinfolk and fellow countrymen.
The processes of radicalization underway in the modern world that sometimes lead to full-scale armed conflicts known to evolve into civil wars in some countries in the Middle East have affected labor migrants from the Central Asia states, too. Meanwhile, the radicalization of labor migrants from Central Asia has not expanded to a massive scale on Russian territory. There is no hard-and-fast answer to the question: Where exactly does the radicalization of labor migrants from Central Asia take place? Judging by the outcome of conducted polls, the prerequisites or fundamentals for the radicalization are laid down in the native countries of labor migrants. The most vulnerable group is made up of young people below 20 years of age, who are not burdened with families, who have a low level of general and religious education, who do not wish to earn their living by fair means, but who strive to get everything straight away with no consideration of moral norms or principles. For the most part, these individuals become the target of recruiting strategies by the Jihadist emissaries.
The basic reasons underlying the radicalization phenomenon are poverty, social inequality, and no possibility of finding a job that would allow proper support of a family in the native country. The important factors include the state’s refusal to perform its social responsibilities, the decline of general education, the emergence of sociocultural barriers, and the destructive activities of extremist prophets. This has been most conspicuous in the Kyrgyz Republic, primarily in the south of the country, and also in Tajikistan.
For many migrants, religious parties and groups, such as Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami in Kyrgyzstan, became useful platforms for the migrants’ active engagement with local Muslims in seeking to disrupt traditional and tolerant forms of Islam. The respondents to polls noted on multiple occasions
that the recruiting process had been initiated by certain “Caucasians,” while the daily organizational work was carried out by fellow countrymen in most cases.
As our discussions with colleagues suggested, the mechanisms and methods of recruiting, the human and material resources involved, the financial support, and the connections with the security services and organized crime groups that helped to make recruiting of volunteers into the ranks of terrorist formations a profitable business have all been important. They should be among the topics of independent and comprehensive research.
The poor command of the Russian language by labor migrants is an important reason why they cannot sustain their rights when they encounter law enforcement officers, formalize adequately the authorization documents and labor arrangements with their employers, and interact with the Russian community. Their children have difficulty in communicating with Russian children in their age group and in attending preschool and general education establishments.
Moreover, migrants are often unaware of the fundamental principles underlying the Russian migration legislation and the procedure and regulations for the issuance of authorization documents. They may feel compelled to ask assistance from all sorts of black market wheeler-dealers, who deceive the migrants and profiteer off their problems. As a result, the deceived migrants either join the ranks of illegal migrants or, if they are caught with forged documents, they are deported from Russia on a condition that they are further banned from entering Russia for a certain period.
A positive role for the migration from Uzbekistan has been played by the Agreement between the Government of Uzbekistan and the Government of the Russian Federation, signed in April 2017, “On the Streamlined Selection and Drawing of the Citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan to Carry Out Temporary Labor Activities on the Territory of the Russian Federation.” A Russian Migration Center for the Streamlined Selection of Citizens to Work in Russia has been opened in the city of Samarkand, and a Permanent Representation Office of the Russian Foreign Ministry has been established in the city of Tashkent to manage the selection process of candidates seeking to work in Russia. Some success has been achieved in the Central Asia states in socioeconomic development, notwithstanding the handicaps related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This success has played a part in preventing radicalization of labor migrants leaving for Russia.
The closely coordinated efforts undertaken by the government agencies of Russia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzia, and Tajikistan; by civil society structures; and by nongovernmental organizations have been very instrumental in the destruction of the financial basis for recruiting that had been turned into a lucrative business by the organized crime groups. There have been harsh and inevitable punishment of the recruiters and their henchmen.
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