Migration in Moscow

06.03.2012, 16:01
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Maria Semenenko from the Urban Culture research theme talks about the first steps she is taking in her research project and the issues she would like to address in it.

“When I chose to apply to the Urban Culture research theme, there were 4 main subthemes announced: creative industries, urban conversations, cultural memory, and migration. I was more interested in migration as a topic because since I was a child, the Ukranian diaspora has played an important role in my life. I was born in Moscow and I think of myself as a Muscovite, but more Ukrainian than Russian. Nowadays, the terms “Russian person” and “Russian citizen” have the same meaning. I would like the term “Russian citizen” to be closer in meaning to the term “American”. When you arrive in the US, no matter what country you come from, in time you can become American. It’s completely different in Russia. For example, my father (who moved here in the late 1970’s, received a Russian passport and acquired property here) is still considered to be a migrant. I would like to change that; and I am planning to start with proposing a model for the integration of people who come to live in Moscow.

I started my research by attempting to understand the range of diasporas in Moscow and the role they play in the city. I took the Ukranian diaspora as an example. For a long time, I couldn’t formulate a question that I would be trying to answer. So my director Michael Schindhelm and I decided to create a typology of the ukranian diaspora and its portrait. Then I decided to look at the problem of migration from the muscovite’s point of view. That is how the idea of an integration model appeared. There already exists a model; according to it, we are a multicultural, multiethnic, multiconfessional society. This model does not work. A similar model was typical of the Soviet times when the term “Soviet” also meant “Russian”.

The first part of my research focuses on the history of migration. It starts with the Soviet national politics and ends with the paradox of Moscow in the Soviet times. The next step for me is to try and find the answer to the question — who is a Muscovite?

I plan to study this question from two angles: official and unofficial. The official one implies registration, propiska (city registration), migrants, and the difference between Russians and non-Russians. The unofficial one has to do more with the image of a Muscovite that has been portrayed in films, literature, and art in the last 20 years. I have an opportunity to talk to specialists from this field of study, namely professors of the Higher School of Economics and Moscow Higher School of Social and Economic Sciences.

Here in Moscow, a person who came from Tadjikistan cannot become a Muscovite, unlike someone who came to the US from Pakistan can become a New Yorker or an American. I would like to try and solve this problem using a bottom-up approach”.