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Window on Eurasia — New Series: Children of Migrant Workers Overwhelming Russian Schools and Sparking Russian Flight


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Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 13 – Because immigrant workers typically have more children than indigenous Russians do and because the approaching end of the pandemic means that ever more migrants and their families will return, ever more Russians, from Vladimir Putin on down, are worried about Russian flight from schools where immigrant children form a large proportion.

            Non-Russian immigration leading to Russian flight from particular neighborhoods is already producing ghettos in some Russian cities, and Putin for one is worried. Two weeks ago, he told the Presidential Council of Nationality Affairs that Russia must now allow this to happen (kremlin.ru/events/president/news/65252).

            But neither Putin nor others who have been concerned about this development have proposed any solutions like busing or quotas or the like. Instead, they have focused on problems like defining which immigrant children represent a problem – generally those who don’t know Russian well – and how many of them in a school does it take to spark Russian flight (ria.ru/20210408/migranty-1727310702.html, ng.ru/ideas/2021-04-12/7_8126_migrants.htmland zavtra.ru/blogs/kak_migranti_vitesnyayut_korennoe_naselenie_rossii_iz_shkol).

            But three things are already clear: Russians are even more concerned about immigrant children than about immigrants as a group, ghettos are forming in Russian cities as immigrants come with their children and indigenous Russians move to separate themselves, and the Russian government doesn’t know what to do.

            Moreover, all these things are going to become even more explosive in the coming months if migrants do return in large numbers, something that has already led to talk about the need to limit their number and their rate of return and sparked concerns among migrants that they are going to be treated like “serfs.”

            According to Valentina Chupik, a specialist on immigration, the authorities are even now working on ways to restrict and control the immigrants even more tightly than they are controlling indigenous residents, something that promises to exacerbate tensions and generate new conflicts between them (rosbalt.ru/moscow/2021/04/14/1897318.html).

            These will be especially explosive as Russia heads into another election, and politicians make populist promises to exclude immigrant children from Russian schools and rights activists seek to defend the right of these innocents to study and point out that if they are excluded, they will even more  rapidly form ghettos than if they are included. 

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