Migrant Communities in Moscow: Their Origins, Functionality, and Maintenance Mechanisms
This text presents the results of a study in which we have sought answers to questions of: what kinds of migrant communities exist in Moscow, how they arise and function, what types of people they unite, and how they are structured. Due to the peculiar circumstances encountered by migrants in the process of integration into the cityscape and social spheres of Moscow, we chose as our setting-off point not “ethnic neighborhoods,” which unlike in European and American cities do not exist in Moscow, but rather the “ethnic cafés” that are scattered throughout the city. Our study draws upon interviews and observations done in eighty Moscow cafés — empirical data collected over the research project’s six-month period (140 hours of observation, about 200 interviews). In the first portion of the paper, we delineate the theoretical framework and methodology of our research, and then we move to the results. We show that communities never arise based purely on common country of origin and that diaspora organizations usually have very loose ties with communities of “rank-and-file” migrants whom they claim to represent. Also we show that all communities found in cafes can be classified in four main types: (1) homeland-rooted, (2) Muslim poly-ethnic, (3) “Azerbaijani business” and (4) communities “within walking distance”. We briefly describe each of these types and then present a ‘thick’ description of two communities — a homeland-rooted Samarkandian community and a Muslim community that arose in several cafes next to a mosque.