Speakers S

Moving “Homes” and “Homelands”: Some Findings on Perceptions of Post-Soviet Diaspora Women in Turkey

The post-Soviet Russian-speaking community is one of the most numerous diasporas in Turkey. Its formation began in the 1990s as a consequence of the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the USSR and post-Soviet countries’ rapid transition to a market economy accompanied by unemployment and poverty. Due to some factors, Turkey became a center of attraction for post-Soviet migrants seeking economic opportunities. Most of the migrants have been women. The transition period of the 1990s gave also rise to “marriage migration”. With time, such mixed marriages began to turn into a cultural tradition and to gain social acceptance in Turkey.
This paper conveys the initial findings of an ongoing study focused on life experience and perceptions of “home” and “homeland” among women from former Soviet countries who migrated to Turkey for different reasons, mostly because of marriage with a Turkish man. In-depth interviews conducted with 12 Russian-speaking women of various ethnic origin and from various former Soviet countries showed that the women’s attitudes toward their homeland and the host country depend on many factors and differ in relation to their previous life experience in the homeland, satisfaction with work and family life, intensity and diversity of their social contacts, and Turkish language level. As can be expected, the higher the respondents' level of satisfaction with themselves and their lives, and the closer their ties with Turkish society, the more they feel comfortable in relation to both their homeland and Turkey, and the less they suffer from nostalgia.

The study also showed that the interviewees appreciate the immediacy of contemporary communication and the flow of daily information for having brought homelands and loved ones closer to them. However, many interviewees do not perceive online communication as a substitute for live communication and tend to stress shortcomings of the former. For some, new communication technologies can even aggravate their homesickness, making them feel strongly that they remain outside the life of their homeland. Another important finding of the study is that the interviewees consider their domestic space as the place they can freely and actively transform. Consequently, the active attitude emerges as the most important element of the concept of “being at home”.

Marginalized Masculinity of Tajik Labor Migrants: The Effects of Russian Migration Regime and Sources of Manhood in a Discriminatory Environment

In this paper I look how the host state environment – both the Russian migration regime and widespread antimigrant sentiments in society – affects masculinity of Tajik labor migrants who live and work in Russia. It shows that a largely discriminatory and xenophobic environment strips migrants of the hegemonic masculinity which they developed back home in Tajikistan and leads to an emergence of a new type of marginalized masculinity. The paper explores how migrant men see their position in Russia, how they experience discrimination, and what strategies they deploy as a result in order to boost their feeling of being proud, respectable men. By zooming at three characters, it analyzes the sources of manhood which emerge in the context of labor migration. The first story, of Bahrom, concerns taking pride in halol (honest) work and the legal status in Russia. The second one, of Farukh and his brigade, refers to physical endurance and hard work, acquiring new useful skills in migration, finding ways to be mobile despite lack of documents and the mastering the quality of being shustriy (smart, flexible). Finally, the third source of manhood, that of Khusrav, concerns new protest masculinity, centered around mobility, violence and open confrontation vis-à-vis discriminatory treatment in Russia. The paper is based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Russia and Tajikistan in 2019 and 2020.

Rage Against the Machine: Centralization, Ethnic Factor and Electoral Processes in the Russian Regions

The processes of unification and centralization in Russia have been going on for a long time. But only now the offensive of the federal government on the autonomy of the regions began to come into conflict with the interests of wide sections of non-Russian peoples. The decision that schoolchildren can now learn languages of non-Russian ethnic groups on a voluntary basis has led to a significant reduction in the number of children who now study it in schools and threatened the dismissal of thousands of teachers who previously taught these languages. Meanwhile, in the electoral processes, it is still precisely the national republics in Russia that are the bastions of loyalty to the federal government. In elections, the population of the national republics traditionally shows the highest turnout and electoral support for incumbents. In my current research project, I want to test hypotheses about the role of the ethnic factor in electoral processes with broader data, by including in the analysis the electoral statistics of the latest regional elections of 2019-2020. To measure the “weight” of the ethnic factor in contemporary electoral processes, I have to compare the influence of other factors: economic, social, institutional, political. For this, I want to collect cross-regional statistics and analyze them using quantitative methods (regression and factor analysis). An equally important issue of my research is the identification, description and understanding of the mechanisms of the ethnic factor within the political machine. In other words, it is important for me not only to prove the circumstances of change in the electoral behavior of ethnic minorities, but also to understand why this happens in some cases but does not happen in others? To study these kinds of casual mechanisms, I need to collect qualitative data. For this, I am going to collect interviews from current politicians, officials, and leaders of national organizations. In addition, I want to conduct focus groups and collect interviews with ordinary voters in order to understand the logic and motives of their voting, as well as the role of ethnic identity in shaping their political choice. I am going to collect these data in those Russian republics in which national issues have recently caused a particularly wide resonance. The main ones are: the Republic of Tatarstan, the Republic of Bashkortostan, the Chuvash Republic, the Republic of Komi, the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). The specificity of my research focus is that I want to study political machines in crisis. By crisis I mean both economic difficulties and the escalation of the national problem. I think that crisis conditions should most clearly show the weaknesses and strengths of the political machine, which will help to better understand the logic of the functioning of this type of political structures. This, in turn, will enable us to better understand the foundations of stability and vulnerability of contemporary autocracies.

Russian Academic Migration to Finland: Institutional Culture, Gender and Ethnicity 

Researchers from Russia constitute a growing group in Finnish universities. What happens with these female professionals who strive for their careers in Finland? How they interact with Finnish academic culture? My research, taking as a case Russian women in Finnish universities, sheds light on subjectivities, career strategies, perception of inequalities, formal and informal barriers for women with a post-soviet background in Western academia.

Does the ‘Tunnel Effect’ Still Apply? Social Mobility and Perceptions of Inequality in the New Russia

This paper addresses the issue of the interrelation between social mobility and perceptions of inequality (known as the ‘tunnel effect’) in contemporary Russia. Drawing from the Russian subsets of the International Social Survey Programme’s (ISSP) surveys, we estimate how actual and expected mobility differentiate support for redistribution. Official statistics and empirical survey data widely confirm that the large-scale socio-economic changes that took place in Russia during the 2000s brought an increase in living standards for most population groups and a more-than twofold reduction in poverty. However, according to the ISSP data from 2019, support for distribution is at its highest level since 1992. More than 90 per cent of Russians unequivocally perceive income gaps in the country as too high (the same as in the late 1990s) and unfair, and the conflict between the rich and the poor is considered to be the most critical. The demand for redistribution is voiced by the majority of representatives across all social groups; it is differentiated neither by basic sociodemographic characteristics, nor by human capital and income level. This demand is addressed to the state which, Russians believe, is failing to respond to the challenges of inequality. Overall, surprisingly, the situation resembles that seen in the 1990s when the country was going through a different development stage. We test the effects of actual and expected mobility on support for redistribution. Results of our regression analysis show that, in contrast to existing literature, including earlier studies on Russia, past mobility and expected medium-term mobility do not have any significant effect in this respect. The classic ‘tunnel effect’ is no longer visible in Russia. We show that the subjective categories, including attitudes towards inequality, are best explained by other subjective categories, primarily normative ideas of a fair social order and how far the observed reality is from it. The demand for redistribution in modern Russian society is based on such notions and not on the individual characteristics and one’s own specific situation, including actual or expected mobility. The only aspect of mobility (actually, volatility) that ‘works’ in this regard is people’s expectations of a worse financial situation in the near future, which increases the demand for redistribution. We offer several explanations of this effect, among which are specifics of configuration of inequality in Russia and its dynamics, instability of mass prosperity and the extreme concentration of income and wealth that is considered illegitimate in public opinion.

This paper is co-authored with Svetlana Mareeva and Vasiliy Anikin.

Narratives about Relocation: Which Stories Do Russian-Speaking Nomads Tell about their Relocation to Georgia?

Ten years ago, Caspi and Elias (2011) distinguished between media-for and media-by minorities, stressing the ability of the latter to guarantee the minority self-expression and empowerment. One might assume that blogs run by migrants reach the full potential in this respect. Russian-speaking movers are massively engaged in mass self-communication (Castells 2007). Identities and narratives constructed by Russian-speaking communities outside Russia on social media platforms have been studied primarily by the example of Facebook (Morgunova & Zinnurov 2016; Juzefovics 2019). In this paper I focus on narratives spread via Instagram, a platform that is remains underresearched in the media and migration studies. Russian-speaking movers share on Instagram their migration experience and exchange useful information and knowledge about their host countries. I have chosen Georgia and Tbilisi as the case study because Tbilisi was becoming popular among digital nomads not only from post-Soviet countries (Financial Times 2019). According to Rosstat, the amount of population moving from Russia to Georgia has increased almost tenfold from 2011 to 2018. Around 1 000 posts on Instagram are hashtagged as #переездвгрузию (moving to Georgia). These posts were published by more than 150 Russian-speaking bloggers who moved to Georgia (mostly Tbilisi). This paper aims to answer the following research questions. RQ1: which motives do bloggers mention as triggers for their migration? I measured to what extent do they mention five reasons suggested by Financial Times: pro-western orientation, business-friendly policy, low cost of living, history, and food. I also tested the hypothesis whether the presence of other nomads has been influenced the choice of the destination. RQ2: do they take an active position while describing their decision to move to a new country? Bloggers may describe their way to Georgia in terms of decision-making process or a fairy tali about ’a fortunate coincidence’. RQ3: which stories do they tell about how they settled in a new country? Narratives about relocation produced by Russian-speaking movers on Instagram may be categorized by following criteria: decision / accident; long way / rapid; own aspiration / external drastic changes. Since non-migrants’ propensity of migration correlates positively with their media usage (Dekker et.al. 2017), I would like to develop this study in the future and answer the question whether the non-migrants within the audience of these bloggers feel more motivated to choose Georgia as a destination for their own migration. The findings also suggest that hashtag practices on Instagram allow Russian-speaking migrants develop a community that is connected via a hashtag folksonomy (Highfield & Leaver 2015) locally inside Georgia and globally – within a Russian-speaking translocal community that exists in Instagram.

Entrepreneurial Chinese Migrants in Russia and a New Form of Parallel Trading 

Daigou means ‘purchasing representative’ or ‘to buy on behalf’, which relates to the person who sources and resells the products even though it is not an authorised distributor. It is an informal consumer-to-consumer channel. It started about two decades ago when traveling abroad in large numbers, Chinese migrants noticed how much cheaper certain products were overseas. This was because retailers had been subject to higher margins on domestic goods, as well as higher transportation costs and taxes. Also, China had a burdensome and expensive process for approving imported items. So, daigous were the only option for Chinese consumers in the markets to access such products. Daigous are one of the most important but least understood sales channels in China. In some cases, they are so successful that a single daigou e-commerce channel can be larger than the official branded e-commerce store. Daigou are perceived as harmful in China as they do not pay any import taxes. However, for the last five years daigou have established well-organised supply-chain channels on the borders between Russia and China and helped to boost sales for Russian regional businesses. As a result, large Russian manufacturers and retailers started to cooperate with daigous to increase their sales. Through the concept of mobility paradigm, this paper investigates the Chinese migrants who practice daigou business activities in Russia. Data collection was conducted with multiple Chinese migrant entrepreneurs in three regions of Russia in the form of interviews in 2019: Moscow, St. Petersburg and Ekaterinburg. There are three core findings in this research. First, it describes the entire supply-chain structure of daigou activity between Russia and China and the methods used by daigou to bypass border customs controls. Second, it explores the critical benefits for Russian businesses and shows how they cooperate with Chinese daigou. Finally, it proposes that daigou are not just purchasing representatives but that they also act as consultants to Russian manufacturers and retailers and may, therefore, have a significant impact on their marketing costs, product development, and internationalisation strategies.