By Paul Goble
Vadim Kozhenov, president of the Federation of Migrants of Russia, says that Gastarbeiters and their families now form almost ten percent of the residents of the Russian Federation (riamo.ru/article/256690/pochti-10-naseleniya-rossii-sostavlyayut-trudovye-migranty.xl).
Because most of the migrant laborers in Russia today are from Central Asia and thus of Muslim heritage if not always belief, Kozhenov’s statement strongly suggests that the Muslim share of the population of the Russian Federation is not in the single digits some have claimed but rather a about 25 percent of the total.
That will come as a shock to many ethnic Russians who have been lulled to sleep by the insistence of the Putin regime that ethnic Russians form more than 80 percent of the total, claims that have always been problematic given the fact that they do not include immigrants from the former Soviet republics in general and from Central Asia in particular.
First of all, this means that the Gastarbeiters, who now form disproportionately large portions of the big cities – they rarely move to rural areas and only very occasionally to small or mid-sized cities, will become ever more prominent and more likely to form ghettos or make political demands.
Second, it means that Muslims, encouraged by this new measure of their growth in influence, are also likely to become more active, insisting that Moscow treat them with the greater respect due a community that now includes more than one in every four residents of the country – and quite possibly more.
And third it means there is likely to be a Russian backlash against such immigration, especially if the tensions with the West over Ukraine and Syria partially recede and thus open the way for Russians to return to the more xenophobic attitudes they regularly expressed before Putin’s invasion of Ukraine eclipsed them.