ISSN 2330-717X

Middle Volga Muslims Look Down On Central Asian Immigrants; North Caucasus Ones Identify With Them – OpEd


One of the most sensitive and least often commented upon issues concerning Muslims in the Russian Federation is their relationship with the millions of Central Asian Muslims who come to work in Russian cities. If the two groups joined together, they would constitute a far more serious challenge than if they remain separate.

According to the Living Central Asia Zen.Yandex page, Russians have both reasons to be reassured and reasons for concern, a reflection of the fact that the Muslims of Russia divide more or less neatly between those of the Middle Volga who have one view and those of the North Caucasus who have another (

“The Tatars and Bashkirs became part of Russia a very long time ago, and speaking honestly they have done a very great deal of good for it. They are very well integrated into our society and live in economically advanced regions. Therefore,” the portal says, “it isn’t surprising their opinion about those who come from abroad corresponds with that of the Slavs.”

The Tatars and Bashkirs are better off economically than the migrant workers, and they displace a certain snobbery about them. At the same time, they do welcome them into their mosques even if they don’t welcome them into their homes and families.  That shouldn’t surprise anyone, the site continues. That is how better off locals always view immigrants.

The North Caucasus Muslims are a very different matter. “If the Volga Muslims often consider themselves Europeans, these see themselves as representatives of Eastern culture. They observe Muslim customs more strictly, and in this regard, they are closer to the guys from Central Asia.”

“They relate to the migrants somewhat more warmly,” and because the North Caucasians themselves come from a poorer and less well-educated region, they are far more likely to work together with Central Asian immigrants. Such contacts leads to friendship and sometimes conflicts but not deep divides.

 That contrast completely with Tatars, who view Central Asian workers mostly only through the windows of their Mercedes cars.

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Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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