Current Migration From Central Asian Region Within Historical Context Of Russian Ethnicity


Processes of globalization and transnational migration, wider territorial mobility in general enrich cultural diversity of society, provides serious changes in social, political, and ethno-religious configuration of the world. Essence and consequences of changes require the understanding and predicting. European experience proves that a multicultural policy cannot provide the integration of all country residents. Fostering a national identity turned out not as successful as we hoped. Proven methods and traditional modes of explanation of changes are inefficient. Ethnic and religious diversity are the fact and the attribute of Russian history and modernity. Multi-ethnic and multi-religious population structure is a treasure and cultural resource of the country. But under the huge influx of culturally-different people, it could cause a fundamental change in social context, social tension and disintegration. In the post-Soviet period residents from Central Asia countries became the primary source of immigration. Central Asia regions in different periods of time were parts of the Russian Empire and, lately, of the USSR. Distancing from Russian culture along with renewed interest in their own history, religion, traditions, and language attach the special social and cultural nature to Central Asian migrants and call for increased mutual effort for the incorporation into the host society. There has been greater demand from governments for additional funds and mechanisms of maintaining social ties and common civic identity. We believe that, despite varying degrees of success, the return to the pre-revolutionary, heavily differential experience of ethnic and religious State regulation could be productive.

Keywords: Migrationmulticulturalismmulti-ethnicityregulatory


This article has several basic premises: 1. Processes and consequences of the culturally-different people migration has become the field of public services activity, public debate on these issues are raised by a broad range of politicians and experts, representatives of civil society. The balance of the interests of Indigenous people and migrant workers, regarding their ethnic, language, cultural, and religious differences, considers as the governmental forefront and strategy. 2. Migration processes are the factors of multi-ethnicity and multi-religion growth. On the one hand, migration provides a human right to free movement; it is a benefit and the precondition of the labor mobility. On the other hand, it gives rise to consider migrants as the problematic category of the society. The relevance of the topic lies in the requirement of maintenance and strengthening of social solidarity, national multi-ethnic unity under increasingly varied culture, ethnicity and religion.

Problem Statement

Russian historical specificity is religions and ethnicities diversity. Russian State expansion was through the adherence of communities, who had already had their own culture, language, established customs and traditions and, moreover, indigenous territories.

During the pre-revolution period ethnicity wasn’t an outlines criteria or identification. The first universal census, conducted by the Russian Empire in 1897, had no questions considering the nationality, in its later understanding. Religious affiliation of the person was more crucial. Distribution of population by religion had these groups: Orthodox and coreligionists, old Believers and those who avoid Orthodox, Armenians, Armenian Catholic, Roman Catholics, Lutheran, members of the Reformed Church, Baptist, Mennonite, Anglican, the rest of the Christian, Karaite, Jews, Buddhist, lamat, the rest of the non-Christian. In general, Orthodox, including old Believers, was a little over 71% of the whole population, Mohammedans – about 11%. The Muslim majority was related to “turkish-tatar tribe”.

Available sources allow creating a certain image of ethnic composition of Russian State. To answer a question about the number of Russian population in Russia, we’ll give such population distribution on “tribes and nations”: Russian, including Ukrainians and Belarusians – 65,5%, Tatars – 10,6%, Polish – 6,2%, Caucasians, Cartvelians – 2,0%, Highlanders – %2,0 (Rubakin, 1912).

According to the All-Russian Population Census of 2010 results, modern Russia, apart from 78% of Russians of the total population, is inhabited by 190 nations, who speak different languages (Reports). This census had no questions considering the religious affiliation. Thus, today and a hundred years ago Russian State, in its various modalities, is and was multi-ethnic state.

Geographical extent and the size of the country, ethnic culture and religiously-denominational heterogeneity turned inter-religious and inter-ethnic relations into the issues of both internal and external policy. That raises a demand for regulation and legislative expression to the principle, providing the State existence, its cultural and language coherence, and governance. The establishment of the political, legally enshrined method for controlling ethnic, cultural, religious diversity became the State level task. During the pre-revolution period it was the “Russian citizenship” formation, today it is all-Russian identity

Research Questions

While solving economic and demographical problems the external migration processes updates another issues – ethnic, religious, identification. Observed changes could lead to social and cultural discord and deconstruction of established priorities and identities. The creation of Russian nation – united people, who preserves its cultural and ethnic diversity – is in greater demand. The exploration of hosting-nation and immigrants is one of the most important aspects of the problem.

European immigration experience shows that, to a large extent, integration bases on ethnic religious characteristic. Parallel groups, clan-based communities and systems appear, affiliation to them defines by ethnic and religious identity. It causes the territorial isolation and integrational problems on the nationwide basis.

According to Safi S., the growth of global/ transnational movement and number of Muslim immigrants in Europe appears to be the motivational sources for their religious identity expression in public places. Thus, education stimulates ambitions, self-identity, personality, rights sense. Author concludes: the increasing number of young people, who has got European education, serves as a source and motivates public expression of the identity. Despite European education Muslim immigrants strive to maintain their original affiliation. It can be considered as a contradiction, as the educational system is the traditional institute of common national identity and newcomers’ incorporation (Safi, 2013).

Safi S. notes, over the last time, European Muslims are anxious about religious education for their children. Turkish Muslims are the part of the great Muslim Community of Great Britain and religion is one of the most significant point of Turkish collective senses of belonging. The first Turkish community generation established Muslim Institutions, as soon as they had got the required recourses. These institutions were supposed to ease the religion values translation to young Turkish people. But youth had different feelings regarding religion. Studies clearly indicate the lack of Islam knowledges. Among young generation the symbolic religion had evolved. It had tension, produced by continuity of traditional values, on the one hand, and social and cultural changes in a host country – on the other.

Turkish-speaking youth had developed hybrid identity, several cross-ethnic friends and forms the group of ethnic solidarity on the base of common religion, language, culture, and appearance. Turkish-speaking youth from London uses hybrid of ethnic and nation, ethnic and local, and nation and European identities, as the result of their nation accommodation, education and social positioning, but not the native migration history. Youth of Great Britain lives different cultural lives – at home it is the culture of their minority, at school or university – British culture, as the result, they had got the third hybrid culture. The connection between the birth in the country and the definition of Great Britain as the identity indicator was recorded. Young people most often chose multiple ethnic identities, but the variant “British” is not among them. They don’t identify themselves as the part of Muslim community; meanwhile, they consider religion identity as natural prolongation of their ethnic identity (Safi, 2013).

The study of Cédric Gorinas (Gorinas, 2014) aims the identification of the connection between ethnic identity of a migrant, his openness to the host society’s rules and employment. Commitment to a native culture and rejection of the majority rules impede the inclusion into host society. Indicator of openness to the majority rules details by the range of figures (gender equality, individual choice of a partner, democracy, tolerance for divorces, abortions, and homosexuals). The fact of employment itself has no visible connections with their identity. But estimation of the identity through the religious indexes, allows concluding that women from the first migrant generation reflects stronger commitments to the native culture and less likely to be involved in the labour market. First generation has strong labour involvement probability, which significantly connects with the openness to the rules of the majority.

Purpose of the Study

-Regulatory analysis of interreligious and interethnic relationships in the pre-revolution period of Russian history.

-Evaluation of socio-demographic characteristics of Central Asia migrants, their pretensions and attitudes, the level of integrity into host society, potential possibilities of convergence/disassociation.

Research Methods

Theoretical and empirical results of this article are based on: - analysis of statistical data, related to religious and ethnic composition of the society; normative documents, concerning to ethnic and religious sphere: - two anonymous surveys of migrants from the Central Asian countries (2009 and 2013). Surveys had covered 363 people. The choice of Novosibirsk stemmed from his developed structure of industry, constructing and services, and from his migration attractiveness. Total amount of formally recorded survey fields – enterprises, plants and other organizations – 14 (Solodova, 2016).


The historical experience of prolonged cohabitation and cooperation among the different nations and religions representatives within one State raises retrospective interest to its regulatory practice.

It is generally believed that state principles of maintaining tolerance policy were set out in XVIII century. The first official document, proclaims the policy of refusal to various religion “unacceptance”, was “The Order of Her Imperial Majesty Catherine the Second, All-Russia Autocrat, to the Board, creating New Regulations with applications” on 30 July, 1767. The beginning of this Order, which became a sort of moral imperative to the whole document, was significant: “Christian law teaches us to treat each other in a nice way, as far as it possible”. The main spiritual message to religious tolerance was a provision: “As Almighty God tolerates all religions, languages and confessions, Her Imperial Majesty likewise, similar to His Holy Will, will always and throughout act like this, desiring only that love and agreement between entourage would rein”, (Magomaev & Kidirniyazov, 2017).

It was also stated in “The Order…”: “In the great State, which spreads its influence onto so many different nations, prohibition or forbidding of different confessions is a significantly harmful for the peace and security vice. And there is no another true method, apart from permission of another low permissions… Harassment irritates human mind, but permission to believe according to own law softens the most hard hearts, moves out from hardened tenacity, comforting quarrels, contrary to State’s silence and unification between citizens”.

Along with unambiguous Orthodox protection, as “predominant and prevailing” confession, the principle of confessional and worshiping freedom was claimed and stressed by law. It was imposed on the whole population of the Empire, including non-Orthodox, adopted in the citizenship. All nations were allowed “to worship Almighty God in different languages and in accordance with the law and confession of the forefathers”. (Government of Russia, 1906; Kidirniyazov, 2000).

The main undisputed priority was the preserve the national integrity. The first article of The Majesty proved Fundamental State Laws of Russian Empire stressed by law unity and indivisibility of the State. “The State is unite and indivisible” (Government of Russia, 1906). According to the Law as the fundamental approach Church and non-denominational service were recommended to exercise due diligence to prevent any quarrel among the entourage: “no disagreement could exists, but love, silence and agreement”.

The mean, which could and was to consolidate the society, was the establishment of Russian language as the “whole-of-Government” language. The “whole-of-Government” language is a priori the fundamental pillar of inter-ethnic communication, civil and cultural unity of the country. The dissemination of the Russian language and Russian culture became the way of different nations’ convergence, the mechanism of State influence and control expansion, achievement of “common course of Russian State life”. Consequently, Russian language was “obligatory’ in the army, in the navy, “in all State and civic enterprises”. The application of “local” languages “in all State and civic enterprises” was set by “special laws”. “Russian language is the whole-of-Government language, and it is obligatory in the army, in the navy, in all State and civic enterprises. The application of local languages in State and civic enterprises is set by special laws.” (Government of Russia, 1906).

Back to current realities, it worth mentioned, that change of the absolute number and proportion of different nation members is the practical effect of transnational migration. Socio-cultural, ethnic, and confessional map of the territory expands its range and get dynamism and instability. (Lysenko, 2014). There had been a long sustainable influx of migrants from the Republics, which were detached from the USSR (Avidzba, Hashba, Osmaev & Lebedev, 2016). This teeny by historical standards period of time, however, has made some significant changes in social and language spheres of these countries, the conditions for distancing have been formed:

1.Russian host society is mainly replenished with young and middle-aged male with the relatively low, than the native population has, level of education. Selectivity of the place of residence, conditions and wage of employment has been increased.

2.Host societies – like the migrants themselves – sees a need for regulation of migration processes. Along with the advantages of migration – resolution of the employment problem in the sphere of constructing, housing and communal services, and etc. – there are negative attitudes towards migrants, including the threat to national and social and cultural identity.

3.The process of integration was merely contradictive. Along the objective need and a legitimate concern to become a member of the host societies, assimilation of its language and culture (mostly depicts in preferences of business and neighborhood, orientation towards friendship between own and host children), there is understandable strive for preservation of the unity with ethnically native culture. This, in large measure, has shown up in the private field – attitude towards inter-ethnic and inter-religious marriage.

4.Parallel to the processes of globalization and unification, spreads of “universal normativity” in behavior, consumption and perception, there is a need to maintain the native culture identity, language surroundings and the whole culture.

5.Labor or social discrimination against migrants enhances their motivation to live among “native” people and separately. On its turn, the isolation of migrants, as partly the consequence of Overlapping Deprivation, leads to exacerbation of their exclusivity and consolidation, drawing on basic social and cultural practices and norms.

6.There have been an establishment and equalization of incoming and host culture.

7.A particular aspect – the attitude of host society. Discontent and wariness of local people largely acute among young people. The absolute majority of them consider that the main condition of residence of immigrants in the country is their respect to Russian culture, traditions and confessions.

8.Emphasis on ethnic and confessional identity of migrants considers as “otherness” and commitment to original culture, community, which could causes tense and contradictions with host society.

9.Potential resource and success of integration, or vice versa cultural and territorial segmentation are defined, firstly, by the real intent to integrate. Multiplicity, activity of local social and cultural autonomies and Diasporas, local government flexibility in taking account of acceptance and support to migrants are significant.


Multi-ethnicity and multi-religious reality of Russian society, reinforced by migration processes from Central Asia, have objectively increased the need for Russian identity establishment. Multi-ethnicity shouldn’t lead to political fragmentation of society. The nation-building process in Russia, aiming the united political fellowship, connects with adoption by migrants the value system of host society, their social integration. As Habermas mentioned, “political community identity, which should not be invade even by immigration, is grounded on established in political culture principals, but not on specific ethnic-cultural form of life in general” (Habermas, 1995). A brief reference to the normative documents of pre-revolutionary period of Russian history suggests the predominance of governmental-political and religious identities. Indigenous discourse and ethnic issues mainstreaming are, partly, a result of modern socio-economic processes.


This research was implemented with the support of Russian Foundation of Fundamental Investigations – the project “Social aspects of State and religion principles of establishing an interfaith collaboration (pre-revolutionary and current cross-section)” (project No 17-03-50224).


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29 March 2019

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Solodova, G., & Kidirniyazov, D. (2019). Current Migration From Central Asian Region Within Historical Context Of Russian Ethnicity. In D. K. Bataev (Ed.), Social and Cultural Transformations in the Context of Modern Globalism, vol 58. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 2454-2460). Future Academy.