New East Digital Archive

Dos and don’ts for migrants in Moscow, as told by Russian fairytale characters

17 January 2017

If you’re a newly arrived migrant in Moscow, the city government has just the thing to help you fit in — a not at all patronisingly written guide to appropriate behaviour, narrated by a host of traditional Russian fairytale characters.

Each character has a special lesson to teach — Russia’s famous “warrior knights” (bogatyri) take on the role of Moscow’s law enforcement agencies, while Prince Yuri Dolgoruky (a historical character and founder of Moscow) escorts readers on tours around the city. Vasilisa the Wise, a stock character in Russian fairytales, and snow maiden Snegurochka school and quiz readers on Russian history and language.

Among the dos and don’ts for migrants detailed in the book include ogling women, and eating or talking loudly on the street. Things get a bit more official, though, in a special section that emphasises the importance of following Moscow’s strict residency and employment rules, with those who flout the rules risking deportation.

“We want to raise their level of law awareness,” said Alexander Kalinin, who heads up the Support for Working Migrants in Moscow group, in a statement to BBC Russian, adding that the manual was primarily aimed at illegal immigrants.

Critics have stressed that the manual polarises Muscovites and migrants, with Moscow presented as a Slavic city and migrants “ethnicised”.

“The old conflict between Russian heroes and hordes [non-Slavic invaders] is being revived,” commented Yevgeny Varshaver, an expert on migration and ethnicity at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration.

And it could have been worse — an earlier edition of the manual identified migrants as representatives of various nationalities, but project organisers dropped this concept so as “not to offend anyone”, according to Mr Kalinin.

Source: BBC News