National minorities’ discrimination in social and economic spheres

  The current unit is prepared based on the field research, which was carried out in Samara region by CEPRS with the participation of the local specialists and volunteers under guidance of N.S.Mukhametshina.

  The investigations had four stages:

-  experts’ opinion  (detailed interview) in order to reveal the most discriminated ethnic groups and spheres of discrimination (June,2002);

-  focus groups with participation of national and cultural formations representatives to define more exactly the problems and spheres of discrimination (July-August,2002);

-  trial research of discrimination against the national minorities’ representatives in spheres, revealed in the previous stages (July-August,2002);

-  analyzing the private advertisements in mass media (August,2002).

Experts’ opinion. 28 experts were polled: ombudsmen, representatives of Culture Department, militia, prosecutor’s office, employment service, office-managers, realtors, the chief editors of “Radio-7”and ethnic-language mass media, the rector of a higher educational establishment, 8 leaders of ethnic- cultural centers (ECC) and formations.

  The public opinion in respect of national minorities is formed independently on the principal factors – the Russian citizenship and legality of staying/ residing in the region. The experts carefully distinguish the following nuances: they emphasize that without registration (“propiska), the national minorities’ representatives face problems that are more serious and the Russian citizens have much more opportunities in all spheres including registration. There are some problem ethnic groups: without citizenship of RF and without registration; those who have registration but without citizenship of Russia; Russian citizens without registration; and the proper national minorities’ representatives, having RF citizenship and legally staying in the region.

  Estimating the registered -to -not registered immigrants’ ratio in the region, the experts’ opinions range from 1/3 to 1/100- “only a few people are registered”. The majority of experts suppose that the large segment of immigrants illegally stays in the region.

It is noted that the ratio is relative: at the beginning of the season, the number of illegal immigrants, arriving in the region for seasonal work, achieves a steep rise. They are Tajiks, and other ethnic groups’ representatives from Central Asia. The considerable part of the illegal immigrants is the representatives of the title nationalities of Transcaucasian states (mainly the Azerbaijans) and Central Asian states. They express an opinion that there are 25 - 30 thousand illegal immigrants per 1,5-2,0 thousand Tajiks, having citizenship and residing in the region legally. It is true regarding not only persons from Central Asia:” a black crow is a nickname of people from Transcaucasus who come for seasonal work, for example, on construction jobs. They rash in spring, work in summer and rash away in autumn”.

  According to the employment service representative, “as a rule, unqualified labour force comes from Central Asia – complaisant, downtrodden people, ready for all terms to get any payment”.

  Attracting foreign workers, especially from Central Asia, is profitable for employers, since this labour force is very cheap. The employment service put forward the requirements to provide workers’ transportation, suitable residence terms and wage corresponding to the labour expenditures. However, the enterprises reject the labour force, which is directed by the employment service, under various pretexts and prefer to employ cheap foreign workers.

  According to the manager of a construction company, Gastarbeiter place in a good light comparing to the local labour force:” Our folk come in the morning and they are not in condition yet but in the afternoon they are not in condition already and everything they have – sold up and squandered”.

  The number of the ethnic groups’ representatives without the Russian citizenship but legally staying in the region is not large through difficult registering. Among the ethnic groups, having the RF citizenship, but not having the registration the Gypsies prevail. According to one of the leaders of Gypsy ECC, the half of 20 thousand Gypsies residing in the region has no passports and the rest have no registration. In one of the settlements among 400 Gypsies, only 30 – 40 have passports and that results in lack of medical insurance, difficulties in civil registration, etc.

  The majority of experts considers that the Tatars, Mordvinians and Chuvashes are in a better position (‘they are supposed to be quite at home in the Volga region”) among other national minorities’ representatives. The same is spoken about the status of Jews and Germans. (Actually, it is a notable opinion of an ECC representative: “the Jews can’t help being discriminated against… It was right to infringe them”). The idea of infringing the rights of the Kazakhs, Koreans is rather vague, though the experts emphasize that their status is much worse then the national minorities’ representatives mentioned above.

  The experts consider that the rights of the Caucasian and Central Asian national minorities are infringed much more considerably. According to their opinion, the Tajiks (using five-digit scale – 5 and even 10), Chechens and Azerbaijans are in the worst position.

  The Gypsies are regarded to almost unanimously:” the attitude to the Gypsies is semi-pity (mostly, to children), semi-negative”. In fact, it was said that “the Gypsies are not discriminated against, they live as if beyond the state, in their own world, according to their own laws”. Another expert noted: ”As for Gypsies, there is no discrimination, it is their own choice”.

  The opinion was expressed by itself that “the Russians are sooner infringed, they suffer from being treated much worse then national minorities”.”

  The experts were asked to estimate the degree of discrimination in each of the most numerous national minorities’ group of the region using the five-point system from 1(no discrimination) to 5 (the extremely discriminated group). The two groups of national minorities were clearly marked. The first one included the representatives of the “regionally traditional” national minorities: the Germans –the average point 1,0, Tatars –1,09, Mordvinians – 1,13, Chuvashes – 1,20, Jews – 1,35,Kazakhes – 1,57. The migrants’ minorities form the second group: The Gypsies – the average point 4,17, Tajiks – 3,88, Chechens – 3,83, Daghestans – 3,35, Azerbaijans – 3,27, Armenians – 3,21, Uzbeks – 3,19, Georgians – 3,08, Koreans – 2,81, and others –3,0.

  The principal discrimination spheres are the rights to work, to lesser degree, to education and housing. According to the opinion of the recruiting director of a company:” The difficulties in getting job occur in persons, arriving from Central Asia and in Caucasians by birth: “there is such a practice though it is not manifested. It especially becomes apparent in the highly paid areas”. The head of the employment service is at one with him:” there is a thousand and more ways of non -employing without referring to the nationality [ethnicity]”.

  The unqualified labour is another matter:” the Tajiks are preferred for physical work instead of the native nations – the Tatars, Mordvinians, Russians, and Chuvashes. They have no identity papers and are taken away for constructive work where they have been working for months – it is cheap labour force.” The representative of the commercial employment agency confirms:” we employ them, for instance, for summer works but they are isolated”.

  Another area of discrimination, mentioned most frequently, is letting. The representative of the commercial real estate agency noted that “the Russians are preferable to let”. Another expert underlined that “in renting and purchasing the dwelling the people of the Caucasian regions of all nationalities face some difficulties. People, taking our advice in letting or selling, and especially, their neighbours, very often ask not to let and not to sell dwelling to persons of other nationalities. The first place, in this sense, is taken by the “Caucasians”, then Gypsies, and much more seldom, Tatars”.

  The discrimination is considerably based on the public opinion:” The native population of Samara region considers the presence of all Caucasians and Central Asians by birth unwanted. The attitude to the gypsies – luli is extremely negative.”

  One of the experts, answering the question “If there is a public notion about the nationalities unwanted”, made a noteworthy slip in speaking – “Certainly, there is”. Another one let slip:” of course, the gypsies or somebody like that do not adorn the city, they are unwanted”. The third one noted that “ the categories of citizens listed, i.e. those who are engaged in begging, gave rise to negative attitude”. The forth expert declared that “ the gypsies – luli and local gypsies are unwanted since they are identified with drug traffic. The Tajiks and Uzbeks are unwanted for the same reason. The Armenians, Azerbaijans and Georgians are unwanted through their lifestyle incompatible with the local population”. The fifth one stated that “ everything is clear with the gypsies. As for Uzbeks, they do not live in accordance with our laws, tear away by the society and are interpreted only through the beggars in the urban transport and the market – sellers… The persons of “the Caucasian nationality” – all of them - are unwanted in public either, they are with one face for the Russians.” 

  The main claims to some national minorities are drug traffic, markets seizure, pretentious behavior in everyday life –“can’t you see the way the ragged Ukrainians and Byelorussians live…”

  The ethnic societies’ representatives agree with other experts. According to the leader of the Tajik society, “the common people treat us friendly, however the rumors of our nation do much harm and raise vigilance… We are infringed everywhere – at constructive works, railway stations, and transport. The militia takes care of us while slipping a paw into our pocket…” The representative of the Gypsy society noted that “ the gypsies and Chechens are unwanted in public. The gypsies face difficulties in all spheres, both to apply for a job and to sell. They are not allowed, they can be always found fault with. It concerns the persons from the Caucasus either. Judging only by appearances the gypsies are often forbidden to sell in market…”

  The opinion of the judicial authority representative is worth noticing: the discrimination is based not on the national but language ground – the people, having bad command of Russian face the problems everywhere. That point of view was supported and there was an attempt of its substantiating:” as for the language, the discrimination is natural here… A wise leader will prefer the specialist, who has a good command of the Russian language.” Another noteworthy opinion of the specialist in ethnic education runs that “the discrimination is provoked by an imperfection of the legislation, which declares the rights but links the realization of those with the financial opportunities of regional and local government. In practice, it expresses itself in dependence on the official’s will and go-ahead power of this or that national minority.

   It was underlined that one can get university education in a native language (for ex., Erzynian) but only professional – a native language teacher. The same is true for the Chuvashes, Tatars, and Mordvinians. Other nationalities have no opportunities of getting the professional and higher education in native language excepting the Jews and Germans. The gypsies in their native language cannot get even comprehensive education.

  The basic conclusions in the given stage are:

-  the discrimination is less typical or lacking in respect of the national minorities, traditionally inhabiting the Volga region, and other native minorities; the migrants’ minorities are badly discriminated against;

-  the most common spheres of discrimination are in employing and letting;

-  infringing the national minorities’ rights is more typical in the private-type sector, the officials try to keep within the law (“There are no infringements of the rights of non-Russian persons, having RF citizenship, in the state bodies, and as for the private-type sector, “everybody is a lord in his own house”).

Focus groups. Taking into account the problem differentiation for different national minorities groups, two target- groups were formed: for national minorities’ representatives, regarding whom speaking about any discrimination is complicated (i.e. the Volga region “native” ethnic groups), and for the representatives of the migrants’ national minorities, being hard discriminated against.

  The first target- group was functioning in the House of Friendship of Samara region on the 1 July 2002. The constructive discussion of the mentioned minorities’ problems was held. The national minorities’ representatives pointed out the basic, to their mind, problems: getting education in minorities’ languages, maintaining the national languages and its functioning in everyday life, cherishing the national cultures, availability of press and computer media in minorities’ languages.

  The parents’ refusal to struggle for ensuring the rights to education in national minorities’ languages evokes anxiety in several of the “traditional” Volga region minorities’ representatives.

There was a point of view that the parents faced the dilemma: either to give better knowledge of Russian for getting the highly-qualified education, professional training and career promotion in future, or to give knowledge of native language. Many parents can hardly see the prospects, which are given to bilingual children.

  The special attention was paid to mass media activity in national languages: the problems of staff, finances, readers’ poor knowledge of native written language, etc. Almost everybody was anxious about unstable service of the “Radio – 7”, broadcasting in 11 languages but having finished to broadcast in mid frequency.

  The conduction of the second target- group was at the point of being disrupted. Despite the fact, that nobody of the national minorities’ representatives, invited to the House of Friendship, had refused to take part in the meeting, the majority, under the pretext, did not report for it. The discussion, which was quite keen, uncovered the reason: the representatives of the “migrants’’ national minorities apprehended the conduction of two target- groups as a malicious intent, as an attempt of artificial separating the regional ethnic groups and the discrimination against their nations. The organizers’ reasoning that they had intended to increase the efficiency of discussing the problems, different in national minorities, was not taken into consideration.

  The negative experience of organizing two-staged conduction of the target- groups proved again that the maximum and even excessive tact was obligatory for well being of the ethnic groups.

  The trial research of discrimination against national minorities’ representatives in social and economic spheres. The trial investigations of discrimination against the national minorities’ representatives were carried out in employing and letting – those areas, which were most frequently indicated by the experts.

The investigation of discrimination in employment. The investigation was carried out by the volunteers, mostly, students. The technique included the following:

- the selection of volunteers’ pairs (Russians and national minorities’ representatives) of the same sex, age, education, qualification level, marital status in order to eliminate the influence of the features given;

- the phone interview, regarding the apply for a job and letting, etc. of a national minorities’ representative, rejecting whom was more possible than his/her partner;

-  finding out the terms of availability of the social and economical goods asked for in case of employment;

-  in case of rejecting, the partner’s phoning;

-  the analogous phoning follows if the special terms are determined (remuneration for work and its conditions, rental fee, unofficial services, etc.);

-  The analogous procedure is taken (or repeated) in case of the personal contact with the employer, lessor, social service clerk.

The volunteers usually had to contact the employer personally. Each volunteer stated the availability of RF citizenship and residence registration in Samara.

  Each pair of volunteers reconciled the requirements for remuneration and conditions of work, peculiar requirements (the availability of a car, driving license, driving experience, etc.). All cases were thoroughly registered. A special attention was paid to the set of questions asked.

 The research results of discrimination in employing are given below. 7 pairs of volunteers were engaged in the investigation: 2 pairs with participation of the Armenians, the rest are with the Uzbek, Kazakh, Tatar, Ossete and “Darghinian” (the latter was introduced by the Russian student of the typical Caucasian appearance and being aware of all Daghestan realities.)

The results are reviewed in the Table 1.

Table 1

The trial research results of discrimination against national minorities’ representatives in employing

Diversities of employment solutions

The number of attempts

Results’ review to reveal the possible discrimination against the national minorities’ representative

Rejecting the national minorities’ representative; employing the Russian



Employing the national minorities’ representative, rejecting the Russian



Rejecting both



Employing both, the labour remuneration and conditions are the same



Employing both, labour remuneration and/or conditions are better for the Russian



Employing both, the prospects of labour remuneration and/or conditions are better for the Russian



Employing both, labour remuneration and/or conditions are worse for the Russian


Positive discrimination


The results’ review is uncertain: The volunteers stated that the employer came to the decision of rejecting or engaging resulting from his assessment of motivation, applicants’ communicability, appearance and other factors.

  However, there are incidences of rejecting under pretext. The Caucasian volunteer was rejected through his necessity to take exams two times a year (he was an external student). His partner emphasized his being an external student but the manager considered it would not prevent from working in his team. He stated that “energetic people do not waist time and exams do not interfere with making money”.

  The incidences of unfair labour conditions and remuneration are of special attention. The unfair labour conditions were registered when the Tatar student was offered worse prospects and schedule to compare with his partner; the labour remuneration was offered 16% less. As for another case, the initial payment gap totaled 42%, in third case – the Russian student beside the fixed payment equivalent to this of his partner was offered the commissioning not less than 30% of his salary. All applicants are employed in piece-rate pay work.

  The research being not representative for sure allows making a cautious conclusion: the labour market environment implies likely discrimination against the national minorities’ representatives in employing. Half the cases gives the ground for such a conclusion.

  The research of discrimination in letting. The research was carried out via consulting the real estate agencies, engaged in private- type renting and directly the dwelling- owners, published advertisements in the paper “From hands to hands”.

  In consulting the agencies the following explanation was given:” We reside in the settlement Upravlenchesky (suburb area) and would like to move to Samara, since we work there. We have already tried to find a flat via the owners but have been rejected several times because of our nationality. My husband and I are Chechens. We have residence registration. Perhaps, the company will help us.”

  3 among 5 agencies were willing to help. The 1 agency: the phone operator gave a positive answer. She suggested they should come and make a contract, offered several variants. The repeated emphasizing the nationality resulting difficulties surprised her. The 2 agency: the phone operator gave a positive answer. She suggested they should come and make a contract, assured them to find a flat. The 3 agency: they responded positively, were sure to find a flat. The repeated complaints of being rejected including by agencies, because of the nationality caused bewilderment. The telephone operator informed that they had found flats for the Armenians, Azerbaijanians, etc.

  Two agencies refused to do this job. The 4 agency: the answer was negative:” I cannot promise to help you”. No additional questions were asked. The 5 agency: the answer of an operator (or an owner) – negative: “The Chechens are not dealt with, even if they have a registration. We understand you but can’t help”.

  Two explanations were given to the advertisement publishers insisting on renting “only to Russians” or to “Russian family”.

According to the first one, the Tatar woman looks for an apartment for her just-married son. However, the advertisement runs:” it is let only to Russians”. The answer of the first owner was positive, only the Caucasian nationality had been implied (the reason was:” You let to the one and he will bring many”). Another owner stated: ”In fact, I can let the flat to the Tatars if registered in Samara. I refrain from letting to the Caucasians, Uzbeks and so on [the flat is situated near the largest market]. They are untidy and produce many hubbubs.” One more owner stated the flat to have been let.

  According to another explanation, the young man looks for a flat for his friends. The family of 3 persons, they reside in the settlement Upravlenchesky and want to move to Samara. There is a registration. Once they found a suitable flat but were rejected because of their being the Armenians.

  Among 3 only one, willing to let a flat for a fixed price, was not confused by the Caucasian accent of the volunteer. Another one refused point blank: “I don’t want to deal neither with the Armenians nor Azerbaijanians. I had enough problems. Too much noise, quarreling, they are not reliable”. The third answer was: “ such dwellers are unwanted, though personally he has had no problems but others speak about them negatively. They will disturb my neighbours”.

   The research of discrimination in letting: analyzing the private advertisement in mass media. The research was carried out via analyzing the paper advertisements. Among786 private advertisement on letting, 10,3% advertisement underlined “only to Russians”, “only to Russian family”. Only advertisements on private letting were counted, as the real estate companies or private realtors did not refer to the ethnic belonging of dwelling – searchers. Among 696 long-term letting advertisements (over 3 months), 64 advertisements (9,2%) gave such a wording as “only to Russians” and just one advertisement read: ”for Tatar family”. The most common wording was:” to Russian family”.

  The ethnic belonging more frequently referred to in the short-term letting advertisements (days and hours): among 90 advertisements – each fifth with the wording “for Russians”.

   Taking into account the current renting market environment, the dwelling-searchers often identify the nationality themselves. Among 490 renting advertisements, 106 advertisers (22% of the aggregate) identified their nationality. The most common wordings as “to Russian family”, “to Russian man”, “to Russian woman”, “to Russian girl”. In such advertisements, only Russians identify their ethnic belonging.


The interview technique was developed with participation of I.M. Kuznetsov and S.V. Ryzhova and the Ethnic Sociological Center subjected to RSA Sociological Institute, they also prepared the scheme of conducting the focus groups.