By Denis Sinyakov
I don’t remember a time when Moscow hasn’t been flooded with them – migrants from Central Asia.
When I moved here in 1997 they were already here. They had started appearing more than 20 years ago, the time when the Soviet Union was falling apart. Some fled civil wars, but more often they were escaping the awful economic situation in their homelands. Not exactly an escape, but they came to make some money, leaving their families at home. The economic situation in Russia even now isn’t enviable, at the beginning of the 1990’s it was woeful, but none the less better than there.
Muscovites have got used to living with them, used to regarding them as low qualified workers, as street sweepers and lorry loaders, cheap muscle on building sites. People are used to calling them “churki” and “sheep” and not finding those words in any way offensive.
Muscovites are generally not very tolerant people towards aliens, and aren’t very fond of newcomers from the varied different regions of the Russian federation, or the Caucasus or from Central Asia. But only the latter group has it become habitual to offend in public.
When I started to shoot this story I saw the following scene: two women arguing about a dog belonging to one of them that was swimming with children in a river one hot July day. In the same place migrants from Tajikistan were swimming, they were about half of the bathers present. The women were shouting and arguing for a long time about the hygiene of the dog. Bystanders became involved and eventually sided with the dog owner, arguing that it was permissible since there were already several “darkies” swimming in the same place, so the water could hardly be considered clean. The darkies, deeply tanned only on their necks and forearms, listened silently and continued swimming and didn’t pay any attention to what was happening. Everybody is used to it, but I felt deeply ashamed.