Thursday, 15 August 2013

Moscow's population

An article in the English language newspaper, The Moscow Times, dated 13 August, notes that Moscow’s federal budget claims 65% of Russia’s resources, leaving the other 83 regions to split the remaining 35% between them. A result of this is that many regional cities are indebted and impoverished. It’s little wonder, therefore, that relative wealth of Moscow is a magnet.

A census conducted in 2010 put Moscow’s population at around 11.5 million, making it easily the biggest city in Europe. However, uncharted and illegal immigration, mainly people drawn to the prosperity of Moscow in the hope of finding a better life, could put the real figure at anywhere between 13 and 17 million. 

Several posts ago I wrote an item about outdoor markets. Since then there have been a number of articles in the Moscow Times about a riot in one market resulting in an across the board clamp down on such places. The newspaper items noted that the markets are commonly frequented by illegal immigrants. The Federal Migration Service is responsible for managing this issue and currently oversees 21 institutions for detaining illegal immigrants. It has plans to greatly increase its detention capacity (I will note here that such detention is not dissimilar to how Australia handles illegal immigrants). Most of these illegal immigrants come from former USSR republics in Central Asia – places such as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. 

One of the things I have noticed about Moscow is the homogeneity of the population. The vast majority of people are white and of Eastern European appearance. While I don’t stand out in a way that I would in, say, Japan, people here can generally pick that I am not Russian without me opening my mouth, despite my dressing as unobtrusively as possible. 

This May Day crowd provides an illustration of the character of the population of Moscow

The only other group one sees in any number are people of Central Asian appearance. I am by no means suggesting that these people are all illegal immigrants, no doubt most of them have a perfect right to be in Russia. I have observed though, that they do seem to carry a disproportionate load of unskilled and heavy-lifting jobs. 

Other groups, such as people with darker skin colours or from the Indian sub-continent, are uncommon enough to be notable. 

Painting the exterior of a building. Paint is contained in the buckets. While the pavement was roped off, there would still have been some unhappy passersby had any of the paint buckets come loose. These guys were all Central Asian - such people seem to do much of the outdoor maintenance work.

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