Integration of Kyrgyz Migrants in Moscow

Timeframe: September 2013 – May 2014

The research project was a response to the changes that “migration landscape” of Moscow had been undergoing in 2013-2014. The evidence of these changes included rise of the migrant infrastructure which by then had not been typical for the city (medical centers, night clubs, microfinancial organizations, fight clubs, etc – frequented and run by migrants) and moreover, their predominantly Kyrgyz identification. That coincided with the start of mass visual presence of Kyrgyz migrants who specifically indicated their ethnicity with elements of appearance (hats, T-shirts and sweatshots with Kyrgyz symbols). The questions of what integration trajectories Kyrgyz migrants follow and whether a special social formation of Kyrgyz migrants is forming, became driving forces of the project. According to the initial hypothesis, in the absence of ethnic neighborhoods in Moscow, these elements of migrant infrastructure serve as basis for the formation of a separate “Kyrgyz-town” not in the spatial but in social sense with exclusively Kyrgyz social networks. To check the hypothesis, the project in the framework of mixed methods methodology was undertaken. It included, first, bilingual survey (N=350, sampling with randomization of metro stations), second, observation and interviews at the locations of the Kyrgyz infrastructure (in particular, one of the research fellows frequented a Kyrgyz fight club), third, a series of in-depth biographical interviews (N=40). The research shows that in Moscow, the two main integration trajectories of Kyrgyz migrants are based on the association with other Kyrgyz migrants, and one of them indeed presupposes getting new social ties with Kyrgyz migrants in Russia. The social aggregate that appears on the basis of the latter integration trajectory is characterized with less strict attitudes towards “traditional”-type social norms, less participation in the status relations of the sending society and more proneness to the “city-like” way of life. However, contrary to the initial hypothesis it is not Kyrgyz infrastructure that is the main factor for the appearance of such trajectory and such aggregate. The main role is played by the “Kyrgyz” segment of the Moscow labour market: cheap cafes and fast-food restaurants. These are the places where Kyrgyz migrants predominantly work and where they get to know each other. Moreover, there they get information about cheaper and more convenient accommodation options – renting a bed in a “Kyrgyz” flat. Last but not least, there is an online Kyrgyz segment, namely Kyrgyz websites which post information on the jobs and accommodation. This is the process by which social ties of a Kyrgyz newcomer change from relatives and compatriots from the same village to a range of Kyrgyz migrants coming from various places in Kyrgyzstan. Generally, this is a process underlying a specific integration trajectory which is followed by numerous Kyrgyz migrants in Moscow. Overall, the research partially proves the initial hypothesis. Indeed, there is an integration trajectory of Kyrgyz migrants which is characterized with predominant interaction with Kyrgyzs whom a person gets to know in Russia. This trajectory is followed by a large number of Kyrgyz migrants, which means a formation of a social aggregate with specific features and behavior. However, it is rooted in and maintained with not the elements of Kyrgyz infrastructure in Moscow but existence of the “Kyrgyz” segment in the Moscow labour market, rental market and online space.

* The project has been completed in RANEPA with the financial support of the government of the Russian Federation.


  1. Varshaver, E., Rocheva, A. (2015). Peering into 'Ethnic' Community: Integration in Performance Differences 'Patriotic-Related' and 'National' Wheels (on the Example Migrants from Kyrgyzstan in Moscow). Social Policy and Sociology14(3), 24-37. [in Russian]
  2. Kochkin, E., Rocheva, A., Varshaver, E. (2014). Ethnic Market of the Moscow Service Sector: Case of Kyrgyz Commercial Companies. Marketing Services, (4), 284-292.
  3. Varshaver, E., Rocheva, A., Kochkin, E., Kuldina, E. (2014). Kyrgyz Migrants in Moscow: Results of a Quantitative Research on Integration Tracks. Preprint. [in Russian]