Russia's sensible and less sensible migration policies
“THEY are throwing us all out,” says Makhmoud from Tajikistan mournfully, as he stands in front of a row of dead dangling piglets at Dorogomilovsky market in Moscow. Under new rules that came into force this week, only 40% of workers at Russia's retail markets are supposed to be foreign, and none should be by April 1st.
（1）Russia's markets offer useful insights into the erratic nature of the country's development. Though bits of Russia are booming, inequality is grotesquely wide, and even in glitzy Moscow many Russians rely on cheap market stalls for their daily needs. Yet because many are staffed by immigrants—mostly from the ex-Soviet states of the Caucasus and Central Asia—they have also become a focus for Russia's increasingly visible ethnic nationalism. A deadly bomb at a Moscow market last August, and a riot soon afterwards in the northern Russian town of Kondopoga, where shops and markets were trashed, have been among the worst eruptions of this anger.
Vladimir Putin's response to Kondopoga vindicated those who think the Kremlin has been too accommodating towards extremism. （2）He denounced the “semi-gangs, some of them ethnic” that controlled Russia's markets, and called for regulation to protect “the native Russian population”. Hence the new rules, which are officially supposed to help Russian farmers get better prices for their produce. But since they affect only the market dogsbodies, rather than the middlemen, they actually seem designed to remove non-Slavic faces from the stalls.
Still, if xenophobia is one influence on Russia's migration policy (and racist murders are running at roughly one a week), there is another contradictory pressure that the Kremlin cannot ignore. Beneath its petrorouble prosperity, Russia is not only angry, but dying: the population is shrinking by around 750,000 per year, a drop mostly driven by the catastrophic rate of death—by violence, heart disease, tuberculosis and, increasingly, AIDS—among working-age men.
If the economy is to diversify beyond its natural-resources core, that is alarming. In response, President Putin has mostly talked about attracting more ethnic Russians back from the other ex-Soviet states, and of boosting the birth rate. （3）But some in the government evidently understand that these measures will not suffice—because this week, sensible new rules that will make it easier for foreigners to work legally in Russia everywhere but in markets were also introduced.
Up to 6m work permits are to be available this year for migrants from the poor ex-Soviet republics. That may be far fewer than the 8m-12m people that the federal migration service estimates are working in Russia illegally, but it amounts to far more than have been handed out before. Moreover, a simpler process should mean less official extortion.
As Elena Tyuryukanova, a migration expert, says, （4）the “right hand of government is liberalising the law, and the left hand is doing the opposite.”
The left hand, however, may yet have to reconsider. This week, as foreign workers—in Siberia and the Far East, mostly Chinese—packed up their market pitches, the government was insisting that the markets stay open, and that prices must not rise.
1. dangle v. 1 (a) [I] hang or swing loosely 悬吊着或摆动不定: a bunch of keys dangling at the end of a chain 在链子一端悬吊着的一串钥匙. (b) [Tn] hold (sth) so that it swings loosely 拿着（某物）使其摆动: He dangled his watch in front of the baby. 他在婴儿面前摇晃着表. 2 (phr v) dangle sth before/in front of sb offer sth temptingly to sb 以某事物招引某人: The prospect of promotion was dangled before him. 晋升的希望在吸引着他.
2. glitzy adj. 堂皇的The film star's wedding was a glitzy affair. 那位影星的婚礼是堂皇的盛事.
3. dogsbody n. (Brit) person who does boring or unpleasant jobs for others 勤杂工.
4. pitch n. [C] (esp Brit) place where a street trader usu does business or a street entertainer usu performs （街头的）商贩摊位, 艺人表演场地.