Migrants from Russia’s troubled North Caucasus region say that they face ongoing discrimination from landlords and letting agencies Moscow.

According to an investigation by the Kavkazskii Uzel (KU) website, which reports on the situation in the North Caucasus, some realtors in the capital are turning away Dagestani and Chechen migrants seeking rental apartments.

KU cites a Dagestani man,  Magomed Aminov, who says he came to Moscow in search of work about a month ago. When he tried to rent an apartment in the capital, however, he ran into difficulties. Aminov said that when he calls up realtors, they immediately say no, or hang up when they hear he is from Dagestan.

no dagestanis

(Photo: Rental advert saying “No North Caucasians”, credit KU)

“For over a month, I’ve been living with relatives, I can’t find an apartment.  The  first question they all ask is: “Where are you from?”,” Aminov said. “Muscovites are a spoiled public – they want tenants to be not only Russian citizens, but also of ‘Slavic appearance’. That’s what they write on property ads:  Rentals available for Russians. Those from the Caucasus and Asia need not apply’. And these ads aren’t just around the city, or  at the station, but also on realtors’ websites. I understand that Caucasians sometimes misbehave, but these are isolated cases.”

According to KU, Aminov explained that most of the migration from Dagestan is because of ongoing issues in the region like high unemployment, corruption, and the “lack of any social perspectives in a significant part of the population”.

The “Terrorist Threat” & The Russian Media

KU also cited a Dagestani woman, Amina Rasulova, who said she has lived in Moscow for a year, and who explained that, in her view, the Russian media is to blame for the discrimination, because it frequently paints a negative image of the people of the North Caucasus.

“If landlords can be persuaded to take tenants from Kabardino-Balkaria, Adygea and North Ossetia, well, they don’t agree to take people from Dagestan, Ingushetia and Chechnya. They say straight out, what if you’re a terrorist . Or they say, if we rent to you, you’ll bring the whole aul (fortified village community typical of Dagestan). This entire thing is because the media cooked up this negative image of Dagestan, Ingushetia and Chechnya, and people believe it blindly. Think about it, if Dagestan and Ingushetia are shown on TV then you can bet they’re going to be stories about the next raid or murder. And about Chechnya where things are calm right now, its the old memory of the two wars.” Rasulova told KU.

Is the discrimination real or imagined?

KU spoke to a Moscow realtor, who said that the real estate agencies are not setting the “no Dagestanis or Chechens” criteria themselves, but are passing on instructions from landlords, just as they would pass on instructions of “no pets” or “no children”.

The head of the Youth Committee of the Russian Congress for the Peoples of the Caucasus, Sultan Togonidze, agreed that the discrimination against Dagestanis and Chechens in the capital’s housing market is real. Togonidze said the situation of landlords setting racial preferences for tenants is likely against Russian law. An attorney approached by KU backed up this view, saying that landlords who say they refuse to let to individuals from the North Caucasus could be violating Article 36 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, “Violation of the Equality of Rights and Freedoms of an Individual and a Citizen”.

The rise of ultra-nationalism: “Moscow is a Russian city”

Rental adverts insisting on “no Dagestanis or Chechens” is just one more public manifestation of a wider phenomenon that has been gaining momentum in Russia — the rise of an extremist form of Russian nationalism that is no longer content to merely take pride in a Russian identity, but which creates that identity by setting up an “inferior Other”.

The rise in popularity of Russia’s Day of National Unity — marked this month with attacks on migrants, particularly from the Northern Caucasus — and last month’s anti-migrant riots in the southern Moscow suburb of Biryulevo are two more examples of how the growth in this form of nationalism is finding ugly expression.

KU also spoke to several Muscovites who have said they will not rent their apartments to North Caucasians. One, who remained anonymous, said that Caucasians were “always trying to establish their own rules, regulations and morality.”

“Moscow is in fact a Russian city, and so most of its residents are Russians with their traditions, their way of life. And any attempt (by anyone) to do things in their way will bring about a natural rejection,” one Muscovite told KU.

KU spoke to Natalia Zubarevich, the director of regional programming for the Independent Institute of Social Policy, who said that Russian nationalism is forming at a rapid pace, because of both economic and political factors.

“To this end, the issue of the migrant population was pushed during the last elections. The mood is also influenced by the deteriorating economic situation in the country, but irritation is not so much directed at those in power, but on the prevailing image of the enemy,” Zubarevich told KU.

(Featured photo: my old residence in Moscow, opposite the Kremlin. No Dagestanis or Chechens allowed?)