Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

"You Are Responsible for Your People." the Role of Diaspora Leaders in the Governance of Immigrant Integration in Russia

Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

"You Are Responsible for Your People." the Role of Diaspora Leaders in the Governance of Immigrant Integration in Russia

Article excerpt

Russia is one of the world's major immigrant-receiving countries, second only to the USA. In 2014, immigrants made up 17,281,971 of Russia's 144,221,341 person population and there were 11,072,355 foreign citizens living in the country, according to official statistics. Precise numbers remain suspect, however, given the prevalence of irregular immigration. Since the early 1990s, Russia has experienced several immigration waves. The main influx came from the former Soviet Union and a substantial amount of this flow includes labor migrants from the states having visa-free relationships with the Russian Federation, particularly the Central Asian countries of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan.1 Russia faces significant challenges regarding the social conditions of immigrants, inter-ethnic and inter-religious tension (between native and immigrant groups, and among immigrant groups), linguistic and cultural adaptation to Russia, and problems when it comes to designing and enforcing a system that prevents uncontrolled immigration but does allow immigrants to legalize their presence in the country.2

Challenges related to the integration of immigrants confront many countries in Europe today. A key issue in this regard is how to organize dialogue between immigrant communities, state agencies that are tasked with their integration, and civil society organizations that have a special interest in the integration processes. How this communication is organized will impact how much the groups know about each other's needs and expectations, how well prepared they are to jointly meet challenges to social cohesion, and eventually how well the integration effort will work in practice. Ideally, such networks provide the target group with a mechanism for giving input to decision-makers, while also allowing the state to draw on the resources of civil society.

When it comes to analyzing such structures for dialogue and coordination, a useful theoretical concept is network governance. This term refers to organized coordination and communication between state and non-state actors to address certain political issues, often issues which are identified as being of high complexity and necessitating sector-transcending political collaboration. The concrete content of the term "network governance" varies somewhat among authors. Some utilize it to describe situations where they consider the state and non-state actors to be relatively equal partners whose goals are at some fundamental level in harmony, while others focus on power imbalances and hierarchies within governance networks. Some use the term for informal and formal networking alike, while others focus solely on formal networks.3 Our usage of the term "network governance" makes no assumptions of equality or harmony among actors. We indeed expect to find that resource and power imbalances impact how governance networks operate, and assume that aspects of hierarchal governance by the state will be present within the governance networks. Some noted ways for the state to perform metagovernance, the governance of governance networks, are issue framing (predefining the scope of a governance network's activities), economic framing, participant selection, and direct participation by the authorities in the network.4 Depending on the extent to which the state allows genuine representation of non-state interests and admits actual influence to the non-state actors, governance networks can range from being entirely symbolic or manipulative to structures that provide non-state actors with genuine influence.5

The task of this article is to present how Russian network governance practices are organized in the sphere of immigrant integration. We will specifically look at the role of "diaspora organizations" in governance networks, because they are the Russian authorities' go-to type of organization for connecting with immigrant communities. For this purpose we have studied one type of governance network in two major Russian cities - the Federal Migration Service's Public Consultative Councils (PCCs) in Samara and St. …

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