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November 15, 2017

How to Visualize Changing Cultural Practices

November 15, 2017 | By | No Comments

Our project proposals are soon due, and I have been thinking about what I would like to show on my future website. In my previous blogs, I have focused a great deal on showing how the physical space that is Moscow has changed, considering the intersections of Soviet and post-Soviet. Today, I turn my attention toward Soviet socialism’s influences on labor migration policies in Russian today, which will serve as the main focus of my website.

During the Soviet period, migration solved the problem of labor shortages in Moscow. Since 1932, the internal passports and domicile registration regulated movement within the Soviet Union. In order to live in the capital, would-be residents needed to prove they had employment within the city to then procure a domicile registration. In 1932, the domicile registration curbed rural to urban migration spurred by collectivization, industrialization, and famine, but by the 1970s, Soviet academics argued that such registration prevented urban sprawl and poverty seen in capitalist countries.

Restricting migration to Moscow (and other large Soviet cities for that matter) created a conundrum. Economic planners continued to open factories in Moscow, which then spurred the need for additional housing, schools, and the construction workers who made it possible. Although technically barred from in-migration, many Soviet citizens eagerly left behind rural villages for the city. To facilitate the symbiosis of a rural exodus to cities short on laborers, economic planners and the Moscow Soviet (city council) issued a temporary domicile registration and a bed in a dormitory to these labor migrants. In the course of four to six years, such migrants became eligible for permanent residency.

The Soviet practice of issuing temporary domicile registration offered migrants a sense of security – the legal right to live in the city (even if only temporarily at first) and a place to live. Additionally, many dormitories offered cultural development programs that provided classes for improving work qualifications, excursions throughout Moscow and the Soviet Union, and participation in intramural sports. Migrants became incorporated into a community, while enterprise directors also viewed these policies favorably, arguing that migrant involvement decreased hooliganism and absenteeism.

In certain ways, temporary labor migration to Moscow is similar to its Soviet predecessor. Today, the Moscow City Council sets quotas of foreign workers by sectors of the economy. Companies can then hire these workers on a temporary basis. Migrants can temporarily register their presence in the city and often live in dormitories or hostels. Despite the bureaucratic similarities, today’s migrants are often left more vulnerable. Companies do not run the dormitories, and therefore, few, if any cultural development programs exist. A lack of shared Soviet citizenship has also left migrants from the former Soviet republics with fewer legal protections.

My next task is to determine how to illustrate these changes. During my summer research trip to Moscow, I took pictures of Soviet structures to illustrate how they function today. I have archival information on Soviet and post-Soviet labor recruitment practices, but I will spend the next weeks discovering means of visualizing this information.

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