Note: This is an adapted version of a blog post by Tajikistani journalist Olga Tutubalina that was originally published on the website of Dushanbe-based news agency Asia-PLUS. Global Voices Online has content-sharing partnership with Asia-PLUS.
The youth wing of Tajikistan's ruling People's Democratic Party, ‘Sozandagoni Vatan’ [roughly translated as 'Builders of the Homeland'], has condemned the «Migrant Worker's Guide» [ru, pdf] published in Russia (read a Global Voices article on the guide here). The leader of the group, Adham Mirsaidov, stated that the representations of migrant workers as construction tools in the guide are offensive and insulting to the national feelings of Tajik migrant workers. “‘Sozandagoni Vatan’ requests imperatively that the relevant government agencies of the Russian Federation take effective measures to remove [from circulation] and destroy the guide”.
It is understandable [why] people do not like the guide. It is unclear why the authors designed it in this particular way, with these particular illustrations. However, it could be suggested that the Tajiks themselves are more to blame for this: evidently, citizens of Tajikistan are associated with brooms, brushes and similar construction tools in Russia. But on the other hand, it is not highly qualified doctors, experienced teachers, or great scientists that travel to Russia [for work].
Possibly, many have been insulted by the images; others, including the [labor] migrants themselves, do not care how they are depicted as long as they have an opportunity to earn their bread.
It is quite possible that the individuals who designed the guides were not very professional. But this is not the problem that the National Democratic Party of Tajikistan should be using to score points. This behavior of theirs is even more indecent than the actual publication of the guide. This is nothing but hypocrisy towards those whom they are supposedly defending.
This incident is just a [result of] stupid misunderstanding which should not be used to draw general conclusions about the nationalist Russia. Let us ‘compare instead] what the supposedly hostile Russia is doing for Tajik migrant workers and what their home country is doing for them.
What does Russia do?
Russia is extending the period during which citizens of Tajikistan are allowed to stay on its territory without registration [with the migration authorities]. It is also increasing the duration of work permits [for Tajiks].
Russia is sending dozens of teachers to Tajikistan so that our children could receive an education. For the same reason, Russia is also opening its universities in [Tajikistan].
Russia is opening schools for the children of migrant workers on its territory.
Effectively, Russia is providing Tajiks with jobs on its territory. And there is no point in saying that [Russia] also needs [these migrant workers]; it is Tajikistan that is critically dependent on Russia's labor market for its survival.
Russia is removing export duties on oil deliveries [to Tajikistan] (even if it does so in exchange for [Tajikistan allowing Moscow to keep its military base in the country], common citizens do not care about this).
What does Tajikistan do?
Tajikistan is raising the cost of phone calls to Russia.
Tajikistan (its government) has been considering taxing the remittances that its migrant workers are sending home [from Russia].
The country's Ministry of Finance is slashing welfare benefits for the poorest segments of the population and for pensioners.
Tajikistan is being unable to feed its own people and to provide them with heating. It is being unable to provide them with decent education and well-paid jobs.
So, stop talking about your unique nation and pride, there is nothing unique about us. Start to respect yourselves in a real way. Not because we are Tajiks, but because we are human beings. The others will then start to respect us as well. This is common sense, but people should be continuously reminded of these things.