27 June 2011

Two Typical Tajiks in Zaloz’ye Russia


Whether from Latin America or Tajikistan, migration can be a rough time.  What do you think about immigration?  Just click comments on the next to last line of this post, and let us know!

Howdy Stranger!

It’s my habit as an American to be friendly to strangers.  This is contrary to Russian custom.  It’s usual, though, for men to shake hands frequently.

Recently I was at the autolavka store, shopping while talking with neighbors.  I call people by name, but only one 90 year old returns the favor.  I  put my hand out to a dark complected man, surprising him so that he dropped his newly purchased cigarettes while taking my hand.

Ctola removing loose composite before patching the Golanka.  The step crack is a telltale sign of foundation trouble.

Later it was explained that I should be slow to shake hands with a stranger, especially with someone from south of the Russian borders, including the stans of Central Asia.  Russia now has many migrants from these countries... especially Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan... but also from Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan. 

Tola and Dovlat

We spotted this same man walking in the village a few days later, and arranged for him and his brother do some work for us.  They are Tajiks... Tola 29, and Dovlat 21.

No matter what stan (meaning... place) the migrants are from, Russians generally call Central Asians Tajiks. True Tajiks, from the Republic of Tajikistan, have a similar appearance to Hispanic Americans... usually dark skinned with European faces. When waiting or congregating they may sit on their haunches, crouching, with just the balls of their feet touching the ground.

Russia’s illegal immigrants

Central Asians are changing the make up of Russia’s cities. They, unlike Americans, don’t need visas but, if they don’t get residency and work permits within a few days, they become illegal.  This influx in the last twenty years is a shock to the people of a formerly closed country who mostly look lily white.

Davlat patching the kitchen pechka with a mixture of sand, and salt and concrete.

Tajiks have a reputation for doing hard work thoroughly, in apartment maintenance, construction or restaurants.  As Moslems, most don’t drink, which is a welcome change in Russia.  But many have poor educations, reflected in their skill level and even their knowledge of Russian.

A few years ago we had three Tajiks stay with us while they finished the veranda and worked on plumbing.  Thinking of the Alhambra, I was sure these Moslems would have no trouble making an archway above the entrance to the veranda.  Instead, it is a monument to their inability to make a simple consistent curve.

Improve your vocabulary!

One night we were leaving for the lake to fix our push pump.  I didn’t remember the Russian for hose clamp.  Davlat asked how could I be in Russia eleven years and not know that?  Larissa said, ‘Your brother has terrible Russian, so why are you surprised about Robert?’

Next time I see Davlat I will hit him on the head with a hose clamp.  He will ask, ‘Why did  you do that?’  I’ll reply, ‘So I can show you I now know the Russian word for hose сlamp... хомутик !’



CIA – The World Factbook June 2011

A Poor Country

Tajikistan, has over 7 million people, 80% of them ethnic Tajiks... the poorest of all the stans. It shares borders with China, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan,and Kyrgyzstan and is a stone’s throw from Pakistan.    It is a part of the Central Asian Cluster of landlocked countries, an isolation that makes trade more difficult.

Tajiks were originally Scythian nomads of the steppes who settled down to farm.  Modern Tajikistan territory came under Russian control in the 1870s after the defeat of three weak khanates (kingdoms).

2000 miles from exotic Tajikistan, hoping for better work!

A one way ticket from Dushanbe to Moscow costs at least 10,000 rubles... $350 dollars.

It’s the same distance as a flight from Juarez, Mexico to Newark New Jersey.

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Tajik Air (VIM Airlines) Boeing 757-230 Fabrizio Gandolfo

Tola and Dovlat are from the capital, Dushanbe.  Unlike the people of adjoining countries, Tajiks have a European appearance similar to some Hispanics  Tajiks speak the Indo-European language Dari, close to that of Farsi in Iran. 

27% of the population in Afghanistan is Tajik.  They are the predominant leaders of the Afghan National Army, which results in problems with the majority Pashtuns.  The civil war which started between north and south in the 1970s continues.

Tajik laborers on average make the equivalent of 5000 rubles a month ($180) in Tajikistan, but in Russia they can make three times that.  Tola and Davlat work in a nearby tour baza, a tourist camp for Russians.  Along with 15 or 20,000 rubles a month they get a place to stay and meals... and the chance to make extra money in surrounding communities during their time off.

Working in Zaloz’ye

We paid them 1000 rubles to cut the grass, partly with a scythe, the rest with a power cutter, on our 6/10 acre... and another thousand to do masonry repairs on our печки, heating and cooking fireplaces.  Our neighbors across the way paid 500 rubles for 20 minutes of work to install a TV antenna on top of their flimsy roof.  In Russia, people never think they can be sued if a worker is injured, so they would rather have a Tajik risk breaking his neck than take the chance themselves.

A brother act from a high altitude, with sandals.

A Popular Misconception

We know a Tajik doctor in St Petersburg and have dealt with other Tajiks in the village.  They all seem to believe that America is full of rich people.  They are sure if you get to the States you will be set for life.

My wish...

To understand Russia it helps to know about the many other types of people that migrate and live here.  Now in the last ten years it seems everywhere we go we see Tajiks are making a big population impact.  In time I hope they will win more acceptance.

Good  Reading!

West to the Orient... A blog about life in Tajikistan



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