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20 Dec, 2023 23:14

Russian church leader speaks out against immigration

Lack of assimilation threatens the country's multi-ethnic society, Patriarch Kirill has warned
Russian church leader speaks out against immigration

Russia's identity will be lost if current immigration trends continue, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, warned on Wednesday.

The patriarch has been calling for a national conversation about immigration since last month, pointing to examples of communities that refuse to integrate or respect Russian cultural norms and even laws.

“The situation has worsened compared to last year,” the patriarch said in a report to the Moscow Archdiocese, urging both the government and the business community to understand that “if the described trend continues, we will lose ourselves, we will lose Russia as a multi-national state, the core of which is the Russian Orthodox people.”

According to Patriarch Kirill, large numbers of migrants from “foreign cultures” are showing no signs of wanting to assimilate into Russian society, or at the very least respect its religious and cultural norms. Some of the migrants are even forming “criminal communities” and extremist organizations, whose activities “threaten interreligious and interethnic peace and harmony,” he added.

“The desire to obtain cheap labor for the sake of mainly short-term economic benefits should not attract to our motherland a huge number of people belonging to a different culture, who often do not speak Russian and have no respect for Russia and the peoples who live here,” the patriarch said.

Patriarch Kirill made a similar argument at last month’s World Russian People's Council. Another alarming development he highlighted at the time was the tendency of migrants to congregate in “clans” and shield their members from police if they commit a crime.

Several days later, President Vladimir Putin agreed that migrants would need to assimilate in order to stay, adding that Russian citizens’ interests need to come first. Putin acknowledged, however, that the Russian economy was short of labor, which increased demand for guest workers.

Residents of former Soviet republics, mainly from the Caucasus and Central Asia, have flocked to Russia in search of work over the past two decades. Official statistics put the number of migrant workers at three million, not counting those who live and work in Russia illegally. According to the special representative of the State Duma on migration and citizenship Konstantin Zatulin, there were still more than two million job vacancies in Russia as of early December.