Central Asian migrant workers in Russia are dealing with tough times. So it’s no surprise that those working out at a mixed martial arts gym in an industrial part of Moscow’s Donskoy District are getting tough – and most say they’re training for self-defense.
It’s Friday evening on Moscow’s Garden Ring road and Alexander Likhachyov is out to ruin a labor migrant’s night. With the help of two friends, Likhachyov – an athletic Russian in his mid-30s “from a family of taxi drivers and Muscovites” – says he is intent on “leveling the playing field” in a profession he contends that migrants are taking over.
Outside the Altufyevo metro station in northern Moscow a group of about 25 young people, mostly between the ages of 18 and 25, gather. They call themselves “Moscow Shield” and they’ve deputized themselves to help fight against illegal migration.
In mid-2010, when 20-year-old Sultan Temirzhan uulu left Kyrgyzstan to attend university in St. Petersburg, he was unprepared for the big city noise and the White Nights of summer. He was also unprepared for the discrimination.