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Tajikistan: Russian Language Woes Stymie Labor Migrant Ambitions

A Dushanbe ticket office, covered with airline company ads and offers written in Russian, aims to attract young Tajik migrant workers looking for employment in a Russian city. Roughly half of the Tajik economy is built on the wages earned by labor migrants abroad and sent back home to family members. (Photo: David Trilling)

When her son was born a few years ago, Manzura Sultanova anticipated he would likely leave for Russia upon reaching adulthood, as many men do in Tajikistan.
 
Preparing for that eventuality, Sultanova bucked a trend increasingly adopted by officials in Tajikistan and decided to keep the Slavic “ov" ending in Muhammadjon’s surname, as written on his birth certificate. She figured he might have an easier time fitting in that way.
 
“If we are healthy in future, God willing, I want to send him to Russia to study, because there is no hope for Tajik education,” said Dushanbe resident Sultanova, whose husband lives and works in Russia. “At least, he will be able to work in Russia without too much trouble. I don’t think that by the time my son grows up, jobs will have been created in Tajikistan.”
 
While a Slavic-sounding surname may ease the challenges faced by a labor migrant, a far more important factor in making a smooth transition is knowledge of the Russian language. For many migrants from Tajikistan, a poor command of Russian stymies ambitions, limits job prospects and opens the way to exploitation.
 

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Tajikistan: Russian Language Woes Stymie Labor Migrant Ambitions

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