restricted access “You are Responsible for Your People”: The Role of Diaspora Leaders in the Governance of Immigrant Integration in Russia

The Russian authorities are becoming increasingly aware of the need to improve the integration of Russia’s many immigrants into Russian society. This article examines power relations between state and civil society in formal governance networks, the representativeness of “diaspora organizations,” why the state structures want to include these diasporas in the formal governance networks, and why the diasporas are interested in participating. As is common in Russian network governance, state-based actors firmly control the networks through a variety of mechanisms. The diaspora leaders are generally not recent labor immigrants themselves, and do not rely on the latter group’s approval to represent them. This disconnect, and the hierarchal and securitized nature of Russian immigration politics, severely limits the target population’s possibility for input into policy-making or implementation. Non-state network members evaluate participation as leaving no visible imprint on policy, and rarely on implementation, but still giving a heightened potential for influence. Diaspora leaders underscored that membership did facilitate network building that could be of benefit to them and their communities. The state charges diaspora organizations with a special responsibility for keeping law and order among their co-ethnics – assisting, informing, and controlling them. Some were critical of the idea that ethnicity equals responsibility, or of NGOs getting such wide-ranging responsibilities, but most accept the role given to the diasporas by the Russian state.