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27-31 August 2019
Poznań, Poland
Europe/Warsaw timezone
programme last update: 23 August 2019
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Contribution Paper

Poznań, Poland - Morasko Kampus, room: 3.4

A migrant's leisurely life as the 'good life': the moral economy of Central Asian migration into Abkhazia


  • Romelia CALIN

Primary authors


Labour migrants searching for a 'good life' in the post-Soviet space have been especially attracted to Russian urban centers where employment opportunities in low skilled jobs thrived starting from the 2000s. However, after the 2008 economic crisis, migration flows diversified to include peripheries of Russia as well. Based on fieldwork with Central Asian labour migrants which arrived into the partially recognised Republic of Abkhazia since 2008, after various migration experiences in Russia, this paper describes the tensed relationship between the 'good life' as an aspiration for a future back home and the 'good life' as an experience in the present. Informal networks influenced by Abkhazian local tradition of apsuara - an ethical system regulating relations between kin and non-kin, age groups, gender roles, hosts and guests - and the wide support networks of vzaimoposchh/mutual help - which proliferated on the backdrop of the country's post-war years of unrecognised independence - represented the relations through which labour migrants were integrated into Abkhazian society and economy, and which offered access to work, accommodation, health care and education for their children, in the context of an initial absence of legal mechanisms for integration. This practices led to a discourse in which migrants emphasize well-being and a spakoino/leisurely experience of work as main achievements of labour migration, decentering monetary gains, considered to be still the main attraction of an experience of migration in big Russian cities.