Mass Homeownership and the Boundaries of Russian Citizenship

Jeffrey Bilik, University of Michigan

Why are homeowners in Russia legitimate agents of civic belonging and interior migration control? The establishment of Russian citizenhood coincided with the mass privatization of housing, most of which was granted to Russian citizens and entrenched Russia with one of the highest homeownership rates among developed states. At the same time, homeowners have been vested with the power to register or reject noncitizen migrants as legal residents in Russia. For Russia's population of over ten million noncitizens, the fourth largest in the world, registration is critical for legal stay and movement toward citizenship. Without registration, noncitizens face the risks of fines and deportation and have difficulty accessing municipal services such as schooling and healthcare. This paper draws on elite political discourse and interviews with Moscow landlords as well as noncitizen renters to trace the emergence of property ownership as a dividing line over the acquisition and conferral of civic inclusion in Russia. Rental intermediaries often discriminate along ethno-racial lines and citizenship status, intent on extracting benefits in exchange for noncitizen registration or excluding Central Asian and Caucasian migrants altogether. The establishment of a weak rental market within a nation of mass homeownership from the 1990s onward combined with the popularity of anti-immigrant politics to afford homeowners surprising legal authority over the boundaries of Russian citizenship. This paper contributes to literature on citizenship and homeownership by showing how property becomes not only a means to access inclusion and discriminate against excluded populations, but also a vehicle for property owners to collectively shape the possibility and content of citizenship.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 182. Social Mobilities