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“Name the Republic that was joined to Russia in 2014:” Russia's New Civics and History Test for Migrants

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2018

Vanessa Ruget*
Department of Political Science, Salem State University, Salem, MA, USA. Email:


This article examines Russia's civics and history test, which has been mandatory, since January 2015, for millions of labor migrants applying for a work permit. An analysis of the test's content and of the context in which it was adopted provides a strong case to study how autocracies can use civics tests as instruments of control. Specifically, I argue that the test must be understood in light of Russia's state-sponsored nationalism, latent xenophobic sentiments, and its increasingly restrictive and incoherent migration policy. Not only are many questions irrelevant or disconnected from migrants' everyday concerns: their personal experiences of paying bribes, obtaining fake certificates, or being harassed by the police often contradict the correct answers on the exam. While it is doubtful that this test – along with several other new requirements imposed on migrants – will dissuade foreign laborers to seek employment in Russia, it is bound to make them even more vulnerable to bribes.

Copyright © 2017 Association for the Study of Nationalities 

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