Tag Archives: Immigrant Movement International

Russia, The Land of Opportunity: A Migrant Labor Board Game

Russia, The Land of Opportunity board game is a means of talking about the possible ways that the destinies of the millions of immigrants who come annually to the Russian Federation from the former Soviet Central Asian republics to earn money play out.

Our goal is to give players the chance to live in the shoes of a foreign worker, to feel all the risks and opportunities, to understand the play between luck and personal responsibility, and thus answer the accusatory questions often addressed to immigrants – for example, “Why do they work illegally? Why do they agree to such conditions?”

On the other hand, only by describing the labyrinth of rules, deceptions, bureaucratic obstacles and traps that constitute labor migration in today’s Russia can we get an overall picture of how one can operate within this scheme and what in it needs to be changed. We would like most of all for this game to serve as a historical document.

Olga Zhitlina

You can download a .pdf file of the game here: Russia, Land of Opportunity Board Game

Russia, The Land of Opportunity: A Migrant Labor Board Game

The game is designed for adults and children of secondary school age.

From 2 to 6 players

The characters, situations, and monetary amounts (fines, payments, bribes, etc.) are not fictional. Any resemblance to actual events is not coincidental. Each year, thousands of people are victimized by the system outlined here.


To play you need dice, counters, paper and pens.

The dice should have two sets of numbers from 1 to 3. If you have regular dice numbered 1 to 6, and you roll a 4, 5 or 6, subtract three from the number you have rolled.

Instead of counters, you can use any small object – coins, SIM cards or buttons.

Have paper and a pen handy to write down your income and expenses.

Spaces and Moving around the Board

Each space represents one move.

The diamond-shaped spaces are required. You must pass through them in the direction indicated by the arrows.

The square- and rectangular-shaped spaces are playable. You move around the board by throwing a die: the number you roll determines the number of spaces you move forward. If the number you roll is greater than the number of playable spaces in front of you, you must go to the next required (diamond-shaped) space.

If there is a dice symbol in front of the space where you are located, roll a die and move along the arrow marked with the number that the corresponds to the number you have rolled.

If there is a circle symbol in front of you, you must yourself choose one of the spaces indicated by the arrows.

If you land on a space marked Police:

  • and you have a valid work permit, speak Russian, and know your rights, you are released and free to make your next move;
  • and you have a valid work permit, but you do not speak Russian, then you must skip one turn and pay 1,000 rubles;
  • and you have an invalid work permit, you skip one turn and pay 3,000 rubles;
  • and you have a fake entry/exit stamp in your passport, you must go to the space marked Prison.

If you land on a space marked FMS (Federal Migration Service) Raid:

  • and you have a valid work permit and speak Russian, you skip one turn;
  • and you have a valid work permit, but do not speak Russian, you skip one turn and pay 5,000 rubles;
  • and you have a fake work permit, you skip one turn and pay 5,000 rubles;
  • and you have a fake entry/exit stamp in your passport, you go to the space marked Prison.

Actors, Agencies, and Documents

Migration Card. A document confirming that the migrant (or foreigner traveler) has crossed the Russian Federation border. It is filled in, for example, on board an airplane or at an airport upon arrival. It is valid until the newly arrived migrant goes through the registration procedure.

Registration (notification of arrival). Migrants must register at their place of residence in the Russian Federation. Registration is valid for ninety days.

Work Permit. A document confirming that a migrant has the right to work for a specific legal entity in a particular job as stipulated by the foreign labor recruitment quota. By law, work permits can be issued only by the Federal Migration Service. A yearlong work permit entitles the migrant to obtain a residence permit for the entire period (and thus not have to exit and re-enter the country every ninety days).

Private Employment Agencies. The “services” provided by such agencies are widely advertised, for example, in the Tajik media. These agencies promise to provide migrants with all necessary documents and find them work in Russia. They are renowned for engaging in fraud, cheating migrants, and exposing them to the risk of ending up as virtual slaves or being overworked.

Foremen. (In Russian, “brigadiers.”) The foreman is the leader of a group of migrant workers. He or she is someone who has already been to Russia, or a friend or relative. The foreman handles the processing of documents, and finds and organizes work and housing for the migrants, for which services he or she takes a cut from the total income earned by the “brigade.”

Middlemen.  In Petersburg, there are a numerous semi-legal intermediary firms that offer migrant workers such services as processing of work permits and residence permits, and assistance in passing medical board exams. In reality, they often issue fake documents or simply take money for their services without providing any documents at all. While migrants wait for these documents, the residence registration period usually expires and they find themselves living in Russia illegally. However, sometimes these firms do arrange for legal work permits, which indicates that these firms have unofficial connections with the Federal Migration Service, the only government agency authorized to issue such documents. Ninety percent of migrants make use of the services of such intermediaries.

Outsourcing (Outstaffing) Companies. These are employment brokerage firms engaged in the hiring of foreign workers for lease to large companies (retail chains stores, petrol stations, etc.). Formally, these firms are the migrant worker’s legal employer and they pay him or her a wage from the commissions received from the real employer. As a result, the legal relationship between employer and employee is violated. This scheme allows large companies to evade taxes, save on social benefit payments, and exploit migrant workers by introducing a long working day (up to sixteen hours a day) with no sick leave and holidays, and a system of illegal fines (for imaginary “disciplinary” violations). Outsourcing companies dispose of the wages of thousands of people as they wish. It is typical for them to pay employees not every thirty days, but every forty-five days. The amount of back wages they owe to workers constantly grows, and it is not paid out when workers are dismissed.

Diasporas.  Fraternal associations of people from the same region, country or ethnic group. Diaspora leaders may offer mediation services for a fee.

Human Rights Groups. These organizations offer pro bono legal assistance to migrants and monitor the human rights situation in general.

Migrant Detention Centers. Special facilities for persons subject to expulsion or deportation from the Russian Federation due to loss of identity documents. Migrants can be held in such facilities for up to a year.

“Legal Services.” A form of corruption practiced by Interior Ministry (police) and Federal Migration Service officials on migrants awaiting expulsion or deportation. For a certain “fee” (that is, a bribe ranging from 30,000 to 70,000 rubles), corrupt officials offer to simply release the migrants or the chance to “appeal” the decision to expel them.

Russia, The Land of Opportunity board game was designed by:
Andrei Yakimov (human rights consultant, concept development)
Olga Zhitlina (idea, concept development)
Alexander Lyakh, Galina Zhitlina (board game design)
David Ter-Oganyan (drawings)
Tatyana Alexandrova, Nadezhda Voskresenskaya (graphic design)


Olga Zhitlina and Andrei Yakimov (Memorial Anti-Discrimination Center, Saint Petersburg) will present Russia, The Land of Opportunity, discuss the realities behind the game, and play with all comers at Cafe-Club Artek (Mokhovaya ul., 27/29) in Petersburg tonight at 8:00 p.m. The evening will also include a screening of two videos by the Factory of Found Clothes (Natalya Pershina-Yakimanskaya aka Gluklya and Olga Egorova aka Tsaplya), Utopian Unemployment Union No. 1 and Utopian Unemployment Union No. 3, both of which involve contemporary dancers and migrant workers.

The evening is part of the series of actions around the world coordinated by Immigrant Movement International, Queens Museum of Art, and Creative Time in New York to mark December 18, International Migrants Day.

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Me-gration (Moscow) // “Conspiracy” (Olga Zhitlina)


A video presentation and roundtable discussion (“How to Work with Migrants? Ethics and the Politics of the Image”)

Olga Chernysheva, Ekaterina Lazareva, Haim Sokol, Olga Zhitlina, and Chto Delat

with Activist Film Studio 

December 18, 2011, 2:00 PM 

Andrei Sakharov Museum and Public Center

Ul. Zemlyanoy Val, 57, Str. 6

Moscow, Russia, 105120

The participants will present their works dealing with the theme of migration and human rights in today’s Russia, and discuss ethnic and political aspects of their engagement. The title Me-gration contains an intended error, alluding to the pronunciation of the word “migration” common to both native Russian speakers and the country’s multilingual population. It also emphasizes the artists’ personal relation to the issue and migrant status of some of them.

The organizers state:

We artists usually work with images. Should we leave the territory of visual arts and cross into politics? Can we make images become political tools? We do not have much practical experience yet, as Russian art has turned to the theme of migrant rights relatively recently. The artists who have started raising this issue—Alexey Kallima, Irina Korina, Olga Chernysheva, and the Chto Delat collective—were recently joined by a younger generation: Sasha Auerbach, Ekaterina Lazareva, Vika Lomasko, Haim Sokol, and Olga Zhitlina. 

Migration issues seem to be yet another territory of life that art is trying to seize. Migrants receive an entry visa into the art world only as a labor force, or as the Other, having to undergo aesthetic disinfection first. But, we ask, perhaps it is time to unlock the bunkers of galleries and museums and come out to face reality? It is especially important now, when Russia’s political situation is so threatening: the recent nationalist riots on Manezh Square in Moscow, the so-called Russian Marches with thousands of supporters, politicians’ calls to “vote for Russians,” and official statements of Russia’s Ministry of Health authorities on “hygiene politics” all contain echoes of the Warsaw Ghetto. 

We are joining Immigrant Movement International, led by Tania Bruguera, in solidarity with December 18, International Migrants Day. For us, this is a first step toward bringing our collective efforts together. We are artists, cultural critics, activists, representatives of migrant organizations in Moscow, and all those who care about the issue.

Me-gration is organized by the Moscow-based artists Ekaterina Lazareva and Haim Sokol in parallel with the exhibition Haim Sokol: Barter at PROEKT_FABRIKA, December 15—25, 2011.

Me-gration is part of the December 18th International Migrants Day Action:


Both events are concurrent with December 18, International Migrants Day, a project launched by Immigrant Movement International, Queens Museum of Art, and Creative Time in New York.

Contact: Anya Pantuyeva, me.gration@gmail.com

Andrei Sakharov Museum and Public Center: http://www.sakharov-center.ru/ 

Free and open to the public. 

Participating Artists and Works 

Olga Chernysheva is one of the first artists in Russia who turned to the image of migrant worker, for example, in her photographic series Highway Number 8 (2007) featuring workers from Central Asia, and in her recent film, Garbage Man (2011).

Ekaterina Lazareva in her video Migrants (2011) deals with migration but incorporates lyrical and poetic components in her work. She structured her video shown in this project using the soundtrack from a popular French film, Le Peuple Migrateur.

Haim Sokol’s video Oath of Loyalty (2011) problematizes the interaction between artist and migrant worker: workers swear an oath of loyalty on the “Bible of the avant-garde,” Kazimir Malevich’s Manifesto, without understanding their act and remaining a labor force to be used by the artist.

Olga Zhitlina’s recorded performance Conspiracy (2011) stages an exchange of clothes between migrants and local youth in Saint Petersburg.

The Chto Delat collective, in collaboration with Activist Film Studio, will present “The Voice of Power” episode from their film Russian Sounds (2011). The artists create an image of Russian politicians that is simultaneously grotesque and naturalistic.


For those readers not able to attend tomorrow’s event in Moscow, here is a brief sneak preview Olga Zhitlina’s Conspiracy, a performance presented in the garden of the Anna Akhmatova Museum this past summer in Petersburg.

Recently, a new trend has emerged in St. Petersburg. In the morning, young men wearing the latest fashions, mostly natives of the town, members of the creative professions, meet with migrant workers at secret locations. They swap clothes with each other and then part ways, each going about his own business. Every day, their ranks are growing.

Initially, this idea arose in response to the threat of nationalist attacks, flagrant racism and the corruption of police officers who check documents ten times a day to extort bribes from migrants, who are often poorly informed of their rights. The young men dress in each other’s clothes in order to scramble the visual codes that make it easy to tell “Russians” from “non-Russians,” “locals” from “newcomers,” and “workers” from “intellectuals.”

By dressing in worker’s clothes, the members of what is now customarily called the creative class reject the enunciation of their identity through consumption and declare their intention to produce a culture without class and racial divisions, thus overcoming the opposition between creative and physical labor.
This is something like a tacit conspiracy among migrant workers and designers, artists, and ad agency employees — the people who produce visual culture (fashion, brands, labels — the window dressing of our reality) — against this system of organizing the environment. Those who produce design — this powerful tool for labeling and dividing — who devise the shape of buildings, objects, and clothes, have decided to steal it and use it in common with those engaged in the material realization of all these projects.

These clothes swaps began in one district of Petersburg, but they have quickly spread throughout the city. If there is no such group in your neighborhood yet, no one is stopping from you from organizing one yourself.

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Global Action for International Migrants Day: Open Call for Submissions

Immigrant Movement International: Open Call For Submissions

Global Action for International Migrants Day on December 18

With Creative Time and Queens Museum of Art

Immigrant Movement International (IM International), an ongoing project initiated by artist Tania Bruguera and co-presented by Creative Time and the Queens Museum of Art, today announced an open call for submissions for actions that will take place on December 18, 2011, designated “International Migrants Day” by the United Nations. The organizers call on artists, immigrants, activists, and interested members of the public to stage an action on December 18, 2011 at 2pm local time in recognition of the concept of transnational migrants as a “global class” united across continents and cultures by common political and social conditions, as well as by the human experience of being a migrant. By engaging participants across the globe in a UN-endorsed project, the organizers hope to promote understanding of the specificity of local migration issues and the political interconnectedness across nations and regions that migration engenders.

“As migration becomes a more central element of contemporary existence, the status and identity of those who live outside their place of origin starts to become defined not by sharing a common language, class, culture, or race, but instead by their condition as immigrants,” said Bruguera, whose project was initiated in Corona, Queens in January 2011.

Individuals and groups from around the world are invited to participate by visiting www.immigrant-movement.us/december18 and submitting an idea for an action—for example, a public performance, panel discussion, or community gathering—to take place on December 18 at 2pm local time. The website will enable users to track these actions as they happen in real time across the globe by presenting an interactive map of the world with a description of each action. Confirmed participants to date include: Pedro Reyes (Mexico City), Chto Delat (St. Petersburg), Ghana Think Tank (New York), Oliver Ressler and Martin Krenn (Vienna), Polibio Díaz (Santo Domingo), Monali Meher (Amsterdam), Situations + Nowhereisland (London), Dora García (Barcelona), Khaled Jarrar (Palestine), Mizuki Endo (Japan), Lauren Berlant (Chicago), Haim Sokol and Ekaterina Lazareva (Moscow), Vit Havranek and Tranzit (Prague), and Ruby Chishti (Pakistan), as well as artists in Rome, Copenhagen, Basel, Zagreb and other cities around the world.

“What does it mean to represent the contemporary immigrant? And furthermore, what are the forms of governance for a global citizenry? These questions are at the heart of Tania Bruguera’s Immigrant Movement International,” said Nato Thompson, Chief Curator of Creative Time.

In addition to mobilizing members of the global public to perform an action on December 18, IM International will also provide a “Migrant Manifesto,” which will be made available on the IM website for participants to incorporate into their actions on December 18. The document was produced by immigration academics, activists, politicians and community members at a weekend convening at the IM International headquarters on November 4th and 5th.

“Given the migrations that have brought 167 different languages to Queens, we are reminded every day of the contributions, sacrifices and experiences of our diverse group of friends, staff members, and visitors,” said Tom Finkelpearl, Executive Director of the Queens Museum of Art. “We are particularly proud to be involved in a project related to the International Day of the Migrant, given the fact that the United Nations General Assembly met in our building in the late 1940s. That was a great moment for international exchange, as is a walk through almost any Queens community today.”

Additional information about the International Migrants Day/December 18 global action, as well as a downloadable PDF of the “Migrant Manifesto,” will be available throughout Fall 2011 at: www.immigrant-movement.us/december18.

Immigrant Movement International
108-59 Roosevelt Avenue
Queens,‎ NY‎ 11368
Phone: 718 424 6502
E-mail: united@immigrant-movement.us

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