Window on Eurasia is a blog curated by Paul Goble that features articles on any number of cultural and national issues from the area of the former Soviet Union, perhaps skewing to a more Russia-skeptical attitude than I'd think fair but still worthwhile. The most recent post there talks about the Muscovite identity in terms that, frankly, sound quite familiar to this Torontonian. World cities with highly mobile and rapidly growing populations have identity issues, it's true.
Many Moscow natives do not identify themselves as Muscovites, a Russian sociologist says, while some who have moved to the city, particularly those who have been there more than ten years, identify strongly with it, just two of the many paradoxes of life in the Russian capital.
In an article on the Postnauka.ru site, Viktor Vakhshtayn, a sociologist who teaches at the Presidential Academy of Economics and State Service, says that one of the most intriguing paradoxes of Moscow is that “an enormous number of people live in this city without noting that they live in it” (postnauka.ru/faq/9646).
[. . .]
About 60 percent of Moscow’s residents were born somewhere else, and about 40 percent are people who were born there. According to the surveys, “about 60 percent of the people who continuously live and work in Moscow do not feel themselves to be Muscovites in any way.” But that 60 percent is not made up entirely of the 60 percent born elsewhere.
“In fact,” Vakhshtayn says, “among those who live in Moscow, continuously work here, and do not connect in any way with this place, 20 percent were born” in the city. Another 30 percent of this group, he adds, is made up of people who arrived in the Russian capital more than a decade earlier.
At the same time, “the most-intensely-held Muscovite identity is shown by people who were not born [in the capital] but who have lived in Moscow more than ten years; that is, those for whom this move was a serious achievement, possibly their main life plan because for them, this was an identity that they won, unlike the case of many native urban residents.”
[. . .]
This has some important implications, Vakhshtayn points out. “The archetype of social space was the agora in the ancient Greek polis. It was not so much a place in which you were comfortable and which you went to spend time with friends as a space in which the city recognize itself as a city.”
Such a space is where an urban identity is formed, he says. “And if there is no place in which you feel your tie with this strange meta-city formation, then an urban identity will not be formed.” Moscow for many people lacks such a space, and that in turn creates some unusual circumstances.