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Migratory flows from Central Asia to Russia have been taking place for more than twenty years, ever since the breakdown of the Soviet Union (1991), with a remarkable acceleration in the early 2000s, and Russia has become a place where migrants have now gained experience in terms of civic or even political organisations.
Among the primary incentives to organise solidarity, one can identify the management of the body of a deceased migrant abroad. As with many other Muslim countries, post-Soviet Central Asian states do not have commercial funeral homes: death is a matter of collective management by the local community of relatives and neighbours. Only specific services such as reciting prayers, ritual body washing or grave digging may be compensated financially or by in-kind gifts, but the nature of the exchange is never thought to be a service provider-customer one. In Russia, on the other hand, the funeral sector is notoriously contaminated by corruption and fraud (Mokhov, 2021), and even a lack of competence in some regions with regard to Muslim rituals. Although Muslim funeral homes do exist, for example, in Moscow or Saint Petersburg, most Muslim migrants do not address them; among their major reasons are the financial costs and their different relation to Islam (Oparin, 2020).
As in other diasporic contexts, the issue of dead care is particularly acute given the high number of Tajik and Kyrgyz migrants working in Russia and sending money home to support their families…


‪Based on ethnographic fieldwork with Central Asian hometown organisations in Russia, this paper focuses on the interplay of funerary practices and the construction of transnational communities among Kyrgyz and Tajik immigrants. In particular, the authors examine how good death and the moral economy of death are enacted in a transnational setting and contribute to reinforcing forms of “transnational moral territoriality” (Lacroix, 2019). Through experiential learning on the ground, community leaders have learnt to take care of and send home a deceased fellow citizen, organising routine procedures and emergency funds. In doing so, they actively contribute to the stabilisation of transnational community practices. Inspired by the growing anthropological literature on transnational community building elsewhere, the authors contribute to this body of scholarship by focusing on post-Soviet hometown associations (whose members sometimes refer to themselves as “activists”), their impact on migrants’ daily lives, as well as community-building and death-related practices abroad that are socially, culturally, or economically significant.‪

  • migration
  • death
  • Central Asia
  • Russia
  • transnational community
Juliette Cleuziou
Anthropologist, Associate professor (MCF), University Lumière Lyon 2/LADEC, 5 avenue Mendès France, 69500 Bron, France;;
Aksana Ismailbekova
Anthropologist, Research Fellow, Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO), Kirchweg 33, 14129 Berlin, Germany;
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