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Labor Migrants Get Sneak Preview Of Russian History Test

Hopefuls take the Russian-language exam for working migrants in St. Petersburg. But do they know who Ivan VI was?
Hopefuls take the Russian-language exam for working migrants in St. Petersburg. But do they know who Ivan VI was?

MOSCOW -- Foreign migrant workers in Russia who will soon be required to pass a test on Russian history and civics to obtain a work permit just got a sneak preview of the exam.

The "Izvestia" daily on August 8 published the questions to one of the five potential lists of multiple-choice questions they will face.

Labor migrants hoping to pursue menial jobs like street sweeping or bricklaying in Russia will be required by 2015 to have passed a 20-question quiz on 1,000 years of Russian history spanning Kievan Rus, the Mongol occupation, Tsarist rule, and the Soviet Union.

The exam specimen published by the pro-Kremlin paper requires labor migrants -- many of whom come from Central Asia and the South Caucasus -- to identify a picture of the Bolshoi Theater, name Russia's last tsar, and identify what service the Soviet Union provided its citizens for free.

Another question asks what Tsar Ivan IV was commonly known as: Ivan the Softest, Ivan the Terrible, or Ivan the Liberator? An unfortunate typo in the body of the "Izvestia" article alluding to "Ivan VI" (who was overthrown while he was still an infant) suggests the author of the piece would not pass with full marks were she required to take the exam.

The history quiz also asks what year the Battle of Kulikovo took place, and under which tsar Crimea joined Russia in the 18th century.

But What Is It For?

Migrants will have the option of taking the test as early as September 1. By January 1, 2015, they will be required by law to provide an exam-pass certificate in order to receive a work permit.

Fake certificates for other migrant tests already in place can be easily obtained. Official certificates typically cost the equivalent of $90.

It's unclear how much a challenge the test really is -- or indeed what it's testing. The exam specimen printed in "Izvestia" suggests migrants will be able to make use of a dictionary of historical terms during the test.

The Russian University of People's Friendship, which helped draft the questions, has also revealed that all the questions -- and their matching answers -- will be published online by the beginning of September. Migrants will have 35 minutes to circle the correct answers.

The history test will add to a language-test requirement already in place that was introduced for migrants in November 2012. Both measures were passed amid flashes of a deep antimigrant mood in Russia fueled by rising nationalism and large inflows of migrant laborers.

The language examination includes a 15-minute reading test, a 10-minute conversation exam, a multiple-choice grammar test, and another to evaluate applicants' ability to fill out simple forms, such as a job application.

The law governing these tests stipulates that highly qualified specialists, students, and graduates of officially registered universities are exempt.

Critics have warned that the exams will create unnecessary red tape and introduce avenues for corruption.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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