The so-called ‘national-cultural’ (natsional'no-kul'turnye organizatsii, NKO, or natsional'no-kul'turnye avtonomii, NKA), or ethnicity-based organisations, that started to emerge in Russia at the turn of the Soviet and the post-Soviet epochs have become an ordinary attribute of the country’s urban space. We were interested in the question of why and how these organizations have found themselves at the intersection of ethnic and migration discourses. For nearly 30 years we have been studying the case of Tomsk and Irkutsk national-cultural organisations (based on observations, participation in the events and activities organised by NKO/NKA and in the meetings of specialised advisory boards, interviews and surveys, materials released by national-cultural organisations and municipal authorities, mass media reports, etc.). This allows us to understand what role migrants themselves had to play: whether they were subjected to paternalistic care or contributed to accumulation of social capital by leaders and activists of national-cultural organisations, or both. Local authorities have come to see such organisations as a convenient tool to manage ‘diasporic’ communities, that is, organised ethnic groups, whose membership is associated with one’s ethnic origin or ethnicity and which are entitled to act independently as agents of social relations. NKO/NKA leaders are considered to be ‘diasporic bosses’ exercising the right to control and regulate their ‘diaspora compatriots’. That these organisations serve to meet specific ethnic groups’ cultural needs is not their single and possibly not even their main function. Their legal status (resulting from a special law on organisations of this type and a law on public organisations more generally) allows them to be in close contact with the authorities, and, in fact, to have a symbiotic relationship with them. As a result, these organisations have come to be informally tasked with assisting adaptation of migrants in Russian cities. Enthusiasts developing national/ethnic culture (‘ethno-entrepreneurs’) enjoy a certain degree of power given by the state and receive limited but important material and symbolic resources to present their activities as a consolidated ethnic group (‘diaspora’) in urban space. Leaders of ethnic organisations can also benefit from their status in both symbolic and material terms, serving as intermediaries between the ‘diaspora’ they construct and the authorities, and maintaining a relationship with their historical homeland.