Monday, October 22, 2012

Window on Eurasia: Migration Flows within North Caucasus Region May Matter More than Outmigration from There, Expert Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 22 – Migration flows within the North Caucasus Federal District, both among its republics and kray and between rural areas and the cities, could have a greater impact on Russia’s ethno-political balance than the much more frequently commented upon outflow of ethnic Russians and members of the titular nationalities from this region to Russian cities.

            In an article on the portal last week, Anton Averyanov, a researcher at the Black Sea-Caspian Center of the Russian Institute for Strategic Research, provides details on intra-regional migration as well as inter-regional migration which involves not only the outflow of ethnic Russians and non-Russians from it but also the inflow of migrants from Central Asia (

            As for intra-regional migration, Averyanov says, the North Caucasian national republics are all “donors” with North Osetia-Alania, Karachayevo-Cherkesiya, Daghestan and Kabardino-Balkaria have the highest outflows and Stavropol kray as the primary recipient of migrants within the federal district.

            At the same time, he continues, there have been “massive” changes among the North Caucasian republics.  A decade ago, there was a large outflow of Chechens from Ingushetia but more recently, many of those who left have returned. And after 2006, there has been a small return of Ingushes to the Prigorodny district of North Osetia-Alania.

            But that process has been delayed by “a whole line of problems,” including continued tensions and distrust between Osetians and Ingushes and the absence of good data on just who has the right to return. As a result, “the conflict potential” in both republics remains relatively high.

            Stavropol kray, the recipient region, has seen a major change in the ethnic character of these flows.  In the 1990s, most new arrivals there were ethnic Russians or at least Russian speakers from the Trans-Caucasus and the republics of the North Caucasus.  Now, Averyanov says, most of the influx involves “representatives of the North Caucasus nationalities.”

            As a result, over the last 20 year, the share of North Caucasians in Stavropol kray has increased by five percent and that of all Caucasians there by 7. In some districts of the kray in fact, the number of non-Russians has increased to the point that it has “changed the ethnic balance to the side of the increasing number of representatives of Caucasian nationalities.”

            As a result, Averyanov concludes, “in the near term, Stavropol kray may become the next zone of instability in the South of Russia.”
            Another form of intra-federal district migration that is playing  a role in the transformation of the North Caucasus is the influx of rural residents to the cities there, a flow that in some cases has been obscured by the outflow of predominantly urban ethnic Russians and thus relatively small changes in the urban-rural divisions in the populations there.

            As a result, the researcher continues, the share of the population consisting of members of  the titular nationalities has “significantly increased,” especially among the Ingush and Chechens but also among the nationalities of Daghestan.  This flow has let to conflicts between the older residents of the cities and the very different new arrivals.

            In portions of the North Caucasus Federal District, the shifts in the ethnic makeup of the cities have varied.  “The least urbanized Karachays” have seen their share of city populations increase from 30 to 34.9 percent; the Kabardinians have seen their rise from 43.1 to 45.7; but among the Balkars, the share of urban residents has fallen from 58.7 to 46.8 percent.

            Migration to places beyond the borders of the North Caucasus Federal District, Averyanov notes, “bears an essentially social-economic character” rather than an ethnic one, except for members of the Russian nationality. Practically all of the North Caucasian nationalities now have sizeable diasporas in Moscow and other Russian cities.

            International migration into the Federal District “is an order less” than inflows and outflows between it and the other parts of the Russian Federation.  Much of it reflects the existence of small diaporas of North Caucasian peoples in CIS countries or peoples whose communities were divided when the USSR collapsed, such as the Lezgins and Azerbaijanis.

            But over the last decade, there has been an increasing influx of labor migrants to the North Caucasus from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, a pattern “connected with the construction boom in the Chechen republic.”  Plans to build new tourist destinations, Averyanov says, may lead to a still larger influx of Central Asians.

            That in turn will lead to “serious competition” between them and local residents who continue to suffer from unemployment.” As a result, this largely ignored immigration may become a source of new outbreaks of inter-ethnic conflict.
            And yet another kind of migration, the researcher notes, is the influx of members of ethnic groups new to the region such as the Meskhetian Turks, who have “traditionally been involved in agriculture.” Increasing numbers of them can be found in Kabardino-Balkaria, North Osetia, and Adygeya.

            The Meskhetian Turks have displayed “the greatest activity in the Prokhladno and Mai districts of Kabardino-Balkaria, places “where traditionally have lived a significant part of the Russian and Cossack population of the KBR.”  That too creates yet another place where ethnic tensions are likely to continue to be on the rise.


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