Staunton, November 11 – The new generation of immigrants to Russia from Central Asia and the Caucasus, one radically different from its predecessor, does not remember the Soviet past, and is infected with national and religious intolerance, is leading to the “de-Russification” of Russia and ultimately its collapse as an integral state, according to a Kyiv economist.
In an article in the current issue of “Literaturnaya gazeta,” Sergey Fomin, an ethnic Russian who works in Kyiv, even those immigrants to Russia who speak Russian are not assimilating but rather remaining outside the dominant cultural community and identifying not with Russia but with their homelands (www.lgz.ru/article/20184/).
As such immigrants become more numerous and while fertility rates among ethnic Russians remain so low, they are likely to have the same impact on Russia that African and Arab immigrants are having in Europe, reducing the titular nation into a national minority and thus threatening the continued existence of the receiving state.
“Russia as a sovereign unitary state can exist,” he argues, “only as long as the state-forming Russian people, which supports the unity of Russia, maintains an absolute majority in the population” of the country. “The fewer the number of Russians, the lower their share in the population, the greater the chances of Russia breaking up into petty ‘independent’” states.
But it is not just that the immigrants represent a threat to the state, Fomin says. The current numbers of immigrants legal and illegal are “absolutely unnecessary for the normal functioning of the Russian economy.” Unemployment among ethnic Russians is high, and many Russians are now “emigrating to Western countries” because “they cannot find” positions.
“Propagandists of unlimited labor migration into Russia assert,” the Kyiv economist notes, “that unemployed Russians don’t want to take jobs in sectors where there is a demand for labor.” But one can respond, he says, that “Russian entrepreneurs do not take Russian unemployed for such work because there is ‘a reserve army’ of illegal [and cheaper] workers.”
Russian business owners thus benefit from the immigrants legal and illegal, but they do so only at an enormous price to the security of the country and the well-being of Russian workers, Fomin argues. For the latter, immigrants are competitors for jobs. They do not pay taxes and hence get a free ride on Russian social services paid for by Russians.
Moreover, “the presence in Russia of an enormous number of legal and illegal migrants to an enormous degree promotes the worsening of crime, the growth of social tensions in society, and also the sharpening of inter-ethnic relations in Russia.” And the cheap labor migrants provide eliminates any incentive businesses have to introduce more capital-intensive workplaces.
To the extent that the Russian Federation needs immigrants, Fomin continues, it should in the first instance seek to attract ethnic Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, and “representatives of other indigenous peoples of Russia” because these people are the main potential wealth of Russia especially given the current withering away of the Russian nation.”
According to Fomin, the countries of the CIS and the Baltic states are “ethnocratic states in which the titular nations occupy privileged positions and where [ethnic] Russians always will be second class citizens condemned to assimilation or absorption into the titular majority.” Thus, the sooner such people can be “repatriated” to Russia, “the better.”
“As is well known,” Fomin says, “the Russian authorities have adopted a program” to support this, but they haven’t given it adequate financing and thus cannot ensure “a normal life and acceptable living conditions for those who want to resettle in Russia.” As a result, this program has not had “the desired effect.”
What is needed, the Ukraine-based economist says, is “not simply a program but a completely new Russian law,” one that would extend to all Eastern Slavs and to the representatives of other indigenous Russian peoples “regardless of where they were born or whether they were citizens of the USSR” Russian citizenship and material support to return.
It would be easy to dismiss Fomin’s article as racist or worse, but it is significant in that it points to the ways that ethnic anger and class intersts are coming together in the Russian nationalist movement, a combination that feeds on itself and that will be far more difficult for Moscow to direct and contain.