According to her research, 7,000 to 8,000 refugees from Syria now live in Russia. Some are students or others who have been in Russia for some time; the others are mostly Circassians who have fled the fighting. Of these, the overwhelming majority are having difficulty gaining entrance and status within the Russian Federation.
The reasons for this lie in government policy and in government fears. On the one hand, according to the Federal Migration Service, migrants from Syria, classified by Moscow as “a dangerous country,” may stay in Russia but face enormous hurtles in securing the necessary documents. As a result, many live in a gray area.
And on the other, “the administration of the North Caucasus republics sees in a possible flood of Circassians a threat to the shaky inter-ethnic balance characteristic of that region,” Shishkina says. In many of them, no ethnic group is predominant and so the addition of new people in one, many of them fear, will lead to destabilization.
Not surprisingly, the greatest fear is among non-Circassian groups in Adygeya and Kabardino-Balkaria who are concerned that the arrival of Circassians from Syria will undermine their position by allowing the Circassians to increase their power. (On such shifts in the region, see also
Because Russia is involved in Syria, Shishkina says, it can hardly refuse to take in Circassians from there who are fleeing from the violence. But because of fears that they will destabilize the ethnic balance or be recruited by Islamist extremists – for which there is as yet no evidence – Moscow appears unlikely to assist them in significant ways.
And thus, she concludes, “for Syrian repatriants, the road home has often become transformed into a path to nowhere.”