Friday, June 28, 2019

Immigrants Now Form One Quarter of Moscow Area’s Population and One Half of St. Petersburg’s, Official Statistics Show

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 26 – There are 5.1 million immigrant workers, mostly from Central Asia, in Moscow and Moscow oblast, where they form roughly one-quarter of the population, and 3.3 million of them in St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast, where they form nearly half, Russian government statistics show.

            But because such numbers are explosive in the current economic and political situation, the Moscow authorities have claimed that the number of new immigrant workers from Central Asia is falling when in fact it is going up, Aleksandr Shustov says (

                A major reason why the regime is able to make such claims, the commentator says, is that statistics about immigration are maintained not by one agency but by two.  Rosstat maintains the figures for permanent immigrants, while the interior ministry’s chief administration for migration does so for temporary ones.

                Rosstat thus counts all migrants who have come to Russia and remained there for nine months or more while the interior ministry counts only those who have been there less than nine months. In the last year, the figure for the first of these categories has fallen from 211,900 to 124,900 while that for the second has shot up by 800,000 to 12.7 million.

            Over the last year, there has always been a shift in the most important donor countries.  The number of immigrant workers from Moldova, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and Georgia has fallen by 96,200; while the number from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Belarus, Azerbaijan and the Baltic countries has gone up by a total of 864,300.

            The greatest increases between 2017 and 2018 came from Uzbekistan, up 416,800, and Tajikistan, up, 224,200. As a result, the face of immigration in Russia is increasingly Central Asian, with people from those countries amounting to 8.5 million, a number far larger than the entire population of St. Petersburg.

            Indeed, the total number of migrant workers from Kyrgyzstan – 877,000 – is greater than the population of Karelia, Nizhny Novgorod, Pskov, or Murmansk oblast.

                Theoretically, those registered as being in Russia for nine months or less leave, but that is not always the case, Shustov continues. Many remain but are not counted by either service.  And interior ministry officials say there are approximately two million “illegal migrants” who have stayed longer (

            Most of these “illegals” are Central Asians, and that means that people from Central Asia in Russia now number as many as 10 million, twice the population of St. Petersburg and a figure comparable to that of Moscow. Adding to them are about 1.3 million new arrivals from the Transcaucasus.

            Almost a third of all these migrants are in Moscow and Moscow oblast and a fifth are in St. Petersburg and Leningrad oblast, while in most other parts of the country, the number of Central Asians is extremely small.  Thus, in the current climate of intensifying ethnic conflicts and economic stringency, their presence is becoming a serious problem.

            And that explains why officials prefer to talk about the decline of one kind of immigrant – those seeking permanent residence – and to ignore the other and more numerous kind – those who at least in terms of registration are short timers and will be going back to their homelands soon.

            Unfortunately, Shustov concludes, “if migration policy is not changed, new political and economic cataclysms, connected with the growing influx of labor migrants from the Asian countries of the CIS are practically inevitable,” given that population in those countries is growing while that in the Russian Federation is falling.

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