Thursday, September 19, 2019

Demographic Trends Adding to Sense of Separateness among Kaliningraders, Study Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September15 – Kaliningrad is not only geographically separate from the Russian Federation but also increasingly demographically distinct as well, with a population that has ever fewer links to the rest of the country, according to Salavat Abylkalikov and Vitaly Sazin of the Higher School of Economics.

            This demographic trend is intensifying the sense Kaliningraders have that they are a distinct people rather than just another part of the Russian nation, the two scholars, the first a demographer and the second a management specialist, conclude on the basis of their analysis of census data since 1989 and sociological research over that period.

            Their findings are reported in a new article, “The Chief Results of Migration Processes in Kaliningrad According to the Data of Censuses and Micro-Censuses, 1989-2015” (in Russian),  Baltiysky region 11:2 (2019): 32-50 ( that has been summarized by IQ’s Olga Sobolevskaya at

            Since 1991, Kaliningrad has been an exclave geographically, the two write. But at the same time, it has become ever more “a demographic ‘exclave’” as well.  The oblast’s population is increasingly homogeneous, native born, and less connected with other parts of Russia as a result of declining immigration.

                Indeed, in Sobolevskaya’s words, there are all “the preconditions for the appearance of ‘an island state.”

            Declining immigration means, Abulkalikov and Sazin say, that while only 73 percent of the population of the oblast was born there in 1973, that figure rose to 97 percent among those born in 1993. Thus, “if the former generations still preserved stable ties with other regions of Russia … for the new generations, the break with the Big Land is a given and accepted reality.”

            Ethnic Russian compatriots have come to Kaliningrad since 2007 but in far fewer numbers than Moscow hoped, 31,500 instead of a planned 300,000. Immigration from Belarus and Ukraine has declined as well, with the share of people from them declining by more than half since 1989, a trend exacerbated by higher mortality rates among these older groups.

            The demographic trends in Kaliningrad over this period are strikingly different than those between 1945 and the end of Soviet times, the scholars note. “After World War II, almost all the German-language population of the former Koenigsberg was deported to the Soviet zone of occupied Germany.”

            In their place came Soviet citizens from Belarus, Ukraine and the RSFSR.  Their influx and higher birthrates led to a growth of the population, from 400,000 in 1950 to twice that in 1989. Since then, the number of residents of Kaliningrad oblast has risen to almost a million, the two report.

            “But the younger the generation, the higher in it of the share of indigenous Kaliningraders,” they say. “On the one hand, in this way a regional identity has taken shape. On the other, it has grown into a kind of ‘monolithic structure.’  An ethnic ‘conglomerate’ has taken shape which is ever less affected by representatives of other Russian territories and ethnoses.”

            Moreover, they report, those relatively few Kaliningraders who emigrate are going not to the Russian Federation but rather to neighboring European countries: Germany, Poland, the Baltic countries and Northern Europe, leaving the remaining population far more settled than it had been in the Soviet period.

            These developments are making the oblast’s population ever more ethnically homogeneous, with the number of residents telling census takers that they are Russians rising from 78 percent in 1989 to 83.1 percent in 2002 and 86.4 percent in 2010. And they are intensifying the sense Kaliningraders have of being “cut off” from the rest of the country.

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