Friday, May 28, 2021

Kazakhstan Scholar Focuses on Diasporas, Prompting Questions about Central Asian Immigrants in Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 26 – Officials in both the Russian Federation and the Central Asian countries have assumed that migrant workers there will either assimilate to Russian culture or ultimately return to their own countries. But something else is happening to at least some of them: they may be becoming diasporas, a development that poses challenges to both.

            Immigrant workers, German Kim, a specialist on Korean immigration at Kazakh National University, may or may not become stable diasporas. That depends on how long they remain in the country they have come to, how they adapt and how they view their own culture as well (

            Kim, the author of a widely-respected three volume work on Korean diasporas around the world and of two new textbooks on the emerging field of “diasporology” does not address the situation of Central Asians in Russia; but his observations certainly apply to them and to the way in which they are or may develop in the future if they remain in the Russian Federation.

            The Kazakh scholar says that most migrants pass through three stages sometimes within a single lifetime but often over several generations. These are adaptation to the culture in their host country, acculturation in which they come to share that culture alongside their own, and assimilation in which they shift their identities.

            Diasporas exist in the course of this process, Kim suggests. Initially, the immigrants stand aside and identify strictly in terms of where they have come from. Then, they become a diaspora in which they balance that identity with a new one based on the host nation. And finally, they assimilate and are absorbed into the surrounding population.

            While they are diasporas, and some migrant populations will remain in that status for much longer than others depending on patterns of endogamy and exogamy among others, they will function both as members of the host society and members of the societies from which they spring, a situation that creates problems and opportunities for both.

            That such people are now becoming the object of study in Central Asia – Kim has produced two textbooks about such groups and how to study them – suggests that there is growing interest there in this intermediate stage, something that may last far longer than Russians who expect assimilation or Central Asians who expect return now think.


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