Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Moscow Must Work to Attract Ethnic Russians and Not Just Workers from Former Soviet Republics, Shustov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 30 – Moscow has just celebrated the arrival of the one millionth compatriot in Russia, Aleksandr Shustov says; but despite that, it is increasingly obvious that the entire government program in this sphere needs to be changed, redirected from countries where there are few ethnic Russians to those where there are large numbers.

            Otherwise, the Rhythm of Eurasia journalist continues, the share of ethnic Russians in Russia will decline rather than increase, exactly the reverse of what the compatriot program was designed to achieve. Moscow must change its focus to countries where there are still large numbers of ethnic Russians and seek to attract them (ritmeurasia.org/news--2021-05-30--programmu-pereselenija-rossijskih-sootechestvennikov-nado-srochno-menjat-54866).

            Except for the pandemic year of 2020, the program has attracted more than 100,000 people to Russia each year; but most of those who are returning are “not Russians or even Ukrainians and Belarusians but the native population of the Asiatic countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States.”

            What is of particular concern is that “the leaders of resettlers are countries where there are almost no Russians” left, places like Tajikistan and Armenia. Rather than seeking to attract those who remain there, most of whom are old and don’t want to move, Moscow must focus on places where there are still sizeable ethnic Russian communities.

            These include Kazakhstan where there are 3.5 million ethnic Russians, Uzbekistan with 750,000, Kyrgyzstan with 341,000 and Azerbaijan with 119,000, Shustov says. If Moscow focuses on those, more ethnic Russians will come to Russia, helping solve its demographic and not just its economic problems as is the case now.

            “The main goal” of the compatriot program “must become not providing for the needs of regions as far as the workforce is concerned but compensating for demographic losses.” But tragically, the Russian government has stopped maintaining statistics on the ethnic composition of compatriots so Moscow doesn’t even know how deep a whole it has dug for itself.

            “For a long time,” Shustov concludes, “the Russian authorities did not seek to stimulate the repatriation of ethnic Russians from CIS countries because it considered them as an instrument of its influence in these states. But the significant worsening of the demographic situation doesn’t leave the country with any other choice.”

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