Sunday, December 26, 2021

Despite Moscow’s Efforts, Nearly 4,000 People Now Give Up Russian Citizenship Every Year

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 5 – Despite the hurdles Moscow has erected, nearly 4,000 people give up their Russian citizenship every year. Most of those who do live abroad in countries which do not recognize dual citizenship, but there are some who choose to try to do so even though they live within the borders of the Russian Federation.

            If the legal hurdles the Russian government maintains were lower, it seems likely that the number of people giving up Russian citizenship would rise significantly; and consequently, there is little chance that the Putin regime will liberalize these arrangements anytime soon. Indeed, even within existing laws, it has the opportunity to make such changes even more difficult.

            In 2020, the Russian foreign ministry says, more than 3800 people gave up their Russian citizenship. Most of them are people who live in other countries, want to take the citizenship of their places of residence, but cannot do so if they have the citizenship of another state (

            But there are some who give up Russian citizenship even if their country of residence permits it, and there are a small number of people who live in the Russian Federation who seek to do so either to make a political statement or who have citizenship in another state and don’t want to give that up as Russian practice typically requires.

            According to Russian citizenship law, an individual can give up Russian citizenship by collecting a certain number of documents and sending them with a declaration of intent to a representative of the Russian foreign ministry. But officials do little to make this process easy. Instead, they throw up obstacles that leave many who want to do so without an opportunity.

            The law specifies that no one can give up Russian citizenship if they have unmet obligations under Russian law, have been accused of a crime, or “do not have another citizenship or a guarantee of its acquisition.” Because many countries won’t give citizenship to those who have citizenship in another, that leaves people in a vicious circle they can’t escape.

            And as long as they are in this trap, Moscow views them as Russian citizens with all rights, obligations, and responsibilities regardless of where they live.

            The situation of those who live in Russia but seek to give up citizenship there is even more difficult. Only ten to 20 people seek this option each year, experts say. Their applications are examined not by the foreign ministry but by a special commission on citizenship attached to the president of the Russian Federation.

            That commission meets only four times a year and is anything but welcoming of such applications. That leaves some dual nationals inside Russia in a difficult position, especially if their second passports are from countries that don’t allow dual citizenship.

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