Sunday, November 19, 2023

Former Soviet Republics that Want to Send Immigrants to Russia Must Make Russian One of Their State Languages, Duma Vice Speaker Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 17 – Petr Tolstoy, the vice speaker of the Russian Duma, says that former Soviet republics whose citizens want to come to work in the Russian Federation must make Russian one of their state languages. Otherwise, he argues, such people should not be allowed to come except for work out of the public eye.

            Tolstoy’s suggestion is just that, but it is an intriguing example of how Moscow is seeking to use leverage on the migration issue to force changes in the laws of neighboring countries that are the source of most of its immigrants ( and

            At present, only one former Soviet non-Russian republic has declared Russian a state language – Belarus – but two others – Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan – have named it an official language. That means Moscow has a long way to go if it decides to adopt Tolstoy’s proposal, but his words are an indication that the powers that be there may be about to try.

            Whether such an effort would succeed is very much an open question. Such pressure almost certainly would breed a backlash, especially at a time when the number of immigrants in the Russian Federation from Central Asia appears to be falling and when such heavy-handedness will remind many of the role Russians played as “the elder brother” of others in Soviet times. 

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